DATA MANAGEMENT SYSTEM LAYS FOUNDATION FOR SUPPLYING CLIMATE-FRIENDLY SOLUTIONS TO ONE-MILLION CUSTOMERS.
Easy Being Green is an Australian company that educates individuals in how to reduce their Co2 emissions, actively engaging them in solutions for tackling climate change. Its environmental services range from implementing energy saving projects in the home to helping business with greenhouse gas reduction.
A key responsibility for the CIO of Easy Being Green, Jim Bahr, is ensuring the privacy of sensitive customer information. Being part of the Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme in NSW, Easy Being Green must comply with strict guidelines for information management. However, strong business growth was placing pressure on technology systems used to support critical business processes.
By mid-2006, Easy Being Green’s data set had blown out to more than eight thousand non-concurrent batch files, affecting its ability to comply cost-effectively with the abatement scheme. It was clearly time to improve the firm’s data management, order processing and fulfilment capabilities.
“We’d outgrown our spreadsheet–based system, which relied heavily on VBA scripting,” says Bahr. “It gave users unacceptable freedom to manipulate records and data-dependent calculations. Further use would have exposed the business to unnecessary risk and information duplication. We needed to develop and integrate a new Data Management System into operations.”
Improving data quality and processing speed
“In 2006, mainstream Australia woke up to the seriousness of the environmental challenges the world is now facing. As a provider of green solutions, this new opportunity was a huge business driver for getting better organised.”
For accuracy improvement, Bahr needed to simplify, expand and standardise data capture methods across the organisation to meet expanding growth rates in customer numbers that were expected due to increasing awareness of climate change.
“Our primary goal for the new system was improving data quality and processing speed to meet rapid business growth. We also needed to extract more value from information assets, particularly for operations, compliance and marketing, and to consolidate data into a single, central database to improve analysis and reporting,” says Bahr.
Meeting the exacting demands of regulators was another key issue. The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) and Snowy Mountain Engineering Corporation (SMEC) regularly audit data quality at Easy Being Green, with adjustments made to the number of carbon credits redeemable for work completed.
“With corrections done manually, automating data management offered major savings in ancillary costs such as data cleaning, and would improve the conversion rate of field data into tradable credits”, says Bahr.
A solution for achieving its key business goal
“It was a critical time in the business cycle. Solentive Software was selected for its expertise in the latest Microsoft technologies and track record of delivering advanced database systems against a tight timeframe.”
Overall, Bahr appreciated Solentive’s flexible approach to problem solving, which provided Easy Being Green with a solution for achieving its key business goal: supplying energy saving solutions to more than one million customers.
Working closely with Easy Being Green, Solentive’s engineering team developed and deployed a centralised database using MS SQL Server 2005 on a Windows Server. The solution combined mobility with leading data management practices, including the consolidation of data previously isolated within disparate infrastructure.
Innovation in Data Management
Bahr says notable technical features included a ‘Roaming Scribe Application’ (RSA), browser-based software that occupies a series of mini-LANs, each comprised of four networked laptops. “By connecting to the control laptop via the mini-LAN, users in the field effortlessly synchronise and replicate sales information back to the central database on wireless broadband, or from access points such as internet cafés, directly maintaining records in the central database for faster processing.”
The Data Management System (DMS) allows data to be managed and stored to a high standard across the entire workflow. It benefits from the Microsoft .Net 2.0 framework used, which allowed Solentive’s software engineers to easily replicate code across all technology environments in the solution, bringing extra efficiency to the development lifecycle.
Bahr says Easy Being Green is able to implement data mining, which augments marketing capabilities. “Staff have the capacity to manipulate large-scale, high-dimensional data sets. This means they can identify and analyse subtle behavioural and demographic trends within target markets for a much better understanding of our customers.”
“The front end looks good and eliminates risk. It’s intuitive, and importantly, staff in the field prefer using it. This has solved our front-end problems, standardising and streamlining data capture across the company.”
Bahr particularly likes the extra flexibility. It’s possible to introduce a new set of business rules or data fields into the workflow without changing databases. Using our SQL database, we can meet changing business conditions without compromising on data quality.”
Big time saving with effortless reporting
Because data storage has been reduced from 8,000 files to a single file, there are more options for analysis. “Reporting is easier and more productive,” says Bahr. From a predefined list, it’s possible to access, copy and change reports on demand, with easy access to SQL objects to develop new reports as needed.”
According to Bahr, the DMS system helps Easy Being Green offer users a much better service as it grows. “We are looking to allow access to the front-end via the internet in tandem with processes run on the network server. The advantage is big time savings for users, who bypass the firm’s VPN, which can be tricky for nontechnical users and slow to use.”
Bahr says the solution has improved Easy Being Green’s chance of becoming a distributor of new green technologies like solar hot water under other accreditation schemes.
“Easy Being Green values its close working relationship with Solentive. Their patience and rigorous requirements exploration was able to identify technical opportunities previously missed. Importantly, they offered alternative, practical solutions and were flexible enough to incorporate these great new ideas into the workflow.”