Many utilities these days have been struggling with decisions about what to do with existing utility CIS systems in the face of new products and services made possible with smart metering and new technologies like time-based rates, expanded energy efficiency, demand response, net metering and fast charge electric vehicle programs. Since replacement of a CIS is such a large commitment - both time and money - utilities are asking whether there are alternatives to a fork lift replacement. Earlier t
Cognera's solutions were built for retail providers in deregulated markets and can handle new pricing packages. The company started with a commercial and industrial complex billing offering and then extended this offering to residential customers. Though Cognera’s solution provides fairly comprehensive billing functionality, the offering is not a full enterprise CIS. In the case where clients have a CIS of choice, Cognera acts as a bolt-on to the existing CIS providing billing, analytics, reports, bill preparation, ebilling and a customer portal. Cognera's solution integrates with the existing CIS and ERP systems providing transaction data synchronization. Cognera offers these functions using the same platform for all customers, but each implementation is customized to a significant degree to the needs of the customer - Saas with customization services might be one way to describe it. More than one client of Cognera has now elected to supplement their CIS with Cognera’s bolt-on option.
Duke Energy is probably the most notable example of a company opting to keep its legacy systems for traditional billing and go with telecom provider Convergys as an alternative to handle new products and services. The market is waiting to see how that solution evolves. Utilities looking to the modular are doing so for relatively low cost - an implementation can cost $500,000 compared to a multi-million dollar CIS replacement and take months rather than years. The question is whether this is an interim strategy until new products and services are offered system-wide, or whether this type of solution will be the future of the CIS. Are there enough vendors that can provide the right services to make for a competitive market? Are there enough web services out there to perform more repeatable services? Are niche vendors going to be viable in the long run or will the established professional services firms end up winners in this area? These are all questions that we are asking vendors and utilities. What are your thoughts?