Hot air balloons, Innovative Insight Post
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The city of Indianola, Iowa is nationally known by hot air balloon enthusiasts as a permanent host for the nation’s second largest National Hot Air Balloon Event. But what’s more important for residents of this bedroom community just south of Des Moines is the Indianola Municipal Utilities bundled suite of utility services.

The Need for a New Billing System

IMU General Manager Chris DesPlanques is proud of the fact that the fifteen thousand plus residents of Indianola can get all of the services that are most important to them: water, electricity, sanitation, fiber internet, phone, and video; on a single bill. DesPlanques also appreciates the tremendous effort of all the city employees who worked together to make it happen. But bundling multiple municipal service utilities created a tremendous challenge for IMU’s old billing systems; to the point where they had to make a change.

The cost of sending out multiple bills for specific services each month would end up costing the city $6,000 per month, per service. DesPlanques says the ability to integrate all of the services into one bill with the eLation platform saves the city in excess of $300,000 per year. eLation ultimately was chosen because the solution had everything that IMU needed, right down to integrated bill printing.

DesPlanques was complementary of the conversion team at Innovative Systems and said that out of the first batch of nearly 7,000 bills that went out, there were only 16 that needed correction.

Significant Time Saving Improvements

When you factor in all the different services provided by IMU, it accounts for 25,000 different meters, and eLation has delivered greater efficiencies in their bill calculations. DesPlanques says what used to take six hours a month in calculations now only takes twenty minutes. Another area that has been streamlined is the bill printing process using the Innovative Systems Print Division. Previously IMU staff was spending two to three days per month stuffing, sealing, and delivering bills to the post office, and now it takes twenty minutes.

Advice to those Looking for a New Billing System

DesPlanques says his single biggest piece of advice in the search for a new billing system is to choose one that has all of the components integrated through a single-source vendor. This eliminates finger pointing between multiple vendors when something is not working right, and if there is a problem, it results in much faster resolution. When you are running billing at the end of the month, it is not a good time to have troubles. For municipalities like IMU that offer multiple services, choosing a solution like eLation has been the right fit.

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