Driving Development NISC’s development cycle for new solutions goes through many phases, but one critical step is the beta testing process. During this process, NISC’s Members have a chance to try new solutions and help us determine if they’re working properly, help find bugs and generally optimize the solution for release to the Membership. NISC’s iVUE Connect solution has been going through this testing process. Members are currently testing new modules for iVUE Connect – Service and the latest piece of the software, iVUE Connect – Financials. While the iVUE Connect – Financials HR persona has been in the hands of NISC’s beta partners for testing, another unlikely development partner for this particular solution was discovered along the way – the NISC employees. “We looked to our employees to beta of our software, just like we ask our Members to participate in the beta program,” said John Weber, NISC product line manager. “We know we have a lot of employees here at NISC, and this was an opportunity for us to help engage them in our single strategic initiative, iVUE Connect. This was an opportunity to expose all aspects of NISC to what we’re working on with iVUE Connect.” iVUE. Anytime, Anywhere. iVUE Connect – Financials is the second iVUE Connect module to be released for the solution, with iVUE Connect – Operations currently in development. iVUE Connect provides NISC Members a user-friendly way to interact with their iVUE data. The cloud-based solution is a new spin on the iVUE Solution that Members use every day. A new, intuitive interface makes finding information and completing tasks easier than ever, without changing screens. iVUE Connect’s role-based design is set up to closely match roles within NISC [...]
The Need for Speed Broadband – it’s not just for web surfing anymore. Having access to high-speed internet is becoming essential for more than just sharing funny memes and videos. Small businesses use it for quick and easy payments, doctor visits can take place right through an iPad or PC and education harnesses the power of connectivity at just about every grade level. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to high-speed internet. And even for some that do, that access can be lacking tremendously. That’s what Jenni Smith and the employees at Oklahoma Electric Cooperative in Norman, Okla., discovered. “We have a lot of schools in our rural areas that have terrible internet service,” said Smith, who serves as the manager of enterprise applications for OEC. “Also, a lot of the current providers, and only providers that are out in the rural areas, are really overcharging. They provide poor service, very slow speeds and they’re just charging too much. We’re big about wanting to serve our community and membership, and this is a service that we can provide them.” As OEC was getting ready to run fiber lines to their substations in order to help improve connectivity, the need for high speed broadband to their community drove the organization to expand their rollout and get members online. Building Interest in Broadband Implementing a broadband rollout is a large undertaking for any organization. The physical rollout and staffing requirements need to be determined. Every organization wants to use resources efficiently and minimize added work for staff. One thing that can dramatically help with a broadband rollout? Interest. With the help of NISC’s SmartHub Connect, which combines the customer engagement portal of SmartHub with the marketing and analytics [...]
From the smallest of Members to the largest, NISC products and solutions have a proven track record of meeting our Members’ needs while providing an outstanding return on investment. The very largest of those Members is experiencing the benefits after more than three years of utilizing NISC’s iVUE® enterprise system. Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC), headquartered in Johnson City, Texas, employs about 800 people and serves about 264,000 members across 8,100 square miles. It’s the largest electric distribution cooperative in the United States. PEC has experienced significant cost savings and operational gains utilizing NISC’s enterprise software since its implementation in 2014. The project stands as NISC’s biggest deployment of its iVUE software to-date. PEC's Challenges PEC serves a large and diverse service area within a region called Texas Hill Country, which fans westward from Austin, Texas. PEC’s membership is growing rapidly: From 2017–2018 alone, the co-op grew by nearly 15,000 members. On top of navigating rapid growth, PEC has historically faced exorbitant consultant and paper costs and underwent frequent integrations and testing of several third-party applications. “We needed something that was easy to use, especially for the employees who have direct contact with members. We wanted an easy mobile bill payment solution for our members, and we wanted something that would drive our contractor costs down and our total cost of operation down. The good news is, we got all of those things when we got iVUE,” said Lawanda Parnell, PEC chief information officer. “We are very happy overall with the iVUE system,” said DeLisa Evers, PEC director of support services for member relations. “I have heard members and agents say they wouldn’t go back for anything. They feel it’s the best solution we could have [...]
Two co-ops join forces to boost OSS/Billing integration and support With its OSS/Billing provider of 15 years preparing to replace its existing platform in 2017, Canby, OR-based DirectLink decided to see what kind of improvements it might be able to realize by evaluating what other OSS/Billing providers had to offer, according to Sharon Puhlman, Member Services Support Supervisor for the cooperative, which currently serves more than 8000+ members. The triple-play provider continues to see steady growth across a wide demographic – from farmers to commuters – within its ~100 square mile rural serving area adjacent to Portland. While most members have two or three types of services and make changes from time-to-time, others do not change anything in a three- or four-year time frame, according to Puhlman. In business since 1904, DirectLink takes great pride in its current 90% positive customer service ratings. Many of the company’s 60 employees live and work shoulder-to-shoulder with the co-op’s members in Canby and Mt. Angel, which gave DirectLink all the more reason to choose the very best OSS/Billing platform on the market. Identifying Priorities “No OSS has everything, but when we began looking at what other vendors had to offer, we knew we wanted to work with a company that would provide us with better and more localized support on a consistent and timely basis,” said Puhlman. After all, DirectLink offers its own members a 24/7 technical support line. Expecting the same strong support from its future OSS/Billing supplier made sense. “Our reporting and other needs evolved and demanded more complexity that we were not able to create on our own,” she explained. “Our cost for reports depended on what we needed done and how long it took [...]
Prior to deploying NISC Operations Analytics (OA), Cass County Electric Cooperative in Fargo, N.D., was feeling inundated with time-series data, unsure of how to turn that data into something manageable and helpful. “We deployed Operations Analytics because we wanted to improve system efficiencies,” said Bryce Johanneck, meter data management technician for Cass County Electric. “Our previous way of managing our distribution system relied on a lot of time-series data. You’re giving it a monthly reading and another monthly reading, and you’re doing some time series analysis on that. Operations Analytics is a great way to utilize a very robust AMI system to make pertinent engineering calculations on your system.” One major feature of NISC Operations Analytics that has proven crucial for Cass County is the transformer loading module. The functionality has allowed them to easily identify transformer issues and move them around to make better use of oversized transformers at existing services. “Using OA has definitely saved us money and prevented us from having major issues,” Johanneck said. “We’ve upgraded transformers prior to outages which would have otherwise been very difficult or next to impossible because you had to aggregate all of that Member data at one location. It’s proven very beneficial.” Johanneck also stressed the importance of having clean source data and paying attention to your AMI system and how it is modeled. Having good, usable data along with OA will provide a very accurate and reliable engineering model. “Today, a lot of us aren’t very good at keeping our source data clean,” Johnneck said. “You have plant changes, additions, removals and your engineering model is now quickly out of date, especially if you’re in an area where there are a lot of changes. [...]
For years, engineers at Verendrye Electric Cooperative, with offices in Minot and Velva, N.D., were using seasonal models to make predictions on energy usage and consumption. The models were simply estimations, and they often found themselves over or underestimating equipment sizes, having to redo installations in the field. They were seeking a way to achieve greater accuracy; that’s when they deployed NISC Operations Analytics (OA). “Before, we would typically have two models, a winter and a summer model,” said Brad Doll, P.E., Electrical Engineer at Verendrye. “It was a worst-case scenario. Now, in using NISC Operations Analytics, we basically have a model for every hour of the day and it’s much more accurate. The data we get through OA is actual meter data. There’s no allocation and there’s no estimating. So, we’re looking at a true system load on the system when we do our analysis.” NISC Operations Analytics harnesses the granularity of time-series data, enabling users to look beyond peak system analysis to better grasp real system performance. OA seamlessly pulls together data from a multitude of sources, including NISC’s Meter Data Management System (MDMS), the Member’s Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system and GIS in two ways - the first is via an automated web solution that displays transformer loading and line losses (as well as SCADA and consumer voltage readings, when available). Users can adjust the report criteria to meet their specific needs. The second is through EDD’s Distributed Engineering Workstation (DEW). This engineering analysis software, along with NISC’s Cooperative Cloud, calculates the values displayed in OA and allows large quantities of data to be easily processed and reviewed. When DEW is installed on a user’s desktop, it becomes even more [...]
United Fiber's Broadband Deployment United Fiber, a subsidiary of United Electric Cooperative located in Savannah, Mo., has been providing broadband services to their membership since 2011. United Electric serves 7,900 members and roughly 10,000 meters, covering about 2.5 meters per mile of line. After a survey to their membership, United realized that nearly 70 percent of their members didn’t have access to good broadband. So, the electric cooperative took advantage of a Rural Utilities Service (RUS) stimulus grant that allowed them to begin a broadband deployment in Northwestern Missouri. Today, United Fiber’s broadband project has grown tremendously. Providing the standard triple-play options – internet, voice and video – United Fiber now serves 5,000 members with broadband services, 40 percent of which utilize the voice service and 50 percent utilize them for video. They also have a supplementary wireless service, bringing their overall telecommunications customer base around 6,000. Not only do they serve residential customers, but more than 900 commercial businesses in Northwestern Missouri. “We originally needed to hit 2,700 connections for it to be considered a successful project,” said David Girvan, Chief Operating Officer at United Fiber. “We hit that number early and it validated what we thought. We continued to grow at a breakneck speed.” While there is a lot of physical work that needs to be done to roll out a fiber network, the software behind that network is also a very important piece of the puzzle. United has been an NISC Member for 20 years, so they turned to their technology partner for help. With 50 years of serving both the telecom and utility industries, NISC had the knowledge and the solution to help United Fiber launch their broadband product. Growth and [...]
Wake Electric Membership Corporation, Wake Forest, N.C., is utilizing an NISC solution that has both the co-op and its members excited: Prepaid Metering provides members of Wake EMC the ability to monitor, manage and pay for their electricity in advance, which helps them better-manage their account from month to month.