This is the third in a series of blog posts that documents the journey of a large electric utility in its quest to optimizing its extensive inventory of measuring and test equipment (M&TE). In the first two posts we talked about identifying the problem and finding a solution provider.
The problem, simply stated, was how do we optimize the inventory of measuring and test equipment we support as part of an overall cost saving initiative. We needed to reduce excesses where possible while ensuring required availability when needed. With a clearly stated problem and the available tools we had at hand we realized a viable solution would ultimately involve use of vendor provided analytical software tools.
With Invistics selected as the preferred provider of that software solution, as described in the second blog post, we needed to work out contractual terms, set up the interfaces between our data and Invistics’ solution, and learn how to use the tools to help us optimize our inventory.
The contracting process for a publicly traded electric utility that operates in a regulated market can often seem burdensome due to the regulatory requirements. Our contracts, especially for software, tend to have volumes of fine print to ensure we meet all our regulatory obligations and commercial responsibilities. Having previously managed a group at another company that provided software, I knew the challenges vendors with software solutions have in protecting their investment and their need for contractual controls over the use of their software. With these potentially conflicting interests, I did not look forward to this part of the project.
I was pleasantly surprised that Invistics was able to work directly with our contracts group and come to mutually agreeable commercial terms in very short order. Within days of selecting Invistics, they and our contracts group exchanged respective standard terms and conditions. Where there were potential conflicts these were noted and then with just a few short e-mails and phone call exchanges they were all worked out. Within a week or so a basic contract was in place and ready to go.
That’s when our IT department stepped in. Because the contract involved software-as-a-service (i.e. operating in the cloud), and because cyber security was becoming ever more of a concern for electric utilities, the IT department required additional information as to the how Invistics managed their software and its security. Again having previous experience working with other vendors I realized that it might take weeks if not months for the vendor to answer all the questions, and the follow up questions, our IT department would have.
Again I was pleasantly surprised. Invistics’ chief technology officer was able to provide all the requested information in just a few days. As the response was so complete and showed robust security controls on the part of Invistics, our IT group had only a few follow up questions, which again, Invistics’ chief technology officer was able to answer within a day or so. So we were set to go.
This is where it always gets interesting. You know the routine. The salesman on the car lot never leaves your side, they are there to answer all the questions, they seemingly can’t be too helpful. In fact, you couldn’t get rid of them if you wanted to. That is until you complete the sales paperwork. Then you have a hard time getting them to return even a phone call. So now that Invistics had the contract, how responsive would they be?
This is where I think Invistics separates itself from many other providers; customer service and interface. As soon as the contract was in place we got a call from Invistics setting up an initial consultation on how they could best assist us in getting up and running. We set a date for a webex meeting. On that call Invistics started by asking us about how we wanted to proceed, any limitations we had, what resources we would be assigning, and what timeline expectations we had. After carefully listening, they then laid out a game plan based on that input for getting us access to their software and getting us trained.
An obviously very experienced project manager had been assigned to our project and facilitated that meeting. While very much a take-charge person, she was good about stopping and drawing us out when she sensed we might not have fully understood some point of discussion, or when she sensed we might have an unspoken concern. While I felt we were in very good hands with the assigned project manager, I was also pleased that the salesman was part of that meeting as well as the chief technology officer, and the president of the company. Not sure if we are just that special or if the president routinely attends these kick off meetings, but we certainly felt like a valued customer.
Within days of that call Invistics had set us up within their system, provided us with the necessary links to their software, and set up those of us who would be accessing the software with login IDs and passwords. We now had secure access to the software and were ready to go. Well almost.
After poking around the software, which we were assured we couldn’t break, we realized that while the interfaces were simple and straight-forward we would need some training. Fortunately, as part of the initial webex meeting, training was discussed and a tentative schedule had already been agreed upon. Quite frankly the speed at which all this happened took us somewhat by surprise. Because we assumed getting to this point might take months, instead of just a couple of short weeks, we needed to scramble on our end to get our ducks in a row, as Invistics was obviously prepared to help us fast track this project.
In part IV of this blog we will share how Invistics set up and went about training us on the best use of their software.