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DIGINNO network is sharing best practice examples from around BSR in order to demonstrate how sharing knowledge and benefits between IT and industry sector will lead to innovation. 

Emajõe Veevärk (Emajõe Waterworks Ltd) in cooperation with AS Fujitsu Estonia linked ERP software with their web-based self-service platform, in order to improve communication with customers.

AS Emajõe Veevärk can be considered one of the most progressive water companies in terms of implementation of IT solutions: already from the beginning of the provision of the service in 2008 a customer of the water company did not have to come to the office for any issues related to contracts, but things were settled by phone, e-mail or regular mail. Furthermore, Emajõe Veevärk is one of the first water companies, where 99% of the meters are remotely readable.

The manager of Emajõe Veevärk Andres Aruhein and chief consultant of Fujitsu Estonia Ain Sakk explain, how the customer service system operating with enterprise resource planning (ERP) software was generated in the web-based self-service environment of Emajõe Veevärk within the framework of a digitalization project. In addition to the self-service environment, it includes also management of contracts, notification of readings, automatic generation of data, sending reminders, etc.

The problem
The customer base of Emajõe Veevärk, which has rather many customers in Southern and Central Estonia, is located on the territory of five counties, covering 106 settlements in total. The company needed more efficient customer management system – a web-based environment consolidating all customer data, but also communication between departments of the company and external partners, procurement data etc, whereby also a self-service environment for customers had to be created as a part of the system.

The objective was to enable the employees to manage customer data more easily and the customers to organize their entire communication with the water company through the web page, see the status of their invoices, consumption and get feedback of the information in the possession of the company – for example water leakages, freezing hazards, etc.

The solution
As the solution, Fujitsu offered the connection of updated ERP, adapted to the specific needs, with the self-service portal of Emajõe Veevärk. In addition to the improvement of the management of the available customer base, the offered solution had to enable the company to expand their operation and add more customers.

In brief, the content of the solution is creation of web services through ERP. Fujitsu administers Microsoft Dynamics 365 NAV business software, which has been created mainly for helping the companies to manage and organize their strategic operations.

Furthermore, specific issues proceeding from the specific company had to be resolved: ERP is a type programme, which can be adapted to the peculiarities and needs of a company. It had to be decided, how and which data entered into the system should be made available to the customers, while ensuring also the security of the entire system.

The software developed by Fujitsu had to be fit into the web environment of the web page already developed in Emajõe Veevärk, which is the environment for practically entire document management of the company, procurement tenders, design conditions, subscription applications, etc. Thus, modernization of self-service is just a part of the whole digital project of Emajõe Veevärk.

Operation
Emajõe Veevärk is a company with proper size in terms of the service area as well as the number of customers, while they have also a strong ambition to grow: this enables the company to plan digitalization and automation of their communication with customers.

First, the self-service portal was developed, where web-related tasks were performed by the developer of network connections.
The specialists of Fujitsu first reviewed, which were the critical data, what had to be entered into the web portal, what was the procedure for verifying data and ensuring the rights, and how flow of these data could be generated between the enterprise resource planning programme and the portal. This information was needed in order to make the required data available for the web service from NAV. The necessary interfacing was performed between the business software and the customer portal, in order to ensure automatic workflow of customer service.

NAV required a special development: this could be compared to a Lego with ready-made pieces, the parts of which can be put together, set up and adapted by combining them, but it is also possible to add new features. This specific interfacing of the portal was the part developed by Fujitsu in this case. Cooperation took place between the software developer, the portal builder and the water company, whereby any possible negotiations, analyses and approvals required most of the time during the project.

The result
Emajõe Veevärk will get a customer portal, the operation of which is similar to the portals of large IT and energy companies. There are still few water companies possessing such portals, because compared to major telecom giants, these companies have dramatically smaller customer base, and often they do not reach the decision to develop a separate self-service portal based on business software.

Now the consumers can view the trends of their water consumption graphically in the portal – initially on monthly basis, but as most consumers of the water company have already the remotely readable meters installed, it will soon be possible to display the consumption information with precision of an hour. This provides a possibility for constant monitoring of their water consumption and for changing the consumption habits, choosing more sustainable use of water.

In longer perspective, the customers will be able to perform any communication with the service provider through the self-service portal, from digital signature of contracts to submitting simple questions.

The customer portal is currently under further development. Soon it will also enable to conclude electronic customer contracts, and then the system shall be able to verify the cadastral data of the object automatically in the land register, in order to clarify, if the specific person is the owner of the water consumption point being the object of the contract.

Upon initiation of a customer contract, a draft of the contract will be first prepared in ERP and revised by the customer service specialist, after which the contract will move back to the portal and will be submitted to the customer, who can undersign it digitally.

Text: Liivi Tamm, photo: Fujitsu Estonia