BC Hydro juices up customer support

BC Hydro is preparing to upgrade its 30-year-old customer relationship management system as it creates a separate organization to handle its service and support functions.

The utility will use SAP AG’s mySAP Utilities for the new entity, which is scheduled to launch April 1. Through a partnership with Toronto-based Accenture, the company will employ 2,000 employees and provide customer service for BC Hydro’s generation, distribution and transmission lines of business. The SAP implementation is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Eric Janes, BC Hydro’s vice-president of customer services, said the new company, called Accenture Business Services of British Columbia, will initially use the SAP products to support its electrical business. Going forward, however, he said the system be used to handle other areas.

“”You wouldn’t have to do a lot of redesign or anything to make it gas-capable or water-capable and operate in a different jurisdiction,”” he said. “”All of those things were taken into account.””

Accenture won the contract with BC Hydro after it conducted a a strategic review of its core business that showed ancillary services like customer support had been put in a shared services group. This group, which will form the basis of Accenture Business Services of British Columbia, will also include IT application and network infrastructure.

“”It does the complete revenue cycle for BC Hydro,”” Janes said. “”Everything from reading the meter, taking application, sending out the bill and collecting the cash.””

SAP Canada vice-president of western region Wayne Regehr said BC Hydro’s plans reflect the increased need for organizations like utilities to provide an integrated view of their customers.

“”Most utilities came out of an environment where their customer base was granted by a monopoly kind of scenario,”” he said. “”(People are) asking for choice, and most companies now are moving or are anticipating they will have to move to a more competitive environment.””

Janes said BC Hydro’s previous system was created in PL1, a language so old it was becoming difficult to kind personnel who could program in it anymore.

“”We were looking at increasing risk and cost associated with maintaining the legacy system,”” he said. “”Meeting requirements to respond to regulatory changes would not be possible, although in B.C. that doesn’t look like an imminent issue.””

BC Hydro already offers e-bill presentment through its Web site, and Regehr said the fully Web-based SAP solution could open up more opportunities for utilities that want to add to the depth of their services.

“”The customers are far more technically-savvy than they were even 10 years ago,”” he said.

BC Hydro has approximately 1.6 million electricity customers.

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