August 27, 2015

Bits & Bytes – Third Quarter, 2015

The Bridge: Evolution of the Member Login Area

In 2013, SEDC’s customer support groups began the process of replacing our customer relationship management software, and now we are very excited about taking support to the next level!

Soon, we will be launching our Microsoft Dynamics-powered web platform, “the Bridge,” offering you the ability to create and manage support cases, track customer reported issues, and engage with other customers through secure forums and idea submission. We chose Microsoft Dynamics CRM to power our support teams because of the convenience it will offer you and the flexibility it will offer SEDC.

Phase 1 of the Bridge will be released to select Beta sites over the next few months and will focus on support aspects such as Customer Reported Issues, creating and managing cases, and a knowledge base. Phase 2 will focus on migrating over information, documents, and forms currently available through the “Member Login” section of our website. Looking into the future, we anticipate a Phase 3 that allows us to further expand our support capabilities.

We look forward to launching the Bridge, and to employing new tools for support and new avenues for engaging the SEDC community. We’ll keep you updated on our Beta sites as the Bridge goes into use.

SEDC to Host Member Enrichment Meetings at the NRECA Regional Meetings

For the third year, SEDC will be hosting Member Enrichment Meetings in conjunction with each of the NRECA Regional Meetings in September and October. Each meeting is held on day 1, the “Director Education and Registration Day” immediately preceding each Regional Meeting, in the host venue, from 4:00 – 5:30 PM local time. There is no fee to attend the Member Enrichment Meetings.

If you’re already registered to attend an NRECA Regional Meeting, we highly encourage you to attend our Member Enrichment Meeting, an informative session designed to keep you up-to-date on the most current features and products from SEDC as well as the roadmap we’ve laid out for upcoming development.

If you’re not planning to attend the NRECA Regional Meeting but would like to attend our Member Enrichment Meeting, please do! You do not have to attend the Regional Meeting to join us.

Please register for your Member Enrichment Meeting by selecting the appropriate link below.

Regions 1 & 4 Meeting September 8, 2015 – Charlotte, NC

Regions 2 & 3 Meeting October 27, 2015 – Biloxi, MS

Regions 5 & 6 Meeting September 15, 2015 – Minneapolis, MN

Regions 7 & 9 Meeting September 29, 2015 – Salt Lake City, UT

Regions 8 & 10 Meeting October 20, 2015 – Albuquerque, NM

ReportIQ Delivers Huge Results for North Georgia EMC

“I want to make sense of data, and I want data that makes sense.” Sounds like a reasonable expectation, right? Not necessarily. When Stephanie Holder, North Georgia EMC’s VP of Member services, needed to get more usable information out of the utility’s data, she ran into a rather large roadblock. Even though the utility received millions of pieces of information every day from multiple software systems, all of the data was segregated. With every operational system putting its own data into its own silo, that data was virtually useless. Hours each week were devoted to gathering data into Excel spreadsheets or Access databases and then trying to extract usable statistics. By the time the numbers were crunched, there was new data available that – again – needed to be pulled into Excel or Access to be of value.

In searching for a better way to harvest information, Holder looked to SEDC’s ReportIQ data analytics package. “I want to know real time data. I want it to crunch really fast, and I need a big picture that I can give my supervisor, my CEO, our board members, really quick and every day,” she asserts. “I want to be able to go to one place and see it all.” ReportIQ’s unique data blending capabilities delivered exactly what she wanted.

ReportIQ approaches data analytics from a new perspective, which in turn gives the user a new perspective on their data. ReportIQ blends the data generated from multiple software platforms and delivers valuable business intelligence through visual dashboards, not spreadsheets and tables. According to North Georgia’s VP of Information Services, Brian Childers, that delivery is key. “Data visualization is the fastest way to draw attention to the key messages,” he states. “You see it on the screen. It pops. You can act on it quicker.”

Holder agrees, noting that the visual representation helps her to spot trends and plan accordingly. “I call it my decision engine. I make staffing decisions. I do demographics on our customers for mailings. I know where I need kiosks. I know when I need to have extra people in certain districts on certain cycle dates. I know when I need to have people on the phone that I don’t normally have on the phone.”

While Holder uses ReportIQ to help manage staffing at select times, Childers sees another staffing benefit. “No additional data warehousing or additional specialized IT staff is required to use this product,” he points out. The tools are fast to learn and easy to use, which enabled Childers and Holder to collaborate on creating specific reports to meet North Georgia’s needs. And a collaborative community centered around ReportIQ is something Childers hopes other utilities will embrace. “The opportunity for us all to collaborate and share the development across our cooperatives – that really could be priceless.”

For more information about ReportIQ, contact [email protected].

Watch interviews with Holder and Childers on our YouTube channel.

UC2015 Was an Unprecedented Success!

As summer winds down, UC2015 is fading into a fond memory – but what an amazing memory it is! Not only was this our largest conference ever, with over 550 utility employees, 23 vendors, and 66 SEDC employees in attendance, but it was also our most information packed agenda! General Sessions were filled with new product announcements, development updates, and user case studies on Retriever Imaging, automated Business Rules Engine, AutoCue IVR, and IQ analytics. Break-out sessions included hands on labs, introductory courses for new users, advanced sessions for experienced users, and courses for those who wanted to try out features and “kick the tires” on some of our new products.

Why should you attend our annual user conference? In the words of one attendee on our follow-up survey, “I’ve used UPN for almost 10 years and I still learned a lot of new stuff. And I had so much fun too!”

Mark your calendar for UC2016 when we’ll be back in Atlanta June 19 – 23, 2016, at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel. (If you’re a baseball fan, good news! The Renaissance is directly across from the new Atlanta Braves stadium, which is currently under construction and slated to open for the 2017 season.)

Advanced Security, PCI Requirements, Cybersecurity: Where Do You Fit In?

If you’re not in IT, you probably think this has nothing to do with you. Not entirely accurate.

True data security relies on everyone working together to ensure that information is handled correctly. Requirements for data security laid out by the Payment Card Industry go a long way in making sure that your network is fortified against a cyber-attack, and SEDC’s new Advanced Security database encryption helps to minimize risk further by protecting sensitive data from unauthorized disclosure through strong data encryption. But the human factor can go a long way in making your customers’ information very insecure. After all, data is only as secure as the people handling it.

  • Do you write down your passwords on a post it note and stick it to your monitor? Maybe slide a sheet under your keyboard?
  • Do you have a spreadsheet on your PC named “passwords.xls?”
  • Is your system password your daughter’s name?
  • Have you clicked a link in an email from someone you don’t know?
  • Do you sometimes receive random emails with attachments and a message that you need to open the attachment so you can see something amazing/funny/awe inspiring?

If you can answer “Yes” to any of these questions, you’re a good candidate for a cybersecurity make over! Start by throwing away that post it note or the sheet under your keyboard. Delete the spreadsheet. Delete emails with links or attachments from people you do not know (sorry – you haven’t been included in the will of a wealthy but lonely Nigerian mega millionaire!).

Take steps to protect your computer workstation, and you’ll be contributing to the overall security of every bit of data on your utility’s network.

Then you can let IT worry about the rest of it.

Protect Sensitive Data with Transparent Data Encryption

SEDC’s new Advanced Security solution helps your utility address regulatory compliance requirements by protecting sensitive data on storage media and within the database from unauthorized disclosure. Advanced Security provides data encryption and strong authentication services to the Oracle database, safeguarding sensitive data against unauthorized access from the network and the operating system.

In short, Advanced Security takes the worry out of data security.
For more information about Advanced Security, contact [email protected].

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS):PCI Compliance for Your Utility

Cybersecurity is an ever-evolving concept. In the past, SEDC was able to bear the burden of maintaining an umbrella PCI compliance rating as the payment processor for our customers. Due to changes in PCI standards and more stringent data security standards, each individual utility is now required to demonstrate compliance with PCI DSS requirements. These requirements include quarterly network scans, updating PCI Self-Assessment Questionnaires, and scheduling annual penetration tests.

To help you achieve PCI compliance, we’ve assembled a group of trusted partners that cover the spectrum of cybersecurity protection services.

  • McGriff, Seibels & Williams, Inc. offers comprehensive cyber liability insurance coverage.
  • Elavon offers an extensive PCI program.
  • Sunera provides solutions that may be integrated with other compliance efforts to reduce the cost of compliance as a whole.
  • For more information on these partners and a free webinar on August 26, read our “Achieving PCI DSS Success” sheet.

Cybersecurity and Innovation Headlined SEDC’s CEO Summit 2015 in Boston

Featured Speakers Put Spotlight on Data Security, Customer Service Best Practices, and Innovative Practices for Utilities

Utility executives from across the country joined SEDC in Boston August 9 – 12 to learn how they can both protect and advance their utilities and their operations. Keynote speaker Theresa Payton, former White House CIO, opened the conference with a lively discussion of cybersecurity vulnerabilities and how utilities can reduce their risk through a combination of employee education and IT know-how. Curtis Wynn, CEO at Roanoke Electric Cooperative in North Carolina, discussed the importance of innovation for today’s utilities and the need for electric utilities to continually seek out and employ technologies that can make them more productive, more efficient, and more effective at their core mission – delivering safe, reliable service to their consumers. Read more…

Why attend the CEO Summit? Here’s what one attendee commented in his conference survey:

“I attended the Summit because it’s the best way for me as a manager to stay on top of the things SEDC is developing for co-ops. I’m better informed and I know what products I can start using right now.”

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