SevernTrent Water moves 700 million customer records to an online archive as part of legacy decommissioning project

Posted: Wednesday 19th October 2011

Software and services company, Macro 4, has worked with Severn Trent Water to successfully decommission its mainframe based legacy billing system, retaining fast access to ten years’ customer history for 3.7 million households and businesses served by the FTSE 100 water company.

Severn Trent Water’s legacy billing system, known as CAST, was previously available in a read-only format following the implementation of a new billing application. To allow CAST to be decommissioned, the important historical data has now been moved to Macro 4’s online archive, allowing approximately 50 customer service agents to continue using it on a daily basis to resolve customer queries.

The archived data is presented on screens that mimic the on screen layout of the original CAST application and so are familiar and easy to use, allowing staff to quickly find the information they need without any re-training. This historical data is now more widely available as users unfamiliar with mainframe legacy systems can easily navigate the new solution

CAST was one of a number of legacy applications on Severn Trent Water’s IBM mainframe. It expects to save in excess of £1m a year in support costs when all applications have been decommissioned and the mainframe can be taken out of service.

This initiative is part of a wider programme to improve resource allocation in which the company plans to decommission a series of legacy business applications across the organisation. Many of these were replaced when the company rolled out its new SAP business software system in 2010.

“As is the case with many legacy business systems, we couldn’t just switch our old billing application off with no repercussions. It held around 700 million customer records which we needed to keep alive to address queries and potential disputes that can arise about historical billing activity. There’s also a lot of valuable, historic information including meter locations and other billing data that is helpful for operations personnel,” explained Nichola Wilson, Technical Project Manager of Severn Trent Water.

“The legacy data is more accessible now it’s in the archive because the navigation between screens has been improved, making it easier for staff to find their way around it. And productivity has increased because Macro 4 has also been able to retrieve archived billing data that was hard to access because it was stored on magnetic tapes and sometimes required specialist technical resources to extract the data.,” said Jagbir Singh Rai, Mainframe Technical Support.

The decommissioned CAST data is held in a corporate system for archiving and document management, originally created in 2007 using Macro 4’s Columbus software. This continues to support correspondence management and archiving within the Customer Relations department and customer self-service billing via the web.

Severn Trent Water’s IT team worked closely with Macro 4 to determine which data needed to be retained from the CAST system and how it should be structured and presented, including running a series of end user workshops.

“The CAST decommissioning project is an example of a structured, repeatable and cost-effective process for archiving business data that can be extended over time to include any number of applications from virtually any platform. It’s all about making it easy to release the data, so companies don’t have to keep older systems on life support indefinitely, which is an expensive undertaking,” said Tim Frazer, Account Manager at Macro 4.

Last year Severn Trent Water also extended the use of the Macro 4 document management system to support archiving from its SAP application. Integrating this with SAP has enabled scanned correspondence to be processed via workflow and meet regulatory targets measured by OFWAT. It is also archiving static and infrequently accessed SAP data to help control the growth of the database, ensure good performance levels and reduce operational costs.

“As demonstrated by Severn Trent Water, the Macro 4 solution is multi-purpose. It can be used to improve access to current documents and data to support customer service, operational efficiency and compliance, or, as is the case with CAST, to keep hold of historical data so that legacy systems can be switched off sooner,” said Tim Frazer.

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