Data Quality Critical to the Success of 'Open Water'

Data Quality Critical to the Success of 'Open Water'

In a recent blog post, we argued that there would be ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in the deregulated non-domestic water market in England.

‘Winners’ will be water utilities who leverage the full potential of digital technology to drive competitive advantage in at least five key areas: engaging and connecting with customers; building digital operating advantage; deriving actionable insight from data; supporting collaboration and knowledge sharing; business transformation.

One of the key issues here is data quality.

As reported by Utility Week, this was an issue discussed in detail during a panel session at last week’s Water UK Conference – the membership organisation representing major water and wastewater service providers in the UK.

The panel agreed that the efficiency and effectiveness of the new open market would revolve around data quality. Data problems would lead to disputes between customers, brokers, retailers and wholesalers, undermining the benefits to be derived from a more competitive marketplace.

Warning of potential risks ahead, MOSL Chief Executive Ben Jeffs stated that:

“Legacy data, which has been collected over the last 20, 30 or 40 years, may cause problems. Switching a customer and getting them to pay a bill is relatively straightforward when the data lines up in all of the systems that feed it. However, problems occur if the data does not all line up”.

With a multiplicity of new processes and systems in place, it may be “two or three years before the market settles out. The program teams put in place to implement the market are being downsized with responsibilities being handed across to operational teams.”

Ofwat Chair Jonson Cox suggested that “more data housekeeping” had been required than should have been the case. In a stark warning to the industry, Cox stated that getting the data right “is important because retailers in competitive markets won’t stand for being messed around by data or system inadequacies of previously monopoly incumbents.”

At Bridgeall, we would totally agree with the above sentiments. As the company who developed the Central Systems underpinning the deregulated non-domestic water industry in Scotland and currently working with CGI on the settlements system for the open market in England, Bridgeall are only too familiar with the potential risks for water retailers who are not fully prepared.

In the new, more highly competitive market, disputes with customers could be very costly.

As a matter of urgency, retailers wishing to compete should evaluate the current effectiveness of their Settlement Validation, Market Integration and Revenue Protection Systems to ensure that these are ‘fit-for-purpose’ in an open market.

We will be only too happy to help you in this area. Please feel free to contact us to discuss your requirements.

The full Utility Week article can be accessed here – Poor data risks ‘disputes’ in new water market

As always, comment and feedback are very welcome.