Water industry turns to software to cope with structural complexity

TechnologyOne has won contracts worth $2.5 million in the Australian water industry in the past 12 months, as the sector looks for ways to stay on top of massive structural and regulatory changes.

The last decade has seen consolidation from hundreds of providers to fewer than 50 corporations and companies, which look after water, wastewater, irrigation and drainage services for hundreds of thousands of homes , farms and businesses, and infrastructure spanning millions of square kilometres.

Thirteen companies and corporations, including new customers Allconnex Water in Queensland and South East Water in Victoria, have purchased a range of TechnologyOne solutions in the past year, bringing the Australian software company's total number of water customers to 37.

They have bought TechnologyOne Financials, Supply Chain, Human Resources & Payroll, Enterprise Content Management and Property & Rating, which helps the companies manage their land, property, revenue, and billing for millions of customers.

Others have signed up for TechnologyOne Asset Management to help them maintain thousands of kilometres of pipes, sewers, pumping stations, reservoirs and recycling facilities, and ensure every step - such as budgeting, carrying out repairs and inspecting the results - is done correctly and logged.

North East Water, which provides water and sewerage services to 38 towns, villages and cities in Victoria, is amongst the 280+ customers that have purchased TechnologyOne Business Intelligence (BI).

The solution went live in 2010, building on the work the water corporation undertook in 2007 when it implemented TechnologyOne Financials to centralise budgeting across all regions and nine depots, with individual responsibility for each town and its infrastructure remaining with the local team leader.

TechnologyOne BI has added an extra layer, enabling North East Water to interpret accounting and financial information more effectively across the entire Corporation, and align budgets with strategic objectives.

Nicholas Moore, Finance Manager for North East Water said before the Corporation implemented TechnologyOne Financials and BI, it was more difficult to analyse and dissect financial information to see what was happening across individual towns, or to drill down across depots or facilities.

"Finance had to run a number of separate reports, which were then put into a central directory - the process took time, making it harder to track our budgets against actuals," Mr Moore said.

"BI's key benefit is that it's tailored to suit the user's area of responsibility; a dashboard for department staff allows them to input information pertinent to their area only, while managers can view the whole organisation's performance to identify major variances quickly and easily, and run their own reports."

North East Water is now exploring how BI can be applied throughout the business to help further improve performance and strategic decision-making.

"One of the biggest benefits is management's insight into financials across the entire organisation, especially as things change, we can now run financials and receive reports, 24/7 in real-time, so if there is an issue, our dashboard will flag it," Mr Moore said.

"Team leaders and managers can produce their own reports and drill down into figures relevant to their own budgets, without relying as much on the finance department, which gives them ownership of their budgets and a clear view of how they're tracking."

"It really helps that the solution is so easy to use - we've had feedback that BI is very intuitive, which is a great result because we want to implement it in other areas, like our payroll solution."

"There is a deal of complexity involved in preparing an individual budget for each of our 38 towns and gaining approval, so anything that can minimise this is a huge help," Mr Moore concluded.

TechnologyOne works with two-thirds of the water industry in Victoria, and has even set up a Water Focus Group and Portal for its customers  to share information and experiences.

Customers also use the opportunity to discuss key requirements and emerging trends within the industry, helping TechnologyOne to shape its solutions to the very specific needs of the sector.