No matter how you cut it, the Customer Information System (CIS) represents a utility's largest computer asset. It eats up the most disk space. It contains the most programs and lines of code. It handles the largest volume of business, whether measured in transactions or dollars.
Billing lies at the core of the CIS. It's the most complex area. But once bills go out to customers, the CIS must manage accounts receivable and the collection process, not to mention financial control and reporting. Add in new order processing, customer identification, credit checks, service orders, work com mitments, turn-on and shutoff, contract history, and customer complaints, and you realize that the CIS performs thousands of jobs each day. You understand why even the most hard-nosed utility exec begins to get a little nervous about the risks when talk turns to upgrades or wholesale replacement of the CIS.
In fact, the cost of a full CIS replacement for a utility serving fewer than a million customers generally runs from $10 million on up. While some have done it for less, the "on up" side of the range can top $100 million for larger utilities. And as if development costs weren't already high enough, the full life-cycle cost of a new CIS will certainly run every utility company at least many millions of dollars.