November 24, 2022

Migration and modernisation: our partnership with Nama Group

Tally Group Middle East Vice-President, Anuj Sahrawat, takes a look at how Tally Group has helped transform Oman's energy sector.

Change has been a constant in Oman's energy industry. The country has implemented significant reforms to liberalise and privatise its markets, committed heavily to infrastructure upgrades, and kick-started a nationwide shift towards smart metering. This has transformed energy provision for residential, commercial, and industrial customers with enhanced efficiencies, reduced electricity losses, and improved service.

Oman Government's holding company, Nama Group (formerly the Electricity Holding Group – SAOC), has overseen the process. They own five subsidiary energy companies; Muscat Electricity Distribution Company (MEDC), Mazoon Electricity Company (MZEC), Majan Electricity Company (MJEC), Dhofar Integrated Services Company (DISC), and Tanweer (formerly known as Rural Areas Electricity Company). Together, these companies have a combined total of 1.3 million customers.

Tally Group Middle East Vice-President, Anuj Sahrawat

Partners through change

Nama Group appointed Tally Group in 2012 alongside SSL, a local software solutions systems provider. Our job was to overhaul the legacy billing systems used by their subsidiaries and create a single, new, consolidated platform. This had to deliver more accurate billing, handle significantly increased data volumes, improve the collections of the companies and adapt to growing customer needs over time.

Migration at scale

We took a phased approach to setting up our Orion billing system and migrating the data.

This was in part down to the scale of the project, with almost 870,000 customers across the five companies. The sheer diversity of customers serviced by Nama Group's subsidiaries also played a large role. While some customers were confident online and had access to digital platforms, others were still paying their bills in kiosk offices in remote locations with shaky internet connections. In addition, meter data was often recorded in pen and pencil, which had historically caused significant issues with accuracy and reliability.

We had to cater to this complexity and implement an approach that could respond to the breadth of customer needs, work for all the different subsidiaries, and eliminate risk.

We launched an initial pilot project to migrate a subset of the customers from the companies. This involved the CRM data, financials, billing, and metering data. It was accompanied by deep meter data cleansing activity to improve future billing efficiency, and correctly wash up the retrospective invoicing if required. During the pilot, we provided hands-on training to business users to support the transition to the Orion platform and ensure it met their needs.

We ran a broad spectrum of different scenarios through the parallel billing run phase to ensure the migration could be delivered without impacting customers and deliver accurate invoicing.

The complete migration occurred in 2015, with the remaining c.900,000 customers successfully migrating over several days. We ran a synchronisation process between our Orion platform and the legacy systems to ensure data integrity through the transition, adopting a phased approach to the full roll-out to make it as smooth as possible.

Empowering customers through self-service

Tally Group, SSL, and Nama Group have created a long-term partnership to evolve our platform and solutions to keep pace with changing requirements.

One such example is the rapid uptake of mobile phones in the last decade. People in Oman generally skipped desktop computers and laptops in their digital device evolution, with cheap phone and data plans creating rapid demand for mobile-first platforms.

To get ahead of this, the partnership created a mobile self-service app for customers to view their balance, monitor usage,view invoices, and make payments. Taking an agile approach, this was developed and designed within two months. As a result, thousands of customers now use these self-service tools monthly.

Since launching these tools, we have developed new features and functionality as part of an ongoing customer service improvement programme. Tools available for customers now include:

-         QuickPay, to pay for a friend or family member;

-         Self-Meter Reading, including the ability to submit meter reads with a photo; and

-         Instant Invoice Request to generate and download invoices instantly.

We also implemented two-way syncing mechanisms with external parties to manage disconnections, reconnections, and related fees automatically and seamlessly.

Through these self-service tools, Nama Group has recorded increased collections, improved customer engagement and satisfaction levels, and increased revenue across the business.

Smart meters, smarter business.

In 2016, the Council of Ministers approved the introduction of a new tariff structure, the Cost Reflective Tariff or CRT (also called the Timeof Use or TOU tariff). This was designed to reflect the actual costs of providing electricity to big government, commercial and industrial customers with annual consumption of 150 MWh and above. At the time, these customers accounted for around 30% of the total electricity usage within Oman. This move was also prompted by the Government's 2015 decision to almost to double the price of natural gas for power generation.

The CRT Tariff introduction was supported by a seamless implementation of Tally Group's CRT billing project in 2017. During this project, all the meter vendors were consulted to reach a consensus on the format of the CRT hourly meter reading file and how the different billing components like Transmission, Distribution, and Usage charges were set up.

In addition to powering variable tariffs for every hour of the day, Tally Group's solution now provides customers with the information they need to proactively and effectively manage their consumption. We also designed and implemented an automated solution to ensure poor-quality CRT read data would be more accurately estimated and reconciled once better-quality data was available. Bringing our extensive market knowledge to the table meant we could provide world-leading standard formats for data interchanges.

Since 2017, the CRT customer base has increased, leading to increased visibility of customer consumption patterns and maturity in load forecasting for the network. In addition, industrial customers have started to better manage consumption across the day due to the higher peak-time tariffs.

Our solution has supported Nama Group to manage all the future CRT tariff changes, cope with different peak loads in the system, estimate the transmission charges, and wash up actual peakloads when declared by the Electricity Authority.

Navigating change remains our specialty at Tally Group. We're delighted to continue to partner with Nama Group to drive this next phase of evolution.

Tally Group enables businesses world-wide to change the way they operate. If you want to find out how our scalable, software-driven approach can help your business, talk to us.

Main image: Photo by Muhammad Shoaib on Unsplash