The Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation—KAHRAMAA—needed to improve customer service and save money on billing by building a new transactional Web site. Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Netways used Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 for the Web site and also upgraded the utility’s intranet. The project has won a regional award for excellence in e-government, and, in addition, the utility has cut the cost of processing payments and reduced complaints.
KAHRAMAA works hard to give its 1.6 million customers high-quality electricity and water services. The utility operates as a commercial entity and is committed to socially responsible policies that support environmental sustainability.
In 2008, KAHRAMAA decided to invest in upgrading its Web site to improve customer service, strengthen investor relations, and encourage more consumers of electricity and water to pay online. The Web site needed a feature so customers could check their pattern of consumption, outstanding invoices, payments made, and other relevant information. Previously, customers had to visit customer service centres during office hours to resolve such queries.
The utility also wanted a tendering module built into the portal for companies interested in bidding for work, and an improved careers section in which job seekers could register and update their CVs. KAHRAMAA also needed a special awareness section for children, to promote environmental sustainability and awareness of water and electricity conservation.
Speaking at the launch of the Web site in the last quarter of 2009, H.E. Issa Hilal Al-Kuwari, Acting Managing Director, KAHRAMAA, says: “The Web portal aims to increase communication links between our customers and the company. We want the portal to be part of their daily lives.”
KAHRAMAA faced several technical challenges to deliver its vision for improved service and ensure ease of navigation for users. The most important part was integrating the Web site with the JD Edwards enterprise resource planning system, which holds all the utility’s accounting, billing, and payment information. KAHRAMAA also needed to integrate the Web site with a short message service (SMS) gateway.
Having originally implemented Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 for its intranet, the utility decided to standardise on Microsoft technology rather than consider other options. Working with Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Netways, KAHRAMAA upgraded the intranet to Office SharePoint Server 2007. This ensured that the utility could unify its data and author all Web content on a secure intranet location before publishing online.
In addition to Office SharePoint Server 2007 for the Arabic and English Web sites, Netways deployed Windows Communication Foundation to communicate between the JD Edwards accounting and billing system and the Internet. The solution ensures that customers can move seamlessly from the KAHRAMAA Web site to the Qatar National Bank e-payment gateway.
Rossana Bou Absi, Enterprise Solutions Consultant, Netways, says: “We used the Microsoft ASP.NET AJAX development framework throughout the application to enhance the user experience and decrease post-backs to the users. Most of the user controls in the application have been built with AJAX.”
In designing and modelling the e-service, Netways benefited from the Microsoft recommendations and best practice to ensure a secure, safe, and reliable service for its customers. Mohamed El Hajj, SharePoint Consultant, Netways, says: “The application is divided into public and private areas—the public section is common to all and has no sensitive information. The private areas are user specific and only display information relevant to the user.”
Customers logging onto the Web site have the option of being notified by e-mail message, SMS, or both. El Hajj says: “SMS notification is part of the services module and is used to tell customers about deadlines on their accounts and alert them to renewal confirmations.”
KAHRAMAA has already won a prestigious award as the best government e-services Web site in the Gulf, recognising the quality of the design, purpose, and national adoption. Ziad Rafic Noueihed, Head of Applications Development, KAHRAMAA, says: “The company will save a lot of money by processing transactions online instead of through our walk-in customer service centres. Online processing using SharePoint is significantly less expensive than the cost of a manual transaction. We also have fewer complaints because customers can now view all the information they need on the Web, and online bill payment is reliable.”
• Detailed account data available to customers. The easy-to-navigate Web site displays customer account information and energy use in user-friendly graphical formats. Noueihed says: “Customers can calculate from the Web site how much it will cost to have their air conditioning switched on for the whole day, helping to reduce unnecessary energy consumption.”
• Updating content is quick and easy. Web content management features in Office SharePoint Server 2007 greatly simplify the updating of the intranet portal and Web site, including information about tendering and career opportunities.
• Centralised administration reduces costs. Deploying both the intranet and Internet solution on the same collaboration technology reduces the cost and time involved in managing the solution for administrators—freeing them for higher value work.
• Unified storage of documents within the portal. The portal is becoming the central repository for documents and data regardless of their source, format, and destination.
• Scalable for future expansion. Microsoft collaboration technology is scalable, so extra servers can be added in future as required.
• Children’s site promotes environmental sustainability. KAHRAMAA is adopting an innovative approach to raising awareness among children and young people of the need to conserve energy and use electricity and water safely in the home.
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