National Information Solutions Cooperative (NISC), a leading provider of information technology products and services to utilities and telecommunications organizations, has added Trena Quinn as Regional Business Manager focused on the south central region of the United States. “We are thrilled to welcome Trena Quinn to our Regional Business Manager team,” said Susan Imm, Utility Manager, Business Development and Sales at NISC. “Trena brings a wealth of experience to her new role which will prove very valuable for our members. Her enthusiasm for NISC is contagious.” Quinn comes to NISC after spending 14 years at Upshur Rural Electric Cooperative in Gilmer, Texas, where she served as both a supervisor of consumer accounts and most recently office manager. She served as project lead for Upshur through a conversion to iVUE that is scheduled to be live in September. “I’m excited,” Quinn said. “I liked the values that NISC stands for. Most co-ops have a strong foundation, and I really like the cooperative principles of the business.” Having spent the past 26 years living on the Upshur lines, Quinn is very familiar with the cooperative business model. After graduation from the University of Texas at Tyler, where she earned a degree in accounting, she became a Certified Public Accountant spending time working for her father as a CPA. In 1999, she discovered a position with Upshur and stayed with the organization until joining NISC. “I followed in my dad’s footsteps by going into accounting and becoming a CPA,” Quinn said. “He was a CPA and he had a public accounting tax firm. I worked for him for a while and decided that I enjoyed the business side of accounting more so than the tax side. I knew cooperatives [...]
Tornado activity throughout the Midwest has been particularly destructive this spring. Nowhere has it been more intense than in the state of Oklahoma. Four major tornadoes caused billions of dollars of damage, killed almost 50 people and disrupted the lives of thousands. The storms left devastation in both urban and rural areas. To extend a helping hand to those affected in co-op service areas, Blackwell, Oklahoma-based Kay Electric Cooperative has come up with a unique way to raise funds for tornado victims living in electric co-op service areas. Working with NISC, Kay Electric is marketing "Oklahoma Proud" t-shirts, with all the funds going into the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperative's (OAEC) Touchstone Energy Cooperative Oklahoma Relief Fund. The Fund is a 501c3 organization, with all donations tax-deductible. According to Joe Harris, CEO of Kay Electric, the fundraising effort underscores the Sixth Cooperative Principal: Cooperation among Cooperatives. “The tornadoes that ripped across our state have caused loss and heartache in co-op territory,” he said. “We know the unpredictable path of tornados can hit anywhere, at any time. While we're thankful to be spared damage and disruption, many of our Oklahoma neighbors were not so lucky.” Harris and the co-op's Member Relations/Public Relations Representative, Austin Partida, contacted NISC which, through its iGEAR division, printed in excess of 1,000 "Oklahoma Proud" t-shirts for the effort based on Partida's graphic design. “We saw the need and we developed the fundraising plan. We needed the t-shirts and we contacted NISC,” said Partida. “NISC immediately saw the need and the opportunity to support our effort through iGEAR. They ordered the shirts and printed the design at their facilities.” The Kay Electric team is marketing the "Oklahoma Proud" t-shirts through the organization’s [...]
On June 26, NISC hosted our first NISC Board Meeting in Cedar Rapids. It was the first visit to the new office for many of the Board members as well as their first opportunity to meet our team. We had an opportunity to share information about the past year and all of the exciting projects happening with our organization. With the constant change the industry is facing, there were also critical decisions needed to be made for the next fiscal year. NISC’s management just completed an intense planning effort that is an important part of how NISC is managed. The executive team outlined the planned strategies for continued growth and improvement for the next year. The session concluded with the approval of the fiscal year budget. We appreciate the Board’s continued confidence in the NISC management team and are looking forward to another successful year.
Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value," said Albert Einstein. To add value to what you do may be the key to success and maybe even happiness. Each person’s value is different; paths may cross for a few brief instances, or when fortunate, it can be for decades. A career in technology, spanning over four decades is not only considered a success in today’s world, but also a tremendous value. To have that value at NISC is an honor and we are blessed enough to have that experience with Larry Estal. With Larry it’s easy to see how hard work, dedication and values contribute to a long, exciting career. This month, Larry celebrates his 44th year with NISC. Dating back to the late 1960s Larry has transcended the many ‘traditional’ milestones in the Information Technology arena. His career began before cell phones existed, before computers were on every desk and started eight days after Apollo 11 landed on the moon. To say the least, July 1969 was a good year for technology—the United States landed on the moon and NISC gained a great advocate and leader. Larry’s dedication can easily be seen from all those who have worked with him—from learning new technologies as they evolve and staying agile through the years. A life-long learner, Larry strives to bring value to each relationship he forms with Members/Customers as well as fellow NISC employees. His dedication is obvious; not only in years, but also in his willingness to help, be accessible to others’ and to do what is right—always. That’s why in June, NISC’s executive team and Larry’s team came together to thank and honor his hard work through the years. [...]
Technology is changing the way we do things. We do just about everything online, from reading books to catching up with family and friends. Many people are turning to the internet to do one thing: pay their bills. With so many options available through the internet, paying bills has never been easier for the customer, especially when they can aggregate bill payments directly through their bank or other free bill pay services. From 2000-2010, the number of households utilizing online banking increased six-fold, with 80 percent of households with internet access utilizing some form of online banking. In that time, paper checks declined from 61% of all payments to only represented only 26 percent by 2010. While the ability to pay online is great for consumers, the process at the provider’s end may not change at all. When a customer chooses to pay through their bank or a service like Fiserv’s CheckFree, providers will still receive a paper check…and all the payment processing that goes along with it. “Customers probably don’t realize that if they’re paying their bill through their online banking bill pay service, that the bank is actually producing a paper check,” said Randy Schroder, Senior Product Line Manager at NISC. “These paper checks that are printed by the banks or other online bill pay services generally don’t have enough information to post to the account, so there’s more manual effort to looking up that check.” Just as technology is making it easier for customers to pay, providers can utilize an Online Bill Payment Interface solution (or OBI) to help make this payment process more efficient. With OBI, payments are made electronically directly to the provider’s account, eliminating the paper payment processing and [...]
Callaway Electric Cooperative wanted to update its fleet of analog radios before the January 2013 FCC narrowbanding deadline. As a cooperative that distributes power to more than 13,000 residential, agricultural and commercial customers across central Missouri, Callaway’s adoption and integration of MOTOTRBO radios from Motorola with NISC’s software improved workflow and communications between the office and the field. “Whether crews are working in a severe storm or on a simple meter change, MOTOTRBO allows them to do their jobs safely and efficiently and restore service to our members as quickly as possible,” said Tom Howard, CEO/General Manager, Callaway Electric Cooperative. NISC’s Mobile WorkForce enables Callaway employees to access service order scheduling information from the field, alleviating lost paperwork since tasks are managed electronically. How does it work? The streamlined process starts at the very beginning of the day when Callaway field employees boot up their radios and laptops and log on. “Service orders are transferred to the laptop in the truck via the MOTOTRBO radios. When our field employees start their day, they turn on their radios, power up their laptops and sign in,” said Lesa Akers, Operations Support at Callaway Electric. “Then they connect the Bluetooth to their MOTOTRBO radios and sign in to NISC which communicates with MOTOTRBO via Bluetooth.” The Bluetooth connection enables service orders to be pushed out to field workers, including additional requests throughout the day, which they see on their iVUE screens. “Our linemen enter their data right into the computer instead of having to write it down on a service order. Everything is sent back to the office electronically,” said Akers. “We no longer have trouble reading their writing and actually get much better information from them.” No [...]
NISC employee Jamie Wetsch was named the 2013 North Dakota Trail Worker of the Year following his work developing, creating and maintaining the “Otter Creek Trail,” an 8.9-mile bike trail located in the Harmon Lake Recreational Area outside of Mandan, N.D. “I always say my motivations were partially selfish, because being an avid mountain biker, having a trail five minutes from your house is a bonus,” Wetsch said. “So, that’s kind of what got me interested in it.” While Wetsch likes to humbly admit that the prospect of having a new trail close to home was exciting to him, it wasn’t the main motivating factor behind his work. He’d spent time on a number of trails around the area, performing maintenance, which includes everything from re-routing a trail to simply taking care of weeds. “There’s a crew of regulars that do trail maintenance on the existing trails around, so I’ve done much smaller-scale projects, but this was the first time I’ve ever started with a blank slate,” Wetsch said. For the past six years, Wetsch has spent his weekdays at NISC, serving as a programmer in end-user billing for telecom, while putting in night and weekend work developing and maintaining the Otter Creek Trail. The project began with Wetsch and his crew looking at aerial maps of the area where the Morton County Water Resource District was working on a new recreation area. After that, Wetsch mounted an ATV and, working with a partner that specialized in GIS mapping and guidelines from the International Mountain Bike Association, hit the trail to physically determine the layout. “We knew our goal was views of the lake,” Wetsch said. “It kind of ends up being a big game [...]
NISC’s Vern Dosch was in Washington, D.C. in support of NTCA and the Foundation for Rural Service’s (FRS) Broadband 101 educational session on April 3. Sponsored in collaboration with U.S. Senators Mark Begich (AK) and Deb Fischer (NE) and Representatives Cory Gardner (CO) and Mike McIntyre (NC), the event attracted more than 70 House and Senate staff members. Attendees learned about the importance of broadband to rural America as well as the challenges and costs of bringing advanced services to these areas. Joining Dosch on the panel was Acting Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Administator Paladino and Sheldon Petersen, CEO of the Rural Telephone Finance Corp. (RTFC).
Last month, a mighty roar ushered in the month of March when winter storm Rocky arrived. The storm affected many across the United States and Missouri was no exception. Several of the cooperatives who felt the wrath of Rocky were NISC Members—as a result iVUE® was put to the test in some very dangerous and treacherous conditions. A veteran lineman from Co-Mo Electric Cooperative in Tipton, Mo., said this storm was as bad as an ice storm but harder to get around. “We had 17 systems that were affected across the state when this storm hit Monday night and into Tuesday. Some of them, it didn’t take very long to get all their power back onto their members, others such as Co-Mo Electric, Howard Electric, and Boone Electric have been a little longer,” said Rob Land, Emergency-Response Coordinator with Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. “Co-Mo was the hardest hit due to the nature of their service territory and the terrain.” Rocky knocked out 17,000 meters, damaged 760-plus pieces of equipment and broke 66 poles in less than 48 hours in Co-Mo’s territory. More than 155 men from 20 electric utilities worked with the 30-plus Co-Mo office employees to get the power back on. “One of the things Co-Mo has that some of the other electric co-op systems don’t is the technology. The outage management system that they put in place here is very unique and does speed up the process,” said Barry Hart, CEO with Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. “As we were visiting Co-Mo’s facility, we could see the outage map and see the extent of the damage, and it’s widespread. I don’t think I’ve ever seen damage over an entire co-op’s service area [...]
While his feet were planted firmly on the ground in New Orleans at the 2013 NISC Annual Meeting, NISC President and CEO Vern Dosch couldn’t keep his head out of the cloud. A major technological innovation over the past fiscal year for NISC, the NISC Cooperative Cloud© is growing faster than anyone imagined, but with good reason. “It is the most important development in IT, I believe, since we began this process more than 47 years ago,” Dosch told more than 400 NISC Members in attendance at the annual meeting. “This was just a dream. This was just an innovation, and today we have six applications - CalltoOrder, SmartHubTM, ActivTrace, Payment Gateway, Weather and the Meter Data Management System - that are resident in the cloud, and that number will continue to grow every year.” Along with the Cooperative Cloud, Dosch provided an update of NISC’s latest innovative solutions, including the iVUE® AppSuite and SmartHub mobile and tablet apps. “When we look at the numbers and see there are one billion smart phones out there - that number will double by 2015 - and the average smart phone has 41 apps on it, we're saying we better make sure that one of those apps has the logo of your co-op on it,” Dosch said. NISC Board Chairman Roger Yoder discussed NISC’s financial situation for the past fiscal year, which was one of the best in NISC history. “You may have heard Vern mention in the past, ‘we live in exciting times,’ and this past fiscal year proved that for NISC, it’s true,” Yoder said. “NISC saw increases in sales and in all business categories during the past fiscal year, and NISC’s membership grew with the [...]