A software company has added a revenue management module to its Windows®-based suite of customer service management modules for utilities.
Licensed by Aquilium® Software, Revenue Management is designed to help cities streamline revenue collection and reporting processes, and fits into the company’s philosophy of linking information about customers for efficient processes.
“This module allows cities to create a billing system that identifies a customer with just one code for any contact that customer may have with the city,” said Steven Pate, Aquilium President and CEO. “If the customer wants to pay a water bill, buy a dog tag or pay a parking ticket, all the city representatives involved will be accessing the same system to verify data and accept payments.”
Revenue Management works with Customer Service Management (CSM), a billing and customer service package for water, waste, electric and gas utilities. The applications let utilities integrate data with a geographic information system (GIS).
“Since many city services are based upon geographical districts and regions, it’s important to have customer accounts linked to a common geographical base,” said Pate. “It enables someone servicing a certain location to access account information or GIS map layers for that location with a click of a button.”
The city of Ann Arbor, Mich., recently purchased Aquilium’s Customer Service Management (CSM) software in response to pressures to provide better customer service and reduce costs at the same time. It will work with the city’s GIS system using the Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) communications protocol. ODBC is a Microsoft® protocol that allows different databases to be linked together.
The CSM package is a basic core package with built-in flexibility to allow for custom operations and/or visual designs. The customization can be done by Aquilium or the customer using Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications (VBA).
“If the city has a separate database for inventory maintenance history, instead of getting us to reprogram it, they can just pop out into the screen maintenance and draw a link between the two programs,” Pate said. “Say the equipment number in our program is equal to the equipment number in the other program — they can then hotkey over to the other program to get that data.”
Aquilium software modules are written in C++ with VBA, which is a 32-bit version of the Visual Basic Program. The software company picked Visual Basic as its programming interface because of its popularity — there are more than half a million Visual Basic programmers in the world, Pate said.
A Pentium processor is required for the software to work. It is designed for use in a Windows® NT system but can also run on Windows 95. The company chose the Windows platform because of the millions of Windows users in the world. Familiarity with Word, Excel, or other Windows programs boosts the usability of the software, since it is designed with the same feel.
The program is modular in that it has several different parts that can work together and be purchased separately. Utilities only need to buy what they need.
The 18 financial modules include payroll, HR, inventory, purchasing, general ledger and budget categories. The modules were licensed from Great Plains Software, which did the actual programming. The modules are called Dynamics CS+.