Today’s core business systems play a critical role in utilities’ success but can be very complex and burdensome to handle in-house. Internal maintenance and necessary upgrades are time-consuming and can divert staff from other critical projects, such as ones that focus on increasing customer satisfaction. These systems require experience and expert knowledge of best practices, and employees with that expertise are hard to find—and retain. Continuous advancements in technology, the introduction of new business processes, and an aging workforce that takes decades of knowledge and skill when they retire, emphasizes the importance of a proven support partner to keep your operations running smoothly.
Managed Support Services are the ideal solution for many electric, gas, water, sewer, and solid waste utilities. Third-party, dedicated experts efficiently and correctly troubleshoot, maintain, and upgrade your systems, freeing up your own staff to focus on core competencies and other high priority projects. But those are just a few of the benefits that come along with having Managed Support Services on your side.
Sooner or later most utilities need expanded IT support. Here are the top seven reasons to get Managed Support Services sooner rather than later.
1. Obtain experts
Utilizing common off-the-shelf (COTS) Utility Applications requires much deeper levels of experience. Ensure that your core business systems run smoothly by partnering with highly skilled experts.
Tip: Your Managed Support Services provider should offer every skillset required for your critical business systems—from function solutioning, to technical solutioning, to code remediation and more.
2. Get best practices
Best practices aren’t just a nice-to-have, they’re critical to the effective operation of your business. Whether working directly with the software vendor, or with a third-party integrator, you need proven methodologies and tools to give you the highest quality and efficiency.
Tip: Your Managed Services Provider should always be up to date on best practices, providing your team with the most efficient methods and processes to maintain your critical systems.
3. Mitigate knowledge loss due to employee attrition
Finding and retaining employees with the appropriate expertise can be a challenge. When someone resigns or retires, their knowledge and experience is suddenly gone. A quality Managed Support Services provider helps you retain that knowledge and reduce your need to backfill key roles due to employee attrition.
Tip: When evaluating a potential Managed Support Services partner, be sure to evaluate the depth and breadth of experience for each potential support resource. It’s also critical to evaluate their training methodology and programs to ensure an efficient transfer of knowledge and expertise.
4. Ensure timely troubleshooting
When system issues occur, such as billing or upgrade errors, you need experts to triage and resolve errors quickly, so your system is back up and running. Defect triage and resolution should be bound by specific Service Level Agreements with financial recourse if service levels are not achieved.
Tip: Your Managed Support Service partner should be able to manage the entire defect resolution process directly with your software provider, saving you time while giving you visibility into the resolution of the issue.
5. Customize your support structure
One size doesn’t fit all for support. Support options should be customized to meet your company’s specific and evolving needs. Here are a few of the areas where you might consider getting help:
Tip: It’s not uncommon for utilities to have a long list of non-critical issues and system defects that have yet to be addressed. Your Managed Support Services partner can help you resolve this backlog in a timely fashion. This is the perfect time to explore and introduce Agile methods and structured release processes into the organization.
6. Consider going to the cloud
It’s more efficient and secure to host your system in the cloud. The Cloud solution you choose should easily accommodate complex product integrations, grow with your company, and decrease strain on your IT department. Cloud hosting makes monitoring performance statistics and scalability a snap, offers an easy way to stay on top of the latest product releases, and eliminates the stress of an aging, outdated infrastructure.
Tip: There are multiple Cloud alternatives available. Your Managed Services partner should offer several options from Cloud Service Providers, as well as providing effective strategies for the transition. Building a business case is the best place to start.
7. Obtain 24/7 monitoring
When running critical nightly billing, interfaces and reports, you need a partner to monitor the entire process and ensure any issues are resolved immediately. With a support partner providing comprehensive monitoring of your critical nightly processes, you can be confident that your core business processes have been successfully completed.
Tip: Ensure that the partner you select is not only highly responsive, but also utilizes strict Service Level Agreements that include metrics, status reporting and timely communication throughout the entire monitoring and resolution process.
No matter what level of Managed Support Services you need—whether it’s Implementation Services, Knowledge Transfer, Triage and Troubleshooting, or otherwise—make sure the experts you turn to have the breadth and depth of knowledge you deserve.
At USP, our experts have decades of experience providing outsourced support for utilities critical business systems and processes. We take pride in providing responsive, high-quality service and, as a result, our clients come back year after year to renew—or upgrade—their contracts.
Interested in learning more about Managed Support Services? At USP, we customize our support services to suit your unique needs.
Utility Solutions Partners-Regional Vice President