About First Gas
First Gas, based in New Plymouth, is a group of companies owned by overseas superannuation funds, under management by Colonial First State, that acquired the Vector Gas business and the Maui gas pipeline. The First Gas group now owns gas network assets in the order of $1.3 billion. On April 20, First Gas acquired the Vector Gas business, excluding the Auckland gas distribution network. On June 15, the Maui gas pipeline assets were also acquired. By the end of August, First Gas had a new standalone ICT corporate environment.
Call and fault management with Microsoft Dynamics CRM
Microsoft Dynamics CRM online is the central engine behind all First Gas customer interactions. Connection requests come from electricity retailers (e.g. Genesis, Contact Energy), and are lodged, monitored and tracked via a CRM web portal that First Gas’ new business connection manager Matt Wilson describes as “fantastic.” The retailers also love the portal, which allows them to easily keep track of new connections and their status.
In the first month of operation requests for new connections came in at four times the predicted rate, but the system has proved more than able to meet this demand.
Faults are logged via the First Gas public website or via the call centre. All calls are directly logged in CRM, with Click Dimensions used to handle notifications in emergency situations. Click Dimensions’ automation capabilities ensure that time-critical faults are immediately dealt with and all parties are kept informed.
Click Dimensions is also used send e-mail messages to customers to keep them up to date about their connections, the status of work requested and to deliver quotations.
Cloud integration with Logic Apps
First Gas’ tight timeframes and complex environment demanded a fast, reliable and agile integration solution to connect the various CRM interfaces, in the cloud. Microsoft’s new Integration Platform as a Service – Logic Apps, still in preview at that point, ticked all the boxes. With great support from Microsoft product managers and demonstrated reliability in preview we were confident it could do the job, ahead of the platform’s general release.
Says Theta’s Principal Integration Architect Wagner Silveira:
“Logic Apps and the other cloud integration elements – API Management, Azure Service Bus and Azure functions – have more than proved their worth. The whole system is dynamic and agile, with no hardware to stand up and no costly licenses to pay for – First Gas just pay for what they need, as they go. With other integration platforms, it would have taken twice as long and cost much more to achieve the same results.”
Sixteen logic apps manage 12 integration points, across SOAP, FTP and REST endpoints, as well as trigger-based APIs from CRM. Despite this complexity, we were able to get the whole system up and running within a month.
Invoicing, purchasing and more with Microsoft Dynamics NAV
Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 handles First Gas’ financial requirements – invoicing, purchasing, prepayments and sales, and connects to Maximo for the tracking of asset costs and maintenance alongside other business activities and expenditure, for a complete picture of the business. Utility industry regulatory requirements and multiple peripheral systems added extra layers of complexity to the implementation and integration points. Despite this, we delivered the complete NAV system one week early and within budget, ready for the First Gas team to connect and start using.
Jet Enterprise for reporting
Completing the picture, Jet Enterprise data warehouse brings together data from many First Gas systems for comprehensive reporting. In a familiar Excel environment, First Gas now has easy access to KPIs – across all areas of the business – in a series of visual dashboards.
The product is designed to work well with Microsoft Dynamics NAV, and as it’s fast to implement and easy to use – like all the solutions implemented for First Gas – the overall cost of ownership is low.
Four months, ten new systems
A four-month window to implement ten new systems for an infrastructure company, and make sure that they all work together seamlessly, seems like an ambitious goal. Blane Evans-Parker, First Gas’ Programme Manager, explains:
“I thought it would be pretty difficult. I do not think it has been done in New Zealand before in that time frame. There have been takeovers but not of this scale and the time pressure. And it was not just one system, we had at least 10 major systems.”
By harnessing the Microsoft ecosystem and the latest cloud technologies, and with many specialists working together, we were able to pull it off!
“A big THANK YOU from all at First Gas for all your hard work and expertise in making this a successful go-live in very constrained time. It has been great to see everyone working together so well and issues being resolved quickly.” Blane Evans-Parker
Low cost of ownership
Familiar Microsoft interfaces
Modular, integrated system
All requirements met, within budget, on a very tight timeframe
Automation of call and fault management, enabling rapid response and tracking
Azure Service Bus