Optimize your utility with Meter Data Management (MDMiXp)

Today, everything can be connected, but connecting the dots doesn’t always result in a clear picture. In the race to build an interconnected, data-rich environment we must be intentional about adding valuable, actionable connections, or else the picture becomes less clear. Knowing which data to collect and how it can positively or negatively affect every area of your business is extremely important.

As a utility, you have been analyzing data for years. You gather information about consumption, calculate rates according to regulatory requirements, and determine how much the consumer must pay. However, with the advent of Advanced Meter Information (AMI) systems and Meter Data Management (MDM) systems, the amount and depth of data to be analyzed is increasing at exponential rates. In order to properly analyze this data in a way that adds value to your utility, new tools and software are needed.

You may be saying, “How does this affect me?” Let’s take a look at the big picture. The following people and processes can be positively affected by implementing the right data analysis tools.

·       General Managers
·       CSRs
·       City Clerks
·       Security Team
·       Engineers
·       Service Crews
·       Purchasing Clerks
·       Internal and External Auditors
·       Accountants
·       Administrators
·       Board of Directors
·       Prepaid Billing
·       Consumer Self-Service
·       Automating Manual Processes
·       Budget Forecasting
·       Rate Structuring
·       Automatic Connects/Disconnects
·       Infrastructure Integrity
·       Service and Work Orders
·       Inventory Management
·       Distributed Energy Resources
·       Demand Response

As you can see, gathering, connecting, and analyzing data the right way can affect every area of your organization. If you are on the list of people, or have anything to do with any of the mentioned processes, you need to understand data analysis tools and how they can benefit you.

Case Study – Data Analysis and the Utility Billing Cycle

A successful consumer engagement program requires a full 360-degree view of the consumer. Harrisonburg Electric Commission (HEC) is achieving this capability with the Daffron MDMiXp solution.

Mike Fawley, Manager of Data Processing and Customer Service at HEC, understands the need to leverage and manage the data.

"MDM provides the link to access usage down to the hour, giving our consumers the control to monitor or change usage habits.

Daffron eBusiness gives our consumers real-time access to their account information. CSRs and consumers can review online daily and hourly usage and can view, print, or email the PDF report. CSRs can also answer high usage complaints more efficiently. No more truck rolls. 

The HEC Mission Statement is, 'To provide Reliable Service at a Competitive Rate in a Courteous Manner.' Daffron MDM allows us to accomplish and exceed our Mission Statement. The Daffron team is awesome to work with, developing the right MDM solutions for Harrisonburg Electric Commission.

By partnering with the Daffron team to implement an MDM solution, we can trust the accuracy of the data and meet the challenges of growing data. We can’t wait to work with the Daffron team on the next challenge for HEC: Automatic Service Orders."

What is the best way for your utility to enhance the tools used for its billing cycle?

HEC addressed this challenge by utilizing multiple Daffron solutions:

  • MDMiXp is used to gather and analyze meter data;
  • eBusiness allows customer self-service on the web or mobile device; and
  • Secure payment processing allows consumers to make payments from anywhere through a secure payment gateway.

HEC is able to present consumers with monthly, daily, and hourly reads that have been tested and calculated by integrating MDMiXp with their Customer Information System (CISiXp). Our MDMiXp solution stands out from the competition because it incorporates a rigorous validation process to ensure that the meter information is accurate before allowing it into CISiXp.

In turn, HEC’s CISiXp is connected in real time to eBusiness, which consumers can access from the web or native mobile app. eBusiness allows consumers to manage multiple services and locations, as well as the ability to review usage, billing, and payment history for standard or prepaid accounts.

Some of the most convenient features for the consumer are the payment options. Consumers can pay from anywhere via debit, credit, or ACH using recurring or one-time payment profiles, with real-time integration to the billing system.

HEC realized that presenting the consumer with the best possible information, and the most convenient way to pay is not the end of the billing cycle. Consumers must also be provided with a payment process that meets the highest level of security.

That is why Daffron partners with Vantiv (now WorldPay, Inc.) to offer a secure, cost-effective payment processing tool that helped ease PCI requirements for HEC, while increasing consumer satisfaction.

Find out how Daffron can help your Utility

By utilizing these tools from Daffron, your utility can also see improvements in the following areas:

  • Consumer satisfaction
  • Consumer awareness and consumption
  • Increased payment completion
  • Reduced collection time and resources
  • Prepaid billing opportunities

 

Contact us today to learn how we can help you succeed.

 

About Harrisonburg Electric Commission (HEC)

For more than 50 years, the Harrisonburg Electric Commission (HEC) has provided the citizens and businesses of Harrisonburg with reliable electric service at the most competitive rates.

HEC serves over 20,000 customers including residential, commercial, industrial, and government entities within the city limits of Harrisonburg. As our customer base continues to grow, our quality of service remains our number one priority. We continue to focus our efforts on how we can best serve each customer's needs and be an active part of our community.

Learn more about HEC at https://www.harrisonburgelectric.com/about.

 

About Daffron & Associates, Inc.

For over 40 years, Daffron has provided enterprise-wide utility solutions for electric cooperatives, multi-service municipal utilities, and investor-owned utilities. This includes our Internet browser-based solutions which are highly functional, easy to use, reduce paper and manual processes, and ensure improved workflow for improved staff training. We also offer comprehensive application software and services for the utility industry, including electric, water, and gas utilities in the United States, Canada, and internationally.

Learn more about Daffron at https://daffron.com/company.


13 tips for achieving your organization goals in 2018

What have you resolved to accomplish in 2018?

A new year means new resolutions and a new resolve to accomplish the vision of your organization. Daffron is here to help you achieve your goals.

Achieving financial goals

Online payments are a great way to increase on-time payments and reduce collection costs.

Demand management through consumer communication channels, such as text messages and emails, is an effective way to reduce peak demand and educate your consumers about their usage habits.

Cost reductions can be realized when all of your technology works together to reduce manual processes and data entry errors. Additionally, our solutions allow you to do more with less if you are managing a retiring workforce.

Greater customer satisfaction

Consumer notifications play an important role in overall satisfaction. Our Consumer Communication tools allow you to automate notifications for billing, usage, payments, and more. You can also create your own communications and track the effectiveness with your consumers.

Account management via the online portal is important for consumers that want to be in control of their information and be able to access it anytime and anywhere.

Mobile applications make it easy for your consumers to access everything they need from their mobile device. Reduce the workload of your staff and call centers to support routine tasks that a mobile application empowers your consumers to complete.

Investing in your workforce

Training is a win-win when it comes to investing in your workforce. The employee wins because they can be more effective at their job, leading to higher job satisfaction. Your organization wins because you have increased productivity and satisfaction for your employees, which leads to greater consumer satisfaction as well.

User Group Meeting (UGM) is the perfect complement to your training plan. You have access to the most Daffron staff and other Daffron customers in one place. Hours of training and workshops take place alongside networking, focus groups, and camaraderie.

A Value Assessment is a great consultation tool, focusing on ways to optimize your use of the system. The report you receive at the end of the consultation will outline which processes and workflows could be improved, how to utilize new features, and where training could be beneficial.

I urge you to give consideration to all of these equally important investments, and not focus on just one or two options. A Value Assessment provides the consultation services and recommendations to increase efficiencies, lower costs, and improve workflows. The training and User Group Meeting provide the in-depth training and education needed to maximize your ROI in the Daffron Solutions.

Upgrading your technology

Engaging Daffron for hosting your technology resources, allows you to focus on achieving your other organizational goals, while still operating in a secure, convenient, and reliable infrastructure.

Upgrading to the newest version of Daffron iXp ensures that you have access to the most efficient and effective tools on the market. If you are already on the current version, be sure to utilize webinars and attend UGM to keep your skills up to date with the latest enhancements.

Our new Visual Analytics dashboard connects the data from your entire organization to allow you to focus on what is most important to your organization.

Creating a strategic plan

They say getting started is half the battle. We have participated and experienced the strategic planning process with multiple organizations just like yours. We are proud that by working together you have influenced our solutions and we have played a role in your successes.

Strategic planning for Daffron led to 2017 being the best financial year in over a decade. We look forward to being a resource for your strategic planning and successes in 2018.

Sarah Robinson
CEO


TCPA: Can Utilities Send Text Messages to Consumers?

Sending text messages to your consumers just got a little easier for utilities, municipalities, and cooperatives. Thanks to a decision by the FCC on August 4 of last year, “consumers who provide their wireless telephone number to a utility company when:

  1. they initially sign up to receive utility service,
  2. subsequently supply the wireless telephone number, or
  3. later update their contact information

have given prior express consent to be contacted by their utility company at that number with messages that are closely related to the utility service so long as the consumer has not provided instructions to the contrary.” Read the full text of the order here.

Cost Saving Tools

There are still many things to consider when sending text messages, which is why it is important to get advice from a professional. We are proud to partner with TextPower, who has excellent resources on this topic. Check out this video from TextPower for an attorney’s point of view on the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Also, see this blog about how they can help your utility tackle the problem of not sending messages to a number that has been disconnected and reassigned to someone else.

Another important thing to consider when communicating with consumers via text message is the ability to know who has received and opened your message. Even more importantly, you need an easy way to identify what phone numbers in your database are mobile numbers. Over, 40% of US households no longer have a landline phone, but list their mobile as their home or primary phone number. Daffron has developed tools to help your utility with this issue. We have partnered with TextPower to offer Daffron customers an audit or scan of your phone number directly in your CIS database so that you are not wasting money by sending messages to landlines or numbers that have been disconnected.

Additionally, our Consumer Communications module offers you the ability to monitor the delivery status of the text messages, which is updated by the phone carrier. Similar functionality extends to emails and other system-generated messages. When sending emails from within the Consumer Communication module, you also have the ability to see when an email is opened and which links have been clicked within each email.

Top Uses of Text Messaging Among Utilities

The November 2016 edition of RE Magazine, published by NRECA, talked to several industry leaders about this issue, and they emphasized the positive impact of this ruling on Cooperatives, as it allows them to continue to implement and grow “Beat the Peak” and prepay programs for their members. The following are some of the most popular ways that cooperatives and municipalities are using text messaging to improve communication with consumers.

  • Prepay notices
  • Storm warnings
  • Beat the Peak initiatives (to reduce usage during peak times)
  • Outage notices
  • Bill due reminders
  • Delinquent notices
  • Payment confirmations
  • Company announcements and more!

Utilities Currently Using Text Messaging

CDE Lightband

CDE implemented notifications through the Daffron Consumer Communications module as a part of their Prepaid Billing Project.  They are sending notifications to consumers for payments received, low balance alerts, and late payment notices to help improve communication.  They look forward to expanding the use of notifications in many other areas.

Alpena Power Company (APC)

APC plans to use Bill Ready, Bill Due, Payment Processed, and Delinquent notifications. They are preparing to offer consumers email and text options for notifications in the near future. APC plans to communicate the new notification options to consumers by advertising their options on bills, on their home page, and making fliers available at the counter for walk-up customers. Every six months, a company report is published with important statistics about APC’s service and used as a bill insert. An insert encouraging consumers to sign up for their preferred notifications may be used as a part of that communication as well.

Contact Us for Help

As utilities continue to enhance the way that they communicate with consumers, Daffron will continue to provide resources and solutions to help meet those needs. Use our contact form if you have any questions on this topic or want information on any of our products and services.


UGM: Top Concerns of Utilities - Part 3

If you aren’t excited about UGM 2016 yet, then you must have missed Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. UGM 2016 is focused on addressing the biggest concerns facing your organization. We are taking a big picture approach to how Daffron helps you connect every job task within every department to achieve your goals.

When you are looking at the big picture, you don’t just look at yesterday and today, you also look to the future. That is why classes at UGM 2016 will focus on how the Daffron solution is working in every task you perform to connect you to the future.

If you aren’t overly concerned with, or already have a good grasp on, the big picture and just want some good old fashioned education, don’t fret. We’ve got you covered. We still have sessions dedicated to training, and you will have access to one-on-one help at any of our education stations spread throughout the conference hall.


UGM: Top Concerns of Utilities - Part 2

UGM is swiftly approaching and you should be excited about the changes to this year’s format! This is Part 2 of our UGM preview. If you missed Part 1, you can always find it and any of our past stories on daffron.com/news. Let's look at some of the new session tracks for 2016.

Consumer Experience is influenced by a lot of different factors: how you set your rates, your hours of operation, how to report an outage, how they want to pay their bill or view usage data, and many more. The classes in the Consumer Experience track will take you from the planning stages of what data you want to collect, to what triggers consumer communications, all the way through to mobile apps and the tools we are developing for automating service orders.

Workforce Efficiency classes are going to involve a hands-on approach to improving tasks in every department. From the first class on Tuesday, all the way through the final session, you will get to work as teams to go through an entire new service project in the most efficient way possible. This will involve learning from other users on best practices, and will encompass Staking, WMS, FMS, and CIS job tasks.

We will also be introducing Education Stations this year. Stop by or schedule an appointment if you want some one-on-one time with a Daffron employee to find out more about a topic or learn best practices. See the agenda and session descriptions once you login to ugm.daffron.com.


2016 Top Concerns

UGM: Top Concerns of Utilities - Part 1

UGM: Top Concerns of Utilities - Part 1

According to a 2015 study by Navigant, two of the top concerns for utilities in 2016 are: enhancing the consumer experience and improving workforce efficiency. Daffron solutions help utilities address both of these issues, as well as many other tasks utilities face every day.

In addition to the traditional line up of sessions, attendees of the 2016 Daffron UGM will have the opportunity to experience how Daffron solutions work together across your entire organization to achieve a better consumer experience, and to increase workforce efficiency.

To accomplish this, we are restructuring how you experience UGM. It takes many people across every department to achieve a better consumer experience. Therefore, our consumer experience classes will address these cross-departmental hurdles and how the Daffron solution can connect everyone together.

Similarly, our workforce efficiency classes will incorporate Staking, FMS, WMS, and CIS elements throughout the week, to mirror how all of these pieces are being used in your organization to accomplish the goal of workforce efficiency.

This means that your classroom experience will be integrated just as tightly as our software suites integrate with each other and with third party vendors. Sitting alongside people of all departments and discussing how the Daffron solution tackles the big picture, you will learn how your utility can pull it all together and improve your consumers’ experience and workforce efficiency.

Visit UGM Website


Daffron Technology Services Plan

Western Cooperative: Viewing important messages as they happen

Western Cooperative: Viewing important messages as they happen

“Daffron has bent over backwards to give me access to their in-house tools they use for monitoring, and it is the personal touch they can offer that sets them apart from other companies.” states Craig Cramer, Manager of Information Systems at Western Cooperative Electric. “Being able to see messages of importance as they happen has been extremely helpful, especially the notifications of disabled accounts, and I keep an eye on the Monitor Page throughout the day. Kudos to the TSP team!”

While technology continues to grow and change, many companies find their budgets can’t keep up with the demands for new staff or additional specialized training. Daffron heard this concern from our customers in our focus groups and at UGM. In 2015, we officially launched a full scale Technology Services Plan, (TSP). Some services were already available, such as Disaster Recovery, however small businesses needed more flexibility with more options. Daffron now includes, application server management, network management, and hosted email services.

Network management services includes real-time server monitoring for your iXp applications. Our in-house tech experts are notified of any possible issues giving them time to research and prevent or resolve bigger problems from interrupting your day. The monitoring does not stop at 5 o’clock. With our automated text system, the on-call tech is notified 24/7/365 so you can sleep easy. Our technical specialists will help with VPN tunnels, firewall configurations, PTF upgrades, system saves, PCI DSS security analysis, and much more.

Application health is a vital piece of any business and Daffron would love to talk to you about what services would best accommodate your needs. Contact your sales team for more information – marketing@cdamrk.wpengine.com / 888.DAFFRON.


Daffron Financial Management System

Save time and money with Daffron’s Financial Management System

Save time and money with Daffron’s Financial Management System

Duplication of work, manual errors, reduction of workforce, and lack of communication between departments; all these stumbling blocks can be overcome with the proper technology.  Software systems have evolved from addressing individual tasks or processes, to connecting every department in your organization along with each task in your workflows.

As your utility manages the day-to-day business operations, you need a system in place to handle the increasingly complex accounting, regulatory, and human resource requirements. Mobile devices, electronic databases, and email are tools often used to try and cope with the many aspects surrounding these workflows. However, the proper Financial Management System (FMS) can harness all of these tools and use them within a system designed to eliminate the stumbling blocks you face.

As the saying goes, “Time is money.” The amount of time saved by an effective FMS is staggering. With a decreasing workforce, the ability to do more with fewer resources is a must. Daffron’s FMS is a single solution that connects General Ledger, Accounts Payable, Payroll/HR, and Fixed Assets modules. Our FMS also connects your software across departments to provide one common view of your company’s financial landscape. With FMS users are able to:

  • Export reports directly to Excel, PDF, and other formats.
  • Update nearly every system with our Accounts Payable module, integrating invoice data across solutions.
  • Take advantage of self-service payroll access in which users can make changes and updates on their own time.
  • Complete forms to comply with Affordable Care Act (ACA) regulations.
  • From Payroll you can add labor to Work Orders, update usage to vehicles in Transportation, and send budgeting information to General Ledger.

Cathy McKay at Grundy Electric Co-op says, “KUDOS to the great group of Daffron employees who worked diligently with me to produce successful ACA 1095B forms!  Yet another great example of the support we receive from the GREAT people at Daffron!”


Daffron Service Order Optimization

Crawfordsville’s Tips for Optimizing Service Orders and Interfaces

Crawfordsville’s Tips for Optimizing Service Orders and Interfaces

“Are we under-utilizing the Daffron system?” That was the concern Robert Stephens, Assistant Manager at Crawfordsville Electric Light & Power (CEL&P), had prior to attending the Daffron User Group Meeting (UGM). “It was a definite eye-opener.”

It is all too common to only scratch the surface of using all the features and interfaces of a software solution, the very solution that is designed to make your lives easier by improving daily operations, increasing overall productivity, and saving you time and money. If you don’t feel your software is adding value to your utility, chances are you are under-utilizing its functionality.

“Participating in the UGM sessions and conversations was just the beginning of making sure we were utilizing all of the built-in features, functionality, and interfaces” explains Stephens. Manual processes, external spreadsheets, and lack of integration between systems can slow you down, costing your utility time and money. Utilization of the software you already own is a key component in your ROI.

Stephens shares a few tips that are helping CEL&P maximize the Daffron system.

Tip 1. Instead of using history comments, we are moving towards using General Service Orders, which can easily move work from department to department.

Tip 2. Interface! Exploit the power of the Daffron applications by making sure you are taking advantage of the interfaces between the applications.

Interfacing Examples:

  1. Pay for a Purchase Order and update the Inventory system as invoiced, all at the same time.
  2. From one screen, you can pay for a new vehicle through Accounts Payable, while the system automatically adds that vehicle to the Fixed Assets application and to your fleet in the Transportation application.
  3. When you interface Payroll with Accounts Payable, payroll deductions create an invoice and Accounts Receivable automatically updates employee account balances.

CEL&P, founded in 1890, is located in Indiana and is locally owned and operated by their customers. Daffron is proud to partner with CEL&P.


Daffron Technology Services Plan

CDE Lightband: Through the Years

CDE Lightband: Through the Years

CDE Lightband and Daffron

Brian Taylor, Superintendent/General Manager at CDE Lightband, launched his career 30+ years ago, learning the ropes in the utility industry on a home-grown software system. Manual processes and lack of enterprise integration were the norm. The challenges were significant, yet simpler than what utilities face today.

Working in the IT Department in his early years, Brian experienced firsthand the need to stay abreast of the rapid changes in technology and in the utility industry. The forward-thinking technologies of 30 years ago are a long-lost memory that has been surpassed many times over as technology continues to change and improve to meet the emerging needs of the utility and the growing demands of the consumer.

At the 2015 Daffron User Group Meeting (UGM), Brian reminisced about earlier years before turning his focus to the challenges of today.

  • Energy Efficiency & Renewables – Reliable service at lowest possible cost while meeting regulatory requirements and societal pressures to implement cleaner power such as solar and wind.
  • Rates – Provide services at affordable, competitive, and flexible rates, within the current and changing regulatory landscape.
  • Consumer Expectations – Consumers expect information and power at their fingertips 24/7/365. A modern Consumer Engagement Platform must be equipped to meet all of these expectations.
  • Cyber Security – Protecting payment information as well as customer and employee data against ever-evolving security threats.
  • MDM – AMI/AMR systems must provide real-time meter reading with real-time integration to CIS.

Through the years, CDE has worked closely with Daffron to handle these challenges, to stay ahead of the evolving market and customer expectations, and to develop a long-term technology plan to achieve their goals in the changing world of the utility industry.

Expanding on its service and the needs of its consumers, CDE currently provides broadband to almost a third of its consumers; a number that continues to increase each year.

“The importance and value of the relationship between our utility and our software vendor, Daffron, has grown substantially over the years,” states Brian. “As our utility and needs have grown, Daffron has been there with the solutions that enable CDE to operate efficiently, utilizing the latest technology.”

About CDE Lightband
CDE Lightband, formed in 1938 when the distribution system was purchased from Kentucky-Tennessee Light & Power, is located in Clarksville, Tennessee, serving over 67,000 consumers.  All power consumed by CDE and its customers is supplied by TVA.  CDE’s mission is to improve their community through the reliable and affordable delivery of electric and broadband services.