As Ontario’s largest electricity transmission and distribution company, Hydro One owns and operates the entire province’s electricity transmission system.
Accounting for about 96 per cent of the province’s transmission capacity (as of 2010), the company is not only carefully scrutinized by the media but also depended on by millions of customers each hour of every day. Hydro One’s customers include 1.3 million rural and urban distribution customers, 412 large-scale customers, 75 local distribution companies and 21 remote communities.
The reliability of the company’s technology is paramount. In 2008, two of Hydro One’s business units realized it was time to reassess their information technology (IT) infrastructures:
- Customer Business Relations (CBR)
which manages the company’s relationships with large customers such as General Motors and Abitibi Bowater; and,
- Distributed Generation (DG)
which manages the flow and distribution of power from sources all over the province.
|With Microsoft CRM, what used to take two or three days, they can now get in 15 minutes.|
| Robert Pratt, |
Business Systems Analyst – CRM Lead, Hydro One
CBR wanted to replace its out-of-date paper system and replace it with a digital solution that would streamline their operations and enable them to provide better customer service.
“Staff members were often just using paper – even just notes on their desk – to manage customer relationships,” says Robert Pratt, Business Systems Analyst - CRM Lead, Hydro One. “This might work for one individual, but paper-based record keeping
clearly poses challenges when it comes to information-sharing.”
As a number of staff reached retirement age, Hydro One faced the challenge of transitioning customer data as relationships changed hands. The process involved gathering the outgoing employees’ files and notes to centralize them for future use before sharing them with the team members slated to work with the customer going forward.
First, Hydro One required a solution to streamline and centralize customer data, streamline operations and enable efficient collaboration.
Second, their IT infrastructure was overhauled by the DG group.
Ontario’s Green Energy Act brought new energy producers, such as windmill operators, who were now also producing and distributing electricity. As a result, Hydro One needed technology that could manage new challenges for gathering and storage of data. As the initiative developed, a key requirement for the team was that their solution be flexible enough to quickly adapt to changing requirements as they arise. Solution
While the two business units’ challenges seemed diverse, the thread that connected them was clear: Hydro One needed better technology to support CRM.
After being very impressed by a customized demo, Hydro One selected Microsoft Dynamics CRM and launched a project that would address the needs of both the CBR and DG groups.
“CBR initially looked at a competitive product to solve Hydro One’s requirements,” says Pratt. “But we determined it to be too complex and not a viable solution for the CBR team.
|Every time we release a new piece of functionality, whether it be a communication tool or a web form that feeds into Microsoft Dynamics CRM, there is always positive feedback. We have done exceptionally well.|
| Robert Pratt, |
Business Systems Analyst – CRM Lead, Hydro One
What we needed was a solution that we could customize to suit our needs.”
Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a customizable, out-of-the-box CRM solution that meets the changing expectations of customers with a service solution that is robust and flexible. Users find familiar functionality and an interface that let them work in a personal, natural way. This intelligent solution provides organizations with information that is insightful and actionable. The result is a connected, collaborative and integrated organization.
Essentially, both the CBR and DG groups were looking for quick-to-production platforms for highly time-sensitive, developing business requirements.
“What we really needed was a CRM technology solution to meet our customer relationship needs and keep up with the changing times,” says Pratt.
Microsoft Consulting services assisted Hydro One’s Customer Business Relations group to develop and deploy a pilot solution on Microsoft Dynamics CRM to track system investment, information assets and customer commitments. Microsoft Consulting Services completed this in two phases: an analysis and design phase and a development and deployment phase. The pilot was delivered on time and on budget. After the successful launch and completion of the pilot, Hydro One was able to enhance and promote the pilot solution into a production system on their own.
Phase 1 of the CBR implementation was put into production in May 2009 and Phase 2 rolled out in September 2009. Pratt says the teams have been extremely pleased with both solutions.
“It is critical for the staff to have all of the correct information available at their fingertips,” says Pratt. “They need to be able to deliver accurate and up-to-date information to customers or other third parties, in a short period of time. With Microsoft Dynamics CRM, what used to take two or three days, they can now get in 15 minutes.”
“Every time we release a new piece of functionality, whether it be a communication tool or a web form that feeds into Microsoft Dynamics CRM, there is always positive feedback. We have done exceptionally well,” notes Pratt, adding that his team received last year’s Hydro One President’s Award for Innovation. Benefits
Microsoft Dynamics CRM has been in use for about three years and the number of users continues to grow – from both sides of the business.
“In my experience, the surest sign of a good application design and implementation on a platform is that users want to add more functionality… not just fix what’s already there,” notes Pratt. “And this has been our experience for both CBR and DG.” Customizable solutions
Hydro One needed a CRM solution that the team could easily customize. Microsoft Dynamics CRM allows the Hydro One team to configure the product easily and effectively.
“The DG group started with 25 users and now is at 660. As more users continue to be added, each individual has new requests for different functionalities to be added into Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and we can now accommodate that,” explained Pratt, adding that this is important to ensure that Hydro One customers are provided with the very best service possible. Centralized data management
Hydro One continues to see huge efficiencies in how they both centralize data and eliminate errors due to incorrect data.
“The central functionality of Microsoft Dynamics CRM is very solid, and we are able to eliminate rogue applications,” says Pratt. “This has helped to greatly improve processes and data management.”
Pratt’s team also saw a benefit in reduced time required on coding. They decided to centralize many of their code libraries so they only have to be updated once and easily used where needed. Improved productivity
The now-centralized data allows staff to provide excellent customer service across the board. Every team member has access to the history files for each customer, no longer relying on paper trails or individual knowledge banks.
Pratt plans to continue to reap the rewards of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
“My hope is that we continue to roll out even more implementations and keep going,” says Pratt. “I’d like to continue to reduce the number of rogue applications by centralizing even more data, and further streamlining the data management at Hydro One.”
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