NCIS Update, Busking in Sound Transit Stations, Be There Rally Wednesday Morning
Posted: September 6th, 2016 under Councilmember Herbold.
Over the weekend Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and Seattle City Light (SCL) worked overtime to roll out the New Customer Information System (NCIS). I have written previously about this program which has been plagued by delays and cost overruns. I also held a joint special committee with Councilmember Sawant, who chairs the Energy and Environment Committee, you can see a summary of that meeting here.
You may have seen some of the reports this weekend on the privacy issues revealed as part of that roll out. In response, I want to give you a quick recap of what happened. Early Monday morning, via email, the utilities sent out their first batch of new bills. Many of these customers received many copies of the same email. I’m sure this was confusing for many people. However a more serious issue unfolded with those emails, if you logged into your utility account you could see PDF versions of bills belonging to other customers. While payment and banking information was not compromised, this is a serious issue because names, addresses, account numbers, and data on usage was viewable.
The utilities were made aware of the issue and quickly took the system offline by 10:30 am. They are currently investigating the error. During the lead up to the rollout the utilities performed “day in the life testing” which did not reveal this issue.
Below you can see an update from the utilities detailing the “cutover” to the NCIS as well as impacts to customers.
Cutover to NCIS
On Monday, August 29, the New Customer Information System (NCIS) Executive Steering Committee, approved the launch of conversion from our existing customer information and billing system (CCSS) to NCIS. The following steps are underway:
On Wednesday, August 31 after close of business:
- Meter reads will be uploaded
- Bills will be generated out of CCSS for the last time
- Month-end and quarter-end reporting will be done
- Verification and final balancing will be performed, and
- Numerous legacy systems will be disabled
- All data will be backed up and exported for conversion into the new formats
- CCSS and all other retiring applications will be placed in “read-only” mode
- Interim business processes will be placed in motion
Cutover – executing all steps to implement the new applications – will then commence. A complex plan of 1,035 steps will be executed and tracked. These tasks, which range in duration from one minute to many hours, must be completed successfully in a specific order. The project team has practiced each step during five dress rehearsals simulating the actual cutover weekend.
Data will be converted into new formats, by both automated and manual processes. Data conversion and application functionality will be verified. Financial and non-financial balancing will be certified. Once this verification has occurred, coordination of conversions and implementations will be performed by our 40 interfaces. User’s desktops will be set up to access the new system.
Six go/no-go checkpoints will occur between Thursday morning and Sunday evening, each with a specific standard that must be met in order to move to the next set of steps. Questions that must be answered include:
- Has the final CCSS batch processing completed successfully?
- Are CCSS and NCIS financial items in balance? Are data corrections necessary to reconcile any differences?
- Did all non-financial items such as meters convert properly? Are data corrections necessary to reconcile any differences?
- Has data conversion completed successfully?
- Is the new system operating? Is critical manual data entry complete? Are conversion files ready to distribute to our interface partners? Do the utilities’ Finance Divisions agree that financial items are in balance?
- Is the system ready to go-live? Is the business ready to go live? Are our interface partners ready to go-live? For any partners not ready, can the business handle the impact? And finally, are we ready to go-live?
The most visible impact to customers is that account number(s) will change. Account numbers will be automatically generated by the new billing system and identified on all billing statements that get sent out beginning September 6. There is no need for customers to do anything until they receive their first bill.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) have been developed, and will be available to answer many of the questions our customers will have after go-live. The FAQs are available at http://www.seattle.gov/util/newbillingsystem/. This web address will be communicated to customers on our website landing pages, social media channels, as well as in printed materials.
Bill inserts (both paper and electronic) will explain the impact of this account number change as follows:
To ensure proper credit to your account, if you:
- Pay by check or in person, include the payment stub with your new account number.
- Pay by autopay e-billing, you don’t have to do anything. Your new account number will be automatically reflected.
- Pay through one-time payment at our website or use our pay-by-phone option, please enter your new account number.
- Pay through your bank or a third-party payment service, please update this information with your new account number.
We are encouraging customers who pay through their bank or third-party payment service to update their information within 130 days (two full billing cycles for residential customers). We will monitor those who have not done so and proactively contact them to avoid payment processing delays.
As staff become familiar with the new system, the potential exists for longer than normal wait times when customers call our Contact Center following launch. In order to mitigate this risk, the Contact Center is staffed up to handle a 40 percent increase in call volumes, as well as an increase in time per call of several minutes. In addition, contingency plans are in place to modify the Contact Center hours if necessary, and pull in additional office staff, including an overflow mini-Contact Center in the Central Building that could house an additional 16 representatives.
Busking at Sound Transit Stations
In January, the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee had a discussion about the Economic Impact of the Music Industry in Seattle and Working Conditions of Club Musicians.
One issue that came up was a busker who had been asked to leave the Beacon Hill light rail station. This caught my attention, as the City of Music program at Sea-Tac Airport, spearheaded by the Office of Film and Music and the Seattle Music Commission, has been very successful.
I drafted a letter signed by the committee members (myself and Councilmembers Sawant and O’Brien) asking the Office of Film and Music (OFM) requesting that OFM and/or the Music Commission contact Sound Transit to explore the potential for music performances at Sound Transit Light Rail stations; OFM has been in touch with Sound Transit about this.
Separately, Councilmember Rob Johnson contacted Sound Transit about busking policies, and requested the Music Commission provide feedback.
Sound Transit recently announced Public Performance Policy for busking, along with a 6-month pilot program at the University of Washington and Capitol Hill light rail stations. Performance sites are designated with a silver star. I’d like to thank Sound Transit for taking this step.
The Music Commission has said they’d like to provide assistance to Sound Transit by reviewing and providing feedback on their policy so that both SDOT and Sound Transit busking policies are streamlined, consistent, easily implementable cross-organizational, city-wide busking policy.
Be There Rally
Sponsored by the West Seattle and Fauntleroy YMCA and West Seattle Elementary the Be There Rally is a great opportunity to support our young people as they kick off the new school year tomorrow.
When: September 7 from 7:00am to 8:00am
Where: 6760 34th Ave SW
The Be There Rally draws inspiration from an event held in Hartford, Connecticut where over 100 Black men in suits got together to greet and encourage children on the first day of school. They did it because they wanted to show children of color positive images of Black people in their community instead of the negative and damaging images commonly portrayed in the media. That event sparked a couple of Seattle Public Schools to keep that momentum going.
Research shows that children whose fathers take an active role in their educational lives earn better grades, score higher on tests, enjoy school more and are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college. The call tomorrow is for 100 men and 100 women to support those who may not have role model by attending the Be There Rally. Members of the High Point community reminded organizers that it is imperative that girls also have the opportunity to see successful women who they can identify with.
The West Seattle & Fauntleroy YMCA is sponsoring the rally in partnership with West Seattle Elementary and all people regardless of ethnic identification are encouraged to come.