Brisbane Water hoses down billing system issues

Spurred by the number of failed billing system implementations south of the border, Brisbane Water was determined to get it right.

A business unit of Brisbane City Council, Brisbane Water has implemented a tailored solution to service more than one million Brisbane residents and 34,000 commercial and industrial customers.

Travis Carr, business analyst at Brisbane Water, admits there have been a few disasters in the past, the most notable being Sydney Water which experienced a multimillion dollar cost-blowout for its billing system which ended up before the courts.

"The problems start when you tinker with the system. With Sydney Water I guess its problem might have been it had to spend a lot of extra money on tailoring the system to its business needs," Carr said.

"With our chosen solution, we were able to control the development, and I think Sydney Water had a lot of data conversion issues that we were able to avoid."

Brisbane Water implemented HiAffinity, a tailored customer billing and management solution from DST International.

It replaced Custima, a previous solution which Carr said wouldn't let users find information instantaneously and which created problems for customer service employees.

"The call centre operators now have information at their fingertips, with 30 or 40 screens now being reduced to four tabs, so they're over the moon with their ability now to serve customers," Carr said.

"Going to HiAffinity was a big leap forward; it's a lot more user friendly and intuitive."

The system went live in March after nine months of testing.

Carr said the original plan was to go live over the last Christmas period, but there were too many staff on leave, which allowed time for further development work.

There were some teething problems in terms of architecture.

"We had a few minor issues in getting architecture right. We have an Oracle database and have a Progress layer on a Citrix machine, so we had some issues, but it was just a matter of reconfiguring the Citrix machines," Carr said.

"I think we could have dealt with architecture issues a lot earlier; council was moving from an old enterprise server to new HP servers, and so picking our time better would have made implementation an easier experience."

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