Software overhaul the key to integration for water utilities provider

After five years in operation, Victoria's second largest regional urban water corporation, Wannon Water, turned to technology in a bid to overcome administrative and budget hurdles, delegate more responsibility to departments and improve the management of its assets.

First established in 2005 through the merger of three major regional water authorities, the organisation was initially tasked with the challenge of integrating and operating three separate finance systems.

This task, coupled with servicing a region of more than 24,500 square kilometres and providing water and sewerage services to more than 80,000 residential, commercial, rural and industrial users, led to mounting administration and budgeting pressures for the corporation.

Wannon Water also wanted to improve its short and long term efficiency, reduce onerous data duplication and data entry as well as overhaul its existing ad hoc budgetary system.

The company put out a tender specifically looking for a technology provider that could offer maximum synergy across the corporation as a whole, including the facilitation of third party integration.

Due to the ongoing success of Wannon Water's existing TechnologyOne Financials and Supply Chain solutions, which had been inherited as part of the merger, the organisation decided to adopt a long-term implementation partnership with TechnologyOne and implemented TechnologyOne Enterprise Budgeting in March this year.

Wannon Water General Manager Finance, Steven Waterhouse, said when it came to appointing a technology provider, TechnologyOne was a stand out in the area of integration.

"We looked at the solutions offered by other providers but none could match the useability, flexibility and depth of TechnologyOne software," he said.

"Many other solutions were clunky and required moving data from one system to another and most were off-the-shelf offerings, which had their own set of structures.

"TechnologyOne's solutions had the advantage of being very flexible and could be tailored to suit our needs and organisational structure.

"It was instrumental in achieving our immediate, medium and long term strategic objectives, making it cleaner and much easier to use one supplier rather than multiple providers."

The initial implementation phase for Enterprise Budgeting was rolled out over a period of three to four months, first via the finance team then to 40 managers and coordinators across all departments.

One of the biggest priorities for the organisation was removing the administrative burdens associated with data replication and its current onerous data entry processes.

"The new software and direct integration between Enterprise Budgeting and Financials has saved us between two and three days of data entry and freed up staff to be able to focus on projects and tasks, resulting in a return on investment for the organisation," he said.

As part of its operational strategy over the next 12 to18 months, Mr Waterhouse said TechnologyOne would play a critical role in ensuring day to day and capital expenditure was captured.

"The software will help us interpret and evaluate the operational and capital expenditures to such an extent that we will be able to not only determine granular budget allocations but we will also be able to assess which projects should be given greater priority," he said.

"This level of insight will help us to reduce costs across the board for our 80,000 customers across South West Victoria.

"From day one of the Enterprise Budgeting software implementation, we ran through the budget estimates for 2011/12 and the effect on managers and coordinators was instant."

Mr Waterhouse said when considering which software to implement, TechnologyOne had helped map up the journey.

"We found the strategic approach of implementing software as part of a whole integrated solution works very well, it doesn't have to be done all at once, but you have the benefits of direct, efficient integration across the business rather than restrictively viewing software as individual products," he said.

"Over time we have found the relationship with TechnologyOne has turned into more of a partnership-type arrangement rather than supplier, due to the high level of collaboration.

"Moving forward, we plan to eventually use the TechnologyOne Enterprise Budgeting software as a projection tool, which will help in refining and planning future business requirements.

"We will also be looking at TechnologyOne's Business Intelligence and Publisher in the near future and third party integration capabilities for our existing payroll, tariff and billing systems."