Com­mon sense vs tech­nol­ogy

The Progress-Index Weekend - - OPINION - Treska Wil­son-Smith Peters­burg

If the job of a teacher is to teach her stu­dents and the rec­om­mended tech­nol­ogy s/he needs is not avail­able, then does s/he still have to teach the stu­dents? And how pray tell does s/ he do it? She does it the old fash­ioned way.

If a com­puter does not work, then chalk and a black­board will cer­tainly get the job done. If the stu­dents don’t have tablets or I pads, pa­per and pen­cil works. So with that said, what ex­actly is my point?

I am re­spond­ing to an ar­ti­cle in The Progress-In­dex, pub­lished on Au­gust 12, 2017, writ­ten by Jon Adams. The name of the ar­ti­cle is “Search con­tin­ues for util­ity soft­ware so­lu­tions.”

The ar­ti­cle sug­gests that our wa­ter billing sys­tem just can’t get right with­out the help of tech­nol­ogy. Just like the teacher can’t teach with­out the help of the same. Although tech­nol­ogy is great, a won­der­ful time saver and an ex­cel­lent tool, like the teacher who is re­spon­si­ble for teach­ing her class, the city is still re­spon­si­ble for ac­cu­rate wa­ter billing and we should be able to achieve the same with­out tech­nol­ogy.

The ar­ti­cle states, “For rea­sons un­clear, in the con­tract that the city signed with John­son Con­trols in 2015 for new wa­ter me­ters, the soft­ware John­son Con­trols pro­vided did not match up with the soft­ware the city had. This ma­jor de­fi­ciency has been a driv­ing force be­hind many of the billing prob­lems.”

Yet, the re­port given on 7/31/17, by the RBG states, “In­ves­ti­gate the op­tions for up­grad­ing or com­pletely re­plac­ing the ex­ist­ing billing and col­lec­tion soft­ware, in­clud­ing cloud based so­lu­tions, en­sur­ing com­pat­i­bil­ity with cur­rent fi­nan­cial/ac­count­ing sys­tem.”

The ar­ti­cle is stat­ing that the soft­ware needs to be com­pat­i­ble to John­son Con­trols new wa­ter me­ters and the other re­port states that we need to have a sys­tem com­pat­i­ble with cur­rent fi­nan­cial ac­count­ing sys­tems. This ap­pears to be con­tra­dic­tory. Are we up­grad­ing to be com­pat­i­ble to the me­ters or to the billing and soft­ware sys­tem?

The re­port states “Im­ple­ment pro­ce­dures to doc­u­ment con­nec­tion charges and en­sure that ac­counts are es­tab­lished for new cus­tomers.” We don’t need a com­puter to do that.

The re­port states, “Im­prove ac­count­ing in­for­ma­tion sys­tems to max­i­mize full func­tion­al­ity … and en­sure that cus­tomer ac­count­ing in­for­ma­tion is read­ily avail­able.” Don’t need a new com­puter sys­tem to do that ei­ther.

The re­port states, “Un­der­take an au­dit of ev­ery me­ter and ev­ery ac­count to en­sure that the cor­rect me­ter is at­tached to the cor­rect ac­count and that the me­ter size, mea­sure­ment type, and ERT are cor­rectly con­fig­ured.” This has al­ready been done, and done twice, prior to the RBG com­ing here, yet, it is not known, in­for­ma­tion ap­par­ently has not been ob­tained and we are fo­cus­ing on this now? So sad.

Lastly, the ar­ti­cle states, Ra­jun and VanVoorhees are cur­rently mulling over sev­eral op­tions as to how to best re­place the soft­ware, although the un­cer­tainty with the wa­ter sys­tem makes the process tricky. The city planned on out­sourc­ing the billing depart­ment to a pri­vate com­pany, which would change the soft­ware needs.

“Un­til that is con­cluded, or we make that de­ci­sion, it wouldn’t be pru­dent for us to search for any­thing else,” said Ra­jun. What? We can’t move for­ward un­til a de­ci­sion is made about the out­sourc­ing? So, if it takes us five years to come to the con­clu­sion to out­source, we ac­tu­ally will sit on our loins and con­tinue to send out the same in­cor­rect wa­ter bills un­til we do out­source?

Tech­nol­ogy is won­der­ful. It has taken this world and busi­nesses to new heights. I love it, and use it ev­ery day. How­ever, I be­lieve that we must also rely on our man power, our brains and our know how. This ar­ti­cle, makes ex­cuses for us. It does not tell why we are not able to cal­cu­late or de­ci­pher what is go­ing on.

I for one am just to­tally dis­gusted and fed up with the ex­cuses that are con­stantly given and ac­cepted. Surely if a wa­ter bill shows that a cus­tomer owes $1,000 and last month their bill was $114, surely some­one must be able to look at that bill and know that there is a prob­lem.

Why do we need an up­graded sys­tem to do that. A blind man could look at that bill and know that it is not right.

We as a city need to stop hid­ing be­hind the ex­cuses of “we can’t find the right tech­nol­ogy/util­ity billing con­trac­tor/soft­ware” and “we can’t af­ford it” and work with what we have – our brains and our com­mit­ment to im­prove­ment – to both pro­vide ex­cel­lent cus­tomer ser­vice and strengthen our util­i­ties billing and rev­enue col­lec­tions.

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