On the independence of the Metering Function
In many Utilities, we continue to observe that the metering function is part of the Customer Service Department. The main reason many Utilities decided, and continue to decide, to adopt this organization, is mainly because the meters are seen as necessary objects at customers’ premises, with whom the customers can have some interaction (e.g. check the consumptions, disconnect/reconnect from the network) and whom sometime cause customer’s issues (e.g. wrong consumption calculation, etc.).
So, the response to the question “Where the metering function should be into the Utility structure?” at a glance is obvious and is “It should be into the Customer Service Department”. However, deeply analyzing the question, we discover that the correct response is “It shall be part of an independent Metering Department”. Let’s analyze the main reasons that justify this assertion.
- If the Metering is part of the Customer Service, in case of errors/defect on metering, the temptation to compensate the negative effects through a temporary workaround on Billing or CRM is very high (e.g. billing adjustments on low/high consumption due to meters inaccuracy or fault). In the long run, the attitude to fix the effect instead the cause, has negative impacts on the Utilities objectives in terms of non-revenue and unaccounted resources (water, gas, electricity), reducing the capability of the data models to represent the real infrastructure and making the infrastructure unstable, increasing the overall complexity, increasing the customer’s complaint, etc.
- Whilst the Customer Service has only the IT Domain, the Metering has also the Field Domain that involves different peoples (e.g. electricians rather than call centre operators), processes (cable inspections rather than bill checks) and technologies (e.g. ultrasonic meters rather than programming languages). Be part of or manage a Metering Department require the abilities and capabilities to understand and work in two strictly integrated, but very different domains in terms of methods and speed for planning, execution, troubleshooting and improvement.
- Whilst the Customer Service has the aim to maximize the Utility revenues maintaining the customers happy, sometimes even using creativity or slightly deviating from the internal policy and procedures, the Metering has the aim to be dramatically scientific, minimizing errors/deviations (e.g. accuracy) and providing real-time with a clear and accurate picture of the field without seeing it (e.g. water, gas, electricity consumption, potential thefts or losses, fieldwork status).
- Whilst the Customer Service is a very dynamic and spiky environment (e.g. frequent changes on regulatory, tariff structures, offering to customers, bill structure even more used and an effective communication channel with the customers, etc.), the Metering requires more regularity and staticity as it is a key player in assuring the infrastructure stability, a necessary condition for an effective Utility management.
- An independent and well-organized Metering can be easily outsourced as service (e.g. in case of privatization) increasing the effectiveness and without losing the strategic information and assets of the Utility.
Andrea Desantis, 30+ years of experience in Systems Engineering and Information Security management and consulting, especially in the Energy&Utility and Telecommunications industries. Expert in AI (Machine Learning and Deep Learning) algorithms and systems applied to the Energy&Utility industry ( e.g. Predictive Maintenance), Information Security Governance, and Application Security.
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