North Delhi Power Limited
Power Billing in New Delhi
New Delhi Power Limited has developed a homegrown solution
that restructures its billing system and has the potential to impact 8.5 lakh
people across Delhi. Let's take a closer look at the billing system that won
the Computer Associates Intelligent Enterprise Award. by Deepali Gupta
Project: Automatic Meter Reading and Spot Billing
Date Started: July 2002
Date Completed: March 2004
Project Cost: Rs 5700 lakh
Project Objective: A less person dependent billing system, transparency
of processes and quick, quality service for customers.
Benefits Accrued: Faster, transparent billing process and services
and constant tracking of business goals thanks to the online MIS.
Innovation: The speed of implementation, Automatic Meter Reading
techniques and the spot billing mechanism.
North Delhi Power Limited (NDPL) is a joint venture power distribution company
between Tata Power and Government of Delhi. When Delhi Vidyut Board privatized
in mid-2002, NDPL took over power supplying functions for one third of the Delhi
population, in North Delhi.
"It also inherited a network comprising two computers," said Akhil
Pandey, HOG IT & Systems, NDPL. The only bright side, it seems, was that
NDPL had a clean slate to start work on.
Pandey and his team began work on several fronts after the IT department in
conjunction with the business laid down some guiding principles.
In the course of revamping and modernizing the systems, Pandey perceived the
need for a less person dependant billing system. NDPL therefore implemented
a totally homegrown Decentralized Billing System for its 8.5 lakh customers.
The system today is the backbone for NDPL's entire operations. And the IT initiatives
have won it the Computer Associates Intelligent Enterprise Award in the Government
and Utilities category.
As part of the self-developed billing system, NDPL has provided users with the
facility to log and track complaints online. The complaint management system
is quick. It thus helps the company to function better, and fulfills the primary
goal to satisfy the customer.
The billing and metering system deploys an Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) function.
AMR is a remote controlled device that collects the meter reading and uploads
it into the company billing servers automatically. This prevents manipulation
of data, even at the stage of reading the meter.
NDPL also has a spot billing facility. Meaning that with the use of a spot billing
machine, the bill can be generated instantly after the meter reading. Hence,
the customers see the bill generation process and can make the payment from
Small parts of a big whole
Here are some of the features of the Intelligent Enterprise.
Connection Management: For any new connection, the
consumer now only has to log onto the Internet, and file a request on NDPL's
website. The follow up activities then are upto the NDPL executives. This bypasses
the middlemen who contributed substantially to the delays in new installments
prior to the solution.
Billing and Metering: With the help of the AMR, Common
Meter Reading Interface (CMRI) and hand held devices the field staff collects
consumption data which is then uploaded onto the billing system. The spot billing
machine then makes it possible to instantaneously generate a bill.
Bill Payment Options: Every user's bill and consumption
data is uploaded onto the Internet. So, a consumer can view the entire billing
history and consumption pattern from July 2002 from the home.
Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation for its 'Citizen Facilitation'
centers because they are:
- Effective and efficient service delivery applications
- A complete complaint acceptance and redressal system with dual monitoring
of the helpdesk.
Directorate of Information Technology, Maharashtra
for its User Information System because it has:
- Single stop access for information related to government
- Association of schemes & related forms at one place
- Decentralized management & ownership of content
The website also comprises an energy calculator where the
customer can enter the number of appliances, bulbs, and energy consuming devices
with the number of hours each one runs. The calculator returns an approximate
value of the customer's bill. For the customer it is a good way to check that
he/she is paying the correct amount.
The NDPL website has the standard online bill clearing options for some banks,
and is in the process of installing automated kiosks at its cash collection
MIS: A side functionality added to this setup is an
online MIS system, that allows all employees on the move to track relevant information
regarding billing cycle, consumer complaints, and so on. The company performance
and means to improve it are thus always in sight.
|"When the business gave guidelines
and set up the guiding principles it realized that the entire system had
to be driven by IT. We have worked hard on this project with time and machine
dependence in mind. This award is a prestigious moment for us. It is a recognition
of our efforts."
The biggest advantage of the decentralized billing system is the transparency
it has brought into the power billing cycle. And since everything is electronically
managed, commercial losses have reduced and are more easily tracked.
"When reading the meter, a person may be tempted to take a wrong reading,"
said Pandey, "Now the computer will not allow that."
Furthermore, he insinuates, in the earlier system for connections or to get
work done, bribes were required and energy theft accounted for 60 percent of
the cost, which the fully automated system will eliminate.
In this project, that took almost two years to complete, NDPL invested Rs 5700
lakh. Although it has not given a value to the cost reduction, it does claim
that the system has resulted in an 18 percent increase in revenue, which translates
to Rs 19,125 lakh.
People in the Process
The system has definitely changed the way the 2000 NDPL employees work. And
special efforts were taken to make the system employee-friendly.
"We started with a Linux environment, but we wanted to capitalize on the
fact that most graduates today are familiar with Windows. So later we switched
to Windows," said Pandey.
In India you'd still think that the largest number of people would not have
access, or would not be aware of how to use the Internet. That would amount
to a certain amount of redundancy of the online billing system.
To that however, Deepak Konnur, AGM IT & Systems answered, "Those with
access the Internet are the bigger users of the energy. So, with the system
we are addressing 70 percent of our clientele." Till date NDPL claims the
initiative has impacted 20,000 customers.
Hurdles at Hand
Development comes with a set of challenges. Migration of old data to the new
system was the first according to Konnur and Pandey. Since the customer is billed
once every two months, but readings and calculations are done on an ongoing
basis, the data requires specific sorting, which wasn't done in the data already
Formatting documentation and records was difficult too. And finally, with any
new implementation comes change of the business process. The way NDPL dealt
with that change was awareness drives, continuous interaction, and trainings
conducted by the Business Process Reengineering (BPR) group.
"We have to further and develop aggressively," said the motivated
Pandey. He already has a planned roadmap. The projects in the pipeline are:
Sakshat: An application designed to provide a single
centralized consumer view. It is targeted to present all the information regarding
a customer across the database to be presented in a single attempt.
An Energy Club: It will conduct mass education programs
among consumers to guide them on controlled, careful, and eco-friendly usage
of power. It will also sponsor an e-newsletter and e-group of energy friendly
Performance management system: To monitor and overall
performance and efficiency of every distribution zone.
Sandesh: An SMS based alerting information service
GIS Implementation: "Establishing a GIS map for
every house, could result in many exciting renovations," Pandey said.
Extras: Pandey and Konnur are also working on establishing
a Disaster Recovery site and an SAP implementation. They are also evaluating
RFID and Isometric technologies to further automate the functions of the organization.
Deepali Gupta can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org