Go time: City goes live on new billing software Monday
By Jon Hawley
Sunday, June 9, 2019
Elizabeth City's utility customers may see some slower service this week — but city officials are hopeful no major problems — as city employees prepare to launch a new utility billing system.
As long planned, Tyler Technologies' Incode software will go live today, switching some 13,000 customers' accounts over to a new billing system that will manage their accounts and calculate their monthly bills.
It's been a complex, technical undertaking for city staff, but an important one. When the city's last attempt to upgrade to a new billing system failed in late 2016 and early 2017, customers were confused and sometimes outraged at the problems that followed, including major delays in getting bills out.
With lessons learned, the Tyler conversion is going much better than the last one, City Manager Rich Olson, Assistant City Manager Angela Cole, and other managerial staff have said at recent City Council meetings.
Data from the city's current system continues uploading well into Incode, customer service representatives were trained to use Incode just a few weeks ago — keeping the program fresh in their minds — and Tyler trainers will be on-site to help staff work through any problems as they serve customers.
Last week also included some final, key work behind the scenes, Olson said in an interview Friday. The city completed a major data pull for accounts Sunday night into Monday, allowing Tyler to once more check for any anomalies in moving customers' information from the current system, Logics, to Incode.
Olson and staff have previously reported working through issues such as differences in data fields between the systems and the need to simplify how some business meters upload usage data. On Friday, he said the latest issue was working through some “anomalies” in account histories. Most of those anomalies concerned inactive accounts, and, while it took several hours, city staff have largely corrected them.
The city's goal is to have its data as clean and streamlined as possible when it's all uploaded into Tyler today, Olson said.
As planned, the city was preparing to step away from Logics last week, and it's been compiling data from Logics, but not posting, or regularly updating, the software it's preparing to abandon. On Monday, the city will transfer spreadsheets of all last week's transactions to Tyler. Meter data will still be uploaded into Logics, then transferred over to Tyler to provide another safeguard, Olson said.
The city plans to upload meter data from Logics into Tyler for the next three billing cycles, but will then upload meter data directly into Tyler for its fourth and last cycle for the month.
Tyler trainers will be at city hall and the city’s satellite customer service office on Griffin Street to help prevent any major problems as customers stop by to make payments, set up new accounts, or conduct other business, Olson said. Customers may notice slower service as the city's customer service representatives get used to the new software, but they shouldn't see other impacts.
While city staff have reported data transfers from Logics to Tyler are accurate, in the event of missing or inaccurate usage data, the city can refer back to original data through its Itron meter system, Olson has said.