IT overhauls are, from time to time, essential to a business. With threats such as legacy IT, changes in legislation and keeping pace in an ever-changing marketplace, it is vital that organisations put the correct measures in place if they are to prepare their IT systems for an upcoming overhaul.
One sector currently undergoing rapid IT change is the utilities industry. With the upcoming implementation of smart meters, energy providers are being forced to upgrade their IT systems in order to cope with the new initiative. When revamping an IT system, businesses will always be faced with key hurdles to overcome. To stay competitive whilst ensuring customer satisfaction, it is vital that companies get their IT infrastructure in order.
Get a head start
Before taking the plunge and undertaking a large scale IT overhaul, businesses need to understand the strain that will be put on existing systems by doing so. Close dialogue between information professionals and the board of directors at this stage is vital in understanding what is involved and the impact that any software or infrastructure failures could have on the business’ ability to stay competitive.
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The impending UK smart meter rollout is the largest IT change the sector has ever experienced. However, energy providers are finding their legacy systems where ill prepared for the change. The traditional IT infrastructures in most utility companies will struggle to cope with the rise in data, mainly because they are not designed to cope with it. In fact, our recent research found that one in three (27%) consumers think that their energy supplier’s track record of inaccurate billing, poor customer service and delays in problem fixing don’t augur well for success with smart meter implementation.
The key to successful IT change is to understand the risks involved and mitigating against these with adequate quality assurance during the IT transformation process.
Increased customer expectations
But it doesn’t stop there. Customers expect more than flawless interactions with a business. They will want more for their money and will increasingly demand greater efficiency.
For the utilities industry, competitor price differences are minimal and have levelled the playing field. This has increased the pressure on energy supplier price margins and, as a result, customer retention. To retain and win customers, suppliers need to offer added value to their deal, rather than becoming reliant on pricing alone.
A lesson learnt
Let’s compare to the telecoms industry which has already gone through a significant IT transition. Within this highly competitive market, providers have offered additional bonuses to incentivise their customers; for example Orange Wednesday cinema tickets, O2 Rewards and Vodafone Freebeez. Although some businesses may be deliberating on expansion beyond their usual operations, they need to embrace the idea of using non-commodity and value-added services to create highly differentiated propositions or risk losing customers to competitors during the overhaul. This way, utilities companies could avoid the pitfalls already experienced by some large telcos.
Many of the legacy systems currently in operation lack the flexibility and efficiency to respond to market trends and customer expectations. The challenge for businesses is to find a balance between migrating from legacy systems to upgraded customer services whilst keeping customer disruption in check.
New businesses are not weighed down with the same challenges. SQS found that 41% of consumers agreed that new suppliers who are not held back by old technologies could provide a better service. They are, in fact, set up to be more fleet of foot in bringing products to the market.
Reaching the finish line
When facing so much change, businesses have got to keep their eye on the prize. They have to be smarter, slicker and faster at dealing with all the challenges ahead including regulatory compliance. Meanwhile they have to deliver on other changes to keep ahead of the competition. If they just deliver the business as usual, without going through the necessary due diligence and testing new systems, it will damage their ability to grow and future success.
It is imperative during a large-scale IT overhaul to test everything, and then test it again – or to turn to the experts who can test it for you. There won’t be a second chance to get it right.
Sourced from Cindy Truyens, Managing Director at SQS