Utility Billing Software Checklist
- How long have they been in the utility billing software
- Did they develop the product or do they just modify and
- Is Utility Billing a main product or is it just another
piece of software? Some firms main focus is on general accounting
software. They offer Utility Billing only because they use
it to compliment their mainstream products. This often means
that the Utility Billing will be a less complete product.
- How does the company provide support? Do they offer toll-free
phone numbers, dial-in diagnostics and Internet support?
- How often do they update the product? Major product reviews
and updates should be conducted on a regular basis.
- Do they provide professional quality documentation? Documentation
is a complex, expensive and time consuming process. It is
very important that good documentation be supplied. It is
also highly desirable that the documentation be available
on-line in an easily searchable form.
- The items listed here are features that distinguish a
good Utility Billing system. This list is not complete,
but it is an excellent starting point.
- Does the system account for each service and/or product
as a separate business? Example, if you bill for water and
sewer services, you need to treat these as separate operations
or funds. Some providers offer utility billing systems with
commercial accounting. If this is what they are selling
to a multi-service utility, be leery of the product.
- When was the current product introduced? New products
may have more Flash, but are less stable. Mature products
are more feature rich because they have received many refinements
over a period of time. If they are offering a Windows product,
find out when it was released. Windows products are very
complex and require time to mature.
- Is it a batch or real time system? Batch processing is
desirable to take advantage or hand held and other remote reading
devices. Real time processing is faster and more convenient
for cash receipts and customer information updates. Quality
systems offer a blend of both technologies.
- Be sure you don't have to enter four digit years like
2000. Good products eliminate those extra keystrokes.
- Was the system developed using Microsoft's Windows design
guidelines? If not, the product may look like a Windows
application, but does not work like one. This makes for
more difficult learning and day-to-day usage.
- Does it offer gateways to other systems and products,
such as ODBC? These gateways provide the user the ability to
create special reports and inquiries as needed, without
- What are the limitations on history? Insufficient retention
poses management and control problems.
- Is US Postal Service Postnet bar coding and CASS certification
available? It can save thousands in mailing costs. Today,
it is a necessity for proper cost containment.
- Do you need even or budget billing plans? Levelized billing
plans are replacing the aforementioned methods. Levelized
plans offer customers more uniform methods of payments without
the accumulation of extensive history, settlement periods,
and exaggerated balances.
- Are productivity aids available? Tools like bar coded
bills for receipting, receipt printers and automatic cash drawers
make operations more productive and accurate. These tools
should not be overlooked.
- Does the software offer security? Application access should
be regulated by program and user.
- Does it offer ACH (Automated Clearing House) processing?
ACH is today's standard for electronic payments. It simplifies
payment processing, eliminating problems associated with
multiple banks. Older systems rely on Bank Drafts that are
outdated and clumsy to use.
- Do the available reports, such as rate studies, meet the
needs of your operation?