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The Ultra Award

Fortnightly Magazine - November 1 1998

show an updated forecast for the remainder of that day and the following day.

Scheduling software purchased from Unified Inc. runs on a client server platform using Windows NT and Oracle. Day-ahead schedules are submitted electronically to the independent system operator each morning and then tweaked throughout the day based on updated forecasts.

RAS runs on a mainframe platform using MVS, COBOL II and DB2. Enhancements include storing and processing hourly consumption data; bill calculations based on hourly pricing as opposed to tariff rates; three bill mechanisms; bills produced on selectable calendar month cycles; and summary bills.

LG&E believes it is the only company that can provide full-cycle services in California - from meter installation, through usage collection, billing, scheduling and settlement.

Three Honorable Mentions

Receiving honorable mentions were Boston Gas Co., Empire District Electric Co., and The Southern Company.

Boston Gas was recognized for its Field Work Management System, a component-based architecture for distribution resource management. No single solution met the utility's requirements, so it developed a hybrid system to include Project Software Development Corp.'s Maximo Work Management System, a compatible unit estimating system developed by IBM, and various customizations.

The solution was designed to track the status and cost of all construction and maintenance work - about 30,000 jobs annually. It also enabled continual productivity improvements in operations. Some results of the new system: Field coordinators were able to schedule more work crews and the company was able to eliminate geographic regions while also reducing divisions and construction regions.

A low-cost customer information system won mention for Empire District Electric Co. Its Centerion system manages accounts, premises, products and services. One of Centurion's distinguishing characteristics was its innovative use of a client/server architecture using Java and Internet technologies. The system was built on a n-tier client/server architecture that can be ported to various hardware platforms or relational databases. Using Centurion, Empire claims a customer information system can be created in matter of weeks or months by a small team, after a business model is defined. Centurion was developed by six employees working part time over two years. The small investment yielded advanced CIS that helped the utility adapt to a deregulated environment.

Another customer service system, designed by The Southern Co., was singled out by ULTRA judges for honorable mention. The project involved hundreds of people, from six subsidiaries, and Andersen Consulting. The project reduced operating costs and provided more customer-focused service. One of the largest hurdles was the 10 legacy customer accounting and billing systems developed in the 1960s and used by 5,000 reps in 370 locations. The new system needed to process 45 million payments annually. Hundreds of business processes were standardized and new software was implemented. A client-server application, CSS software is deployed to the workstations using Microsoft SMS. Windows NT was used along with CICS DB2 and UNIX gateways. The technical architecture of Southern's CSS allows it to extend customer service to the Internet in the near future.

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