As data collection from utility bills moves beyond simply recording periodic usage to tracking consumption trends over a period of time for smarter energy management insights, utility bill outsourcing solutions also need to innovate and match stride with the changing times.
ARDEM was contacted by a utility tracking and energy benchmarking company to help them optimize data processing from incoming utility bills. The task at hand was to process data from over 11,000 utility bills and provide advanced analytics for smarter decision-making.
The Scope of Work
Tracking utility data offers multiple benefits including making smarter decisions that help mitigate the effects of climate change in the long-run, while also enjoying real-time economic benefits including lowering your utility consumption and increasing savings.
This is where utility data comes in, by entering vital statistics from utility bills and tracking consumption patterns, we can create effective strategies for smarter energy management.
In order to help their client base achieve optimized utility usage benchmarks, the client required efficient and timely data processing from the incoming utility bills with access to a repository where one could track metrics over a period of time.
This entire process consisted of the following requirements:
- Data had to be extracted from incoming utility bills in real-time.
- This data next had to be entered directly into the client’s system.
- Our team would then log into the client’s system to work on different accounts to add the data points for different meters.
The primary challenge with utility bill outsourcing is that these invoices come in different formats based on the type of utility and the utility provider. As such, it requires the analysts working on the project to have some sort of familiarity with the typical format of a utility bill and the knowledge to identify where each field of data is located.
Additionally, the client was also facing constant disruptions in workflow due to their current mode of operations. The process as it existed entailed hiring freelancers and this left the core team with the responsibility of managing both employee training and quality management.
The Proposed Solution
At ARDEM, we started by understanding the client, their primary objectives along with their immediate and future requirements. Our team got down to work, and through a series of conference calls, team meetings and chats gauged the challenges that lay ahead.
Our team further maintained a line of continuous communication with the client as we worked on their solution making sure to touch upon every aspect of their needs.
After much study and evaluation, ARDEM proposed the following solution:
- The data will be extracted from utility bills and entered directly into the client’s system.
- After logging into the client’s system we will work on different accounts to add the data points for different meters.
- Each analyst logs into the client’s system and will be assigned accounts to extract and enter data. All assignments are prioritized from oldest to newest.
- The amount of data available for each meter will vary (could be a few months, could be a year).
- When adding data points, there are 10 specific fields that will be extracted along with a screenshot of the data points as a backup.
The minimum required data points for every utility bill include:
- Start date
- End date
- Total Charge, sometimes usage units may need to be converted to normalize the data.
Once the data is extracted, it goes through a series of verification protocols and validation routes to ensure accuracy. Utility rates are compared to historical data points to catch any mistakes or errors and the account numbers are double-checked to ensure that all data points are being entered correctly.
Any exceptions are marked for review using a drop-down of common utility billing issues along with any additional context to explain why the said bill cannot be processed, i.e., an image of the bill, a note regarding the reason, etc. These bills are then sent to a Data Quality Administrator for verification and finally removed from our list of assignments for review.
In case of a Final/Closing Bill; the bill details are entered and a review is requested, enclosed with a screenshot of the bill to indicate that the account will be closed.
As of now, we are processing over 11,000+utility bills daily for the client, making sure to deliver high-quality data as promised while constantly striving to discover ways for continuous improvement.