Meter Reading Application Implementation
The NiSource local distribution companies (LDCs) utilize meter-reading workforce to manually collect meter data across its entire footprint in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts and Indiana. While the meter reading function was common across all areas, the software and hardware used to collect the meter information was not. In 2010, the Field Collection System (FCS) project was initiated to bring consistency to the meter reading function for all of the NiSource LDCs. FCS was defined as the next generation of meter reading application systems developed by the same external vendor that had brought the two prior meter reading applications to NiSource.
The primary challenge of implementing FCS was Change Management. There were two distinct meter reading applications being used at NiSource on two completely different platforms (mainframe and client-server). FCS was introduced as a completely new meter reading system. This meant that every meter reader, meter reading supervisor, support staff member – anyone that was actively involved in managing one of the two existing systems across seven states – would have to learn how to do their jobs differently. Additionally, the technical staff that was tasked with supporting the new system would need to be trained on how the application functioned, how it interfaced with other systems, and how the system was set up on new infrastructure.
NiSource engaged HMB to assist with the overall implementation of FCS. In addition to assisting the Business Project Manager with the business impact, HMB was asked to lead the technical implementation. HMB quickly recognized that due to the project scope, we needed to bring in an experienced team with a project manager, technical lead, business analyst, development lead and a test lead.
The HMB team worked well together, and communicated and collaborated with all members of the business team and the vendor that developed the FCS application. A clear set of requirements was established and shared with all parties. Throughout the requirements process, HMB led efforts with the business team, the FCS vendor, NiSource IT resources, IBM (hardware support) and the external development teams. By following a structured process of planning, building, testing, training, deployment and support, HMB and NiSource implemented FCS on time and under budget.
The project was delivered on time and under budget. The NiSource LDCs now have one meter reading application being used across their service territories. There are new features and functions available to the meter reading teams and they can now communicate with each other using the same “language”. From an IT perspective, NiSource benefits from supporting only one system and retiring older systems. The resulting feedback about HMB efforts was very positive.