As we head into this year’s holiday season, I’m already noticing an abundance of helpful buying guides for the top consumer electronics and hottest toys. While you may not buy tracking software as a gift for your spouse or family, although the looks you would get would be priceless, here is a guide to help you walk through this important purchase for your enterprise. Like buying a gift for someone, have a clear idea of what the recipient would like. Understand the needs of your organization when reviewing options between different program tracking software. Then look at the core elements of these systems. How well do they scale, configure, and quickly implement? The new system should be able to scale to handle not only a single program but an entire portfolio. The system must be easily configurable not only in the initial setup but also in adapting to the inevitable changes that come along. Finally, speed from project kick-off to system launch is crucial.
System scalability is a highly desirable characteristic. Can the system perform the essential day-to-day tasks of handling a program while managing multiple programs inside a portfolio? The needs of the system’s users range from program managers to executives. The system should be able to manage the program with all its nuances and give an overview of how well the portfolio is performing against annual goals. Reporting is a crucial feature. The system must easily pull information from the database to provide daily report status updates, exports to EM&V functions, and other ad hoc reporting. When talking about the configurability of a system, it means how easy it is to set up the workflows and processes needed to govern a program or portfolio and how easy it is to connect to other corporate systems like the customer information system or accounts payable. The ability to connect and transfer data between systems streamlines the process and eliminates the need to enter the same information multiple times. Ease of configuration also means that changes can be made either by the utility staff or by their support team. Last but not least, time to implement should not take a year. Robust systems can be up and running for weeks or a few months. Part of this requires the buyer to understand the functions the system is to provide completely.
Avoiding shopper’s remorse is easy. Review the features of systems on the market and compare them against your core requirements. You will find that eTRACK+ checks off on all the boxes for successful tracking software. One last consideration is to think through the pros and cons of a turnkey offering where a program tracking software is provided with a program implementation contract. While this is a convenient method to expedite launching a program, consider how this will impact your other program implementations. If the business requirement is to implement a single program for several years, this could be an attractive approach. However, if you have multiple programs, consider how many system integrations must occur with each of those individual program tracking software and how you consolidate all the data into a single report. These additional integrations could be burdensome and duplicate effort. A final piece of advice, like holiday shopping, is not to wait until the last minute in making your purchase. Plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time to ensure your program tracking software is in place before you launch programs.
Written by – Michael Stockard
Michael Stockard is an independent consultant at Stockard Energy Advising and is a member of the Advisory Panel at ANB Systems. Michael has over 40 years of experience in the design and implementation of demand-side management programs.