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NISC Usability Team is ‘Building a Better Mousetrap’

Every team at NISC is dedicated to producing the best possible software we can to meet the needs of the NISC Membership. Sometimes, though, it’s beneficial to take a step back and remember exactly which groups our software is designed to support. “We know (the software) inside and out and it makes perfect sense in our mind,” said Laura Matthews, NISC Application Design Analyst. “However, we have to keep in mind that we’re not the user. We can’t un-know what we know about how the software works.” What Matthews described is essentially the basic tenant of usability; designing a product with the user in mind to meet their needs and demands. Since the birth of NISC, the iVUE® platform has been designed to meet the needs of the NISC Membership, with input from Members through various channels like Joint Application Development (JAD) sessions and NISC Member Advisory Committees. Usability, though, takes that one step further. “Usability, in a nutshell, is user advocacy,” Matthews said. “It encompasses research, design, efficiency and effectiveness of the products. It’s taking and trying to understand the users themselves. It goes over and above what we typically use in our software processes, which are business requirements.” Understanding the business challenges of NISC’s Membership is essential to creating and building the best software possible. Add to that the ability to understand how the user interacts with the software, and it becomes even better, helping NISC Members reach business objectives through non-business means. “In a way, it’s a form of product and market research, so we’re better streamlining (our solutions) for our Member/Owners,” said Tom Pallesen, Senior Usability Analyst. “The more that (the solutions are) in tune with their objectives, the more efficient [...]

By | January 12th, 2013|News|0 Comments

NISC Member News: SmartHub Educating Northwestern REC Membership

Before they launched SmartHubTM in October of 2012, the employees of Northwestern REC, Cambridge Springs, Penn., were able to take it for a test drive. CEO Mike Tirpak noticed that his bill was going up, and had no idea why. Using SmartHub, he was able to watch his usage and track it down to a broken sump pump. “He ended up with a crack in his sump pump, and it was leaking, so it was running all the time,” said Linda King, Vice President, Marketing and Business Development for Northwestern REC. “He couldn’t tell, because he wasn’t home. Within a couple weeks, he tracked it down.” Northwestern went live with SmartHub in mid-October of 2012, and since that time have been using it to help educate their Membership about their electric use and promote electronic bill payment methods and paperless billing. Between the launch of SmartHub and mid-December, King said Northwestern had seen a 200 percent increase in Members going to paperless billing and nearly 250 SmartHub app downloads. “Not everybody has the mobile device,” King said. “We were anticipating a lot of our younger members to go that route, but the electronic payments and paperless bills are what we’re excited about. We were stuck at around 300 Members participating in that, which isn’t very good. When we launched SmartHub, we turned that option on to help them turn their paper bill off, and now we have about 1000 people.” The education piece is crucial to Northwestern’s SmartHub deployment. While they’re using the tool to help Manage high bill complaints, now they’re able to show that consumer exactly what’s going on with their home’s energy. “What’s helpful is that we can either talk them through [...]

By | January 7th, 2013|News|0 Comments