Mercado gives us insight into being a female in the utility industry, discusses the crucial elements involved in implementing a successful CIS and reveals what 2017 has in store for Milestone.
UMC: What do you believe the most crucial part of implementing a new Customer Information System (CIS) is, regardless of whether it’s an upgrade or replacement? Click below to hear the answer:
UMC: What is the company culture like at Milestone?
Edith Mercado: The culture of Milestone is really evolving. This year in 2017, we celebrate our 15th year in business and have grown from servicing primarily one customer information system (CIS) to servicing multiple CIS solutions, offering a project management office, and deploying two proprietary applications. The expansion has led to hiring and new, young talent has added a fresh approach to what I like to call our ‘tried and true processes.’ It’s been exciting to watch the progression; I think our new website communicates the evolved culture of Milestone.
UMC: I see that this year your team met up in South Carolina for your annual holiday retreat. How many years have you hosted the retreat, and what do you believe the value is in bringing the company together?
Mercado: The partners - Ram, Frank & I - truly believe bringing employees and their significant others together for the annual retreat contributes to the company’s overall success and recent rapid growth. We’ve hosted these for maybe six years now, and each year we grow the event with additional prizes or other incentives to show employees how much we value their dedication to Milestone and our clients. We have consultants and developers all over the country, so this may be the only opportunity some people have to really spend time together. Many employees work on-site with clients or out of their home offices throughout the country. Bringing everyone together to acknowledge and celebrate accomplishments keeps people motivated and happy. We are grateful for the talent we’ve been able to recruit and retain.
UMC: It’s a rarity for us to have a female interviewee, especially at the senior level. What is it like being a women in this industry? How has it changed since you first started?
Mercado: I started working at Orlando Utilities Commission in the late 1980’s, and yes, being a woman in the utility industry has definitely changed over the years. Back then in the customer service department, I worked alongside some really great women, but I do remember most executives across the industry were male. You may have seen the recent EY Women in Power and Utilities that cited as of 2016, 16% of utility board members were female, which was only a 1% increase in three years. However, I’d say events such as CS Week’s Women in Utilities reception along with several phenomenal female leaders such as Michelle Follette with NV Energy and Samette King with ONE Gas are helping us move the needle to increase the presence of female executive leaders within the utility industry.
UMC: Can you tell me more about Milestones Data Quality Assessment Report and Action Plan? What factors set this service apart from other data migration or conversion offerings?
Mercado: The primary objective of the Milestone Data Quality Assessment Report & Action Plan is to support successful technical implementations by migrating accurate data, thereby enabling more cost-effective business processes and customer service. The objective of this project is to identify the presence of situations that indicate potential data corruption or inconsistent data content within the current CIS production environment. What differentiates Milestone is our consultants and technical experts have decades of experience minimizing risk during new solution implementations, specifically Banner, SAP, Oracle and legacy CIS solutions. Our team excels in identifying data discrepancies and resolving these discrepancies within nine key areas of a multitude of backend billing systems, platforms and databases.
UMC: With almost thirty years of experience in the utility industry, what do you believe the “next big thing” will be with regards to technology?
Mercado: The next big thing for technology serving utilities will most likely vary by business role - whether it’s distribution, generation, customer engagement, etc. I have noticed across all different departments of a utility, however, one common theme of business intelligence as it relates to data analytics. With the availability of and increasing customer interest in real-time data, technology providing, interpreting, or predicting information related to that data will become more common in solutions and services of companies who serve utility business processes.
UMC: What’s next for Milestone?
Mercado: Our teams are ramping up for several new projects to kick-off in 2017. One with a natural gas IOU, one with a larger municipality, and a few other utilities across the country that we’ll be working with for the first time. Our CIS service offerings currently represent the majority of our revenue, yet into 2018 and beyond, we are trending to continue the sharp increase of work from our two solutions: Milestone ePortal and Milestone eCSR. One of the water municipalities we are working with is implementing Milestone eCSR, which is a frontend application that extends the life of legacy, Banner and Customer/1 customer information systems. This is an especially exciting project for Milestone because we’ve seen so many improvements to a utility’s customer service processes and performance at a client already using Milestone eCSR. At a fraction of the cost of the CIS replacement, Milestone eCSR helps utilities modernize and optimize customer service business processes, reduce customer care handle times, and benefit both utilities and their customers. There may be dozens if not hundreds of utility vendor companies, but benefiting utilities and their customers – that’s really why we’re all here, isn’t it?