Episode 033: Clark Public Utilities “Sheds Light” on Successful Implementation


If you, like Clark Public Utilities (CPU), are a little jittery about implementation – congratulations! You’re normal. Despite a few apprehensions, CPU faced its fears head on and took an active role in its organization’s digital transformation. Today, illuminating a paperless “workflow glow,” CPU has gone down in our books as one of our most successful implementation partners.
 
Join CPU’s Business Application Manager Suzi Walker and Business Analyst Michael Nino for a candid conversation with ImageSoft’s Professional Services team, discussing customer challenges during implementation, the keys to proceeding while succeeding, what “partnership” actually means, a breakdown of the Quality Triangle and so much more.

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Read the Transcript
Kevin Ledgister: Welcome to the Paperless Productivity podcast where we have experts give you the insights, knowhow, and resources to help you transform your workplace from paper to digital and making your work life better at the same time.

Thanks for joining us today. My name is Kevin Ledgister, your host. And today we’re going to change things up a bit. Today we’ve got Clark Public Utilities as our guests, which operates out of Clark County in Washington, and they serve for 203,000 electricity customers and over 30,000 homes for water. Now usually we talk about the journey from paper to paperless at a very high level, but you know what they say? The devil is in the details, which is a secret sauce to a successful digital transformation. So we’re going to put a magnifying glass on the segment of their story in regards to how the solution was delivered and key steps and lesson learned during this implementation and rollout that helped to make it a success. So with us today from Clark Public Utilities as Suzi Walker. Hi, Suzi.

Suzi Walker: Hi, Kevin.
Kevin: And Suzi, for our listeners, if you could just maybe just tell us your role at Clark Public Utilities and how long you’ve been there.
Suzi: Well, I have been here here years and I’m the business application manager and we started our OnBase journey about two years ago.
Kevin: Awesome. Cool. And for our listeners, just to understand the applications that they implement is called OnBase, which is an enterprise content management system that does document management workflow and various other functions. And that’s the solution that they chose to use to help them with their implementation. And then also with Suzi, we also have Michael Nino. Hi, Michael. Thanks for joining us today.
Michael Nino: Thanks for having me.
Kevin: And Mike, can you just tell everybody what your role is and how long you’ve been with CPU, short form of Clark Public Utilities.
Michael: Yeah, I am a senior business analyst and part of my responsibility is being the OnBase admin here at Clark, and I’ve been here for just over two years now.
Kevin: Awesome. Great. Well thank you guys for joining us today and we’re really looking forward to hearing from you. Now, one of the changes that we’re going to make in this podcast, it’s usually I’m the one asking questions, but today we were able to also get Crystal Iverson who is the Director of Professional Services team at ImageSoft and was her and her team that actually work directly with Clark Public Utilities. This would be a great way to have a conversation between those two.

So Crystal, I’ll turn this over to you and have you introduced your team that’s with us today and let’s get this conversation started.

Crystal Iverson: Great. Thanks, Kevin. I’m really happy to be here and so glad that Suzi and Michael were also able to join us today. So again, as Kevin said, I’m Crystal Iverson, I’m the Director of Professional Services with ImageSoft. I’ve been with ImageSoft for just over five years now and actually used to live in Vancouver, Washington and paid my bills to Clark Public Utilities. So it’s really fun to see that come full circle.

With me today in the room I have Kris Jaussi, she is one of our senior solution architects. Kris, do you want to tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been with ImageSoft?

Kris Jaussi: Hi, everybody. I’m happy to be here today and I think with ImageSoft for seven years and have implemented all types of customers in all different business verticals.
Crystal: And we also have Han Dinh. She’s a systems engineer with ImageSoft.
Han Dinh: Yeah, thanks for having me today. I’m excited to be here. I’ve been with ImageSoft for about a little over three years now. I’ve been working with Clark directly for just about a year now. So we’re closely with Michael and Suzi and excited to talk about our implementation with you.
Crystal: Great. Thank you guys. We’re glad that everyone is on the line. So just to, as Kevin noted, we’re just, today, going to talk about some key items that make software implementation successful. I want to talk a little bit about what we do on the services side and talk a lot about what’s made the implementation successful for Clark Public Utilities.

Before we get too far in I just want to give a little bit of a high level to make sure everyone understands some of the terminology that we’re going to be talking about today. And so maybe Han, if you could explain just at a very high level, can you talk about the roles of the professional services team and then the roles of the customer on a software implementation, and also maybe how the actual software vendor comes into play? So Hyland software?

Han: Sure. Yeah. So we start with the customer team. Typically, they’re looking for our assistance ImageSoft in growing a paperless process to make their day to day processes more efficient. And usually the customer team might involve business users that may be nontechnical side and then also more technical users that will assist in technical matters. And then the customer works directly with us, ImageSoft, and our professional services teams. It involves an engineer, systems engineer like myself, a solutions architect like Kris, and then usually a project manager. And then Crystal is the director and our team leads.

And we are kind of the bridge between the customer and Hyland. Hyland is our vendor. We resell ECM software called OnBase. And so we reach out to Hyland intermittently through our projects when we run into technical hurdles and they get on the phone with us and help us through any issues that we might run into.

Crystal: Cool. Thanks for giving that high level. I appreciate that. So without further ado, I think I want to really dig into the Clark story. Suzi or Michael, if you could just tell us a little bit more about your implementation and what your project goals were and how the software that you selected helps you achieve them. So maybe just a little bit of backstory so that we can set a groundwork for the conversation.
Suzi: Yeah, so we had a previous document management system that was mostly just for document storage. So we were looking for something that could be really flexible that we could implement across the utility that would not only allow just simple document storage but workflows and basically automating a lot of our paper processes because we had a lot of those. And so we’ve been able to implement a number of projects. So far to reduce paper and increase productivity. And right now we’re getting ready to implement one of our largest ones, which is invoice and purchase requisition processing.
Crystal: And can you tell us a little bit about the goals? So you said it’s a large, is it like very heavily paper on the purchase and requisition invoice processing right now? And maybe what are some project goals that you want to use the software for?
Michael: Yeah, I would say it’s probably 100% paper currently. So we’re really trying to take the current process and digitize it to get away from all being paper. And so I think right now we’re trying to cut it back a little bit, but in the future we’re trying to go 100% paperless.
Crystal: And what do you think the impact is going to be down the road on Clark Public Utilities?
Suzi: Well, I think for our users it’s going to be visibility into the process. Right now on papers flying from desk to desk, there’s absolutely zero visibility into what’s happening at the utility and this is going to provide us the opportunity to see where invoices are, how quickly they’re getting paid, who’s approving them, and just give an overall view for management for approvers and just basic users to be able to look up the documentation rather than keep copies at their desk.
Crystal: So Suzi and Michael, you mentioned that you started this process with this particular implementation about two years ago and that you’ve had several different areas go alive. Can you tell us a little bit about how you prepared for your implementation, maybe before you ever started it. What were some key factors that have made you successful in the implementation and how did you go about planning and preparing for the software implementation when you first started.
Suzi: Okay. I’ll talk about a few factors that really helped us. Attending CommunityLIVE was very helpful because that interaction and networking and be able to just sample all the different products available and how to leverage them, and also training from admin too. Michael was trained on how to be an OnBase administrator and that has been superbly valuable and instrumental in our project success. But he’s also had the great ImageSoft team to leverage his talent with their talent and so they’ve been able to grow his knowledge as well. And so, it’s just been a great win, win situation there.
Michael: Yeah, I think on top of that, just kind of exploring what’s in the system when it comes to developing. I know we’ve done that with ImageSoft and I think we’ve created some really cool things just by exploring and seeing what works.
Crystal: So it sounds like having a deep understanding from the customer perspective of what the software is that what it can do and being able to then also utilize a full tool set, not just to the software but also of the implementation team when needed has really been a key mark in your success. Would you agree with that?
Suzi: Oh totally. And having the knowledge that the ImageSoft team has a prior implementation, that’s helped us at time because it gives us some ideas on how we can set things up here when we’re just starting out.
Crystal: So I’m going to ask my team maybe to respond. What are some, in hearing what has been successful for Suzi and Michael, what’d you guys agree that you think you’ve seen other customers if they’d been prepared in the same way be successful in implementations?
Kris: Yeah, absolutely. I think a Suzi definitely hit on some key ingredients that are critical to success factors. And as we were thinking of responses to questions and successful implementations training earlier on, an implementation cycle does have a lot of value. It lets you get familiar why you still have the safety and security of ImageSoft close by, it lets you see things that you can practice hands on after training and really helps build a bridge toward ownership of the software platform. So we’re fortunate that we have a highly configurable platform that gets installed and is easily customizable. If you’re willing to learn a little bit, take some risks and try it. And I think that you definitely hit on two major factors that equal success.
Crystal: Thanks, Kris. So we’ve talked a lot about what makes it successful and what I think that I’m hearing in that is, is a partnership and about technical knowledge, right? So having somebody in the customer side who is willing and able to dig in. And then also having a partner that you can rely on. So maybe Suzi and Michael, if you could respond first, can you paint me a picture for what partnership looks like to you in terms of project implementation? Because I think that’s one of the things that have made your implementation in particular so successful and you such a great partner for us.
Michael: I think a lot of it, how we’ve approached it is more of a collaborative approach. So, early on I really didn’t know what I was doing in terms of development and how to be an Admin. And so I relied on SEs especially Han on just like how to learn, how to operate OnBase. And as we’ve progressed through multiple projects now instead of having to heavily lean on ImageSoft and Han as much we can work together to create solutions.
Crystal: And Han, from your perspective, obviously you and Michael have been working together. So what does that partnership look like on your side?
Han: Yeah, me and Michael have been working very closely together and I think the great thing about this partnership is we both have a vision of what we want to work towards, and we use collaboration. There’s some level of trust between us, and we just share and exchange the knowledge between one another.
Kris: I think that that’s real key. Having the realistic expectations as well as understanding what the common goals are. Sometimes when you start an implementation, 50 people have 50 different ideas of what the end result is going to be like. So managing those expectations and recognizing what it might look like on day one versus what it might look like on day 365. Because once something gets implemented, it can be evolved to get better, slicker and cooler, but you often just need a starting point. So when you can start a piece of the project with the same common goals in mind and stick to it, it makes it much easier to get to the end result.
Crystal: So Suzi and Michael, I would be curious to kind of feed off of what Kris just said. When you guys started this journey to the enterprise content management solution. Did you have specific goals in mind and have those goals stayed the same or have they shifted over time?
Suzi: That’s a good question. I think our goals have been the same as far as very high level to automate business processes and reduce paper and increase visibility. But digging into the details I think was a little more challenging than we had anticipated, because some of the processes were very complex. And so I think there was definitely some adjustments that we had to make about how rapid we could deploy some of the solutions based on the complexity. So I think understanding the complexity ahead of time would have helped us be a little bit more realistic about maybe our timelines, but overall we achieved what we set out to do. It just maybe took us a little bit longer to get the level of quality that we wanted to deliver to our users.
Crystal: I think that I understand now that Michael is owning a lot of the solution and that ImageSoft is really acting as an augmented partner to Clark. And I didn’t prepare you for this at all that I was going to ask this, but how was that evolution, Michael? How did you get to become so comfortable and confident? And what was it like to dig in?
Michael: You know, it’s really just a comfort thing. I think as we went through different projects and just different configurations, instead of creating a Jira task and asking ImageSoft to help out or actually configure things, I just went ahead and tried to do it myself. And then if I ran into trouble, that’s kind of when I would leverage ImageSoft and I’ve just taken that approach since the very beginning. And now I guess it’s just led to me doing a lot of the configurations and still leverage ImageSoft if I need some help. But it’s kind of where we’re at.
Crystal: Yeah, I think that we all really appreciate the collaboration that we’ve had between the teams, and doing it remotely across the country as well has been a really cool experience.

So another question for the group. What advice would you guys have for first time customers to help in their software implementations to make sure that they’re setting up for success instead of setting up for stress? I know that software implementations can take a lot of planning on the forefront and have a lot of unexpected twists and turns occasionally. So maybe from Suzi and Michael first and then from the ImageSoft team. What advice would you guys give for people who are diving into the digital transformation space?

Suzi: TI think one thing that would have been helpful for us is to have our users document their processes thoroughly before we did discovery. Because it seems like discovery was an onion with many layers, so there was multiple discovery sessions where you would find out maybe new information and so at least maybe getting a listing of what people are doing currently to help guide some of those conversations because it does tend to get a little bit overwhelming.

One thing also that we learned was keeping our key stakeholders in the loop. A lot of times we were working with area managers and it would have been helpful for us to meet with the stakeholders, maybe the level above those managers just to keep them in the loop about the progress we were making. Because there were a few twists and turns where upper level management wanted us to make some changes that set us back just a little bit. So I’d say most of it was project management wise, software wise, I think everything went as we expected.

Crystal: Michael, anything to add to that?
Michael: I think something that’s been really helpful on my end in the configuration and testing area was finding that systems expert or the process expert in the business just because sometimes upper management doesn’t have their hands in the day to day activities. So once we’ve been able to find a process expert and have them be our lead tester, I think things have just gone a lot smoother after that.
Suzi: Yeah, you can see we just hit on all three levels of the organization, the end user, the manager, and then the director above that. Keeping all three of them in the loop, which can be, that’s a lot for a project, and then developing software as well.
Crystal: Absolutely. There’s like that little end goal of actually having something in place. Right? I see. I see Kris nodding her head all throughout when you guys are talking. So Kris, you’ve been doing this for seven years, what has your experience been? What would your advice be?
Kris: Yeah, exactly. We often find at discovery that the management has a different idea of what’s actually happening with the day to day users. So definitely insisting or requesting that there’s a business user on the floor, or even watching them do their job because 10 minutes of me watching somebody do something, I have a completely set of different questions to ask, then listening to the manager explaining what they think is really happening. So there is, it’s very common that there’s a disconnect and people have found their own ways of doing things that nobody even necessarily knows about. And not that it’s right or wrong, they’ve done what they’ve learned to do to just get the job done, but the software can often make things better than what the original problem was and streamline it moving forward.

I do think communication from point A to point B all the way through is critical from educating in the lunch rooms to this is coming, oh, here’s who ImageSoft is. Build that excitement and build that momentum and that continual and you’re right, there’s definitely the different levels of it, but just let everybody know all about the project and that it really is coming and it’s really to happening so nobody can be in denial that change is coming.

So not only is it understanding the process and figuring out where changes need to be made, there’s a whole change management component that has to be amplified throughout the organization when things like this start to happen and come. Han, do you have anything to add?

Han: Yeah. I guess just for me from a technical perspective, I always like to just give a heads up, and this is technology. Technology is always changing. And there’s always something, right? I mean there’s bugs just naturally it’s technology. So just having that expectation going into the project that it’s going to be a windy path with hurdles and potholes may be. But just, I guess the takeaway there is to have a goal in the beginning of the project very clearly define what you want out of the software and how it can help you, and revisiting that throughout the project, all the different phases so that when you do run into those hurdles and potholes that you’re remembering, okay, we can get through this because this is our end goal. Just keeping moving forward. And again, using momentum, excitement through the software throughout the whole project I think is important.
Kris: No, I think it’s important to keep in mind that everything does not have to be there on day one. That some things can be deferred until after go live. And so it’s keeping that list of items and revisiting it and having people like Michael onboard that can make those things happen that have been deferred to post go live or utilizing ImageSoft to help with some of those things. But recognizing early on that everything does not have to be perfect on go live day. The agreed upon goals need to be done but you can still, there’s always something you can be doing with the software.
Crystal: So Suzi and Michael, hearing what Kris and Han said, would you agree with that perspective that having a longer road of changed management is helpful for the users?
Suzi: Yes, totally. A couple of things about change management and our project that we’re rolling out here in a week, we identified who the power users would be as a new system which is our Executive Assistance and Admin. because right now they’re doing all of the invoice processing and purchase requisition processing. So we decided to make them our power users, and we’ve set up a number of training sessions with them and had open communications and some ride alongs even just so they could be the evangelists for the new process as well, and their different departments since this is a utility wide rollout. We’ve been very fortunate with our previous project has been department specific. So this is really the biggest one that we’ve tried to do and we only have one Michael, so we needed to make sure that we could spread the wealth a little bit with the support. So that was one target that we did for change management.
Michael: I agree with what Kris said too. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect that go live day. I think we’ve found that out, especially as we’re getting down to crunch time on our go live date that there are some things we can put off to the side. We like to call it a parking lot. And so we’ve got a big list of things that we can enhance after go live as we implement and people are actually in the system, but it doesn’t have to be perfect, that initial rollout.
Suzi: Yeah, as long as the quality is there, I think that’s the thing people will remember the most, the software works and it does what we said it was going to do and then we can add those nice to haves later. So that’s been our focus. And we do have an enhancement list that is quite long right now.
Crystal: That’s great. It means you’re finding a lot of value in the system, which is wonderful. I think what I’m hearing overall from everybody is having a goal in mind and reminding ourselves over time what that goal is. Making sure that we’re communicating clearly across the organization about both those goals and the current status of the project. Having advocates throughout the organization to make sure that they’re aware of what’s going on on board and excited. I think change is hard for a lot of people and knowing what’s coming and being able to be a part of that change makes it exciting instead of scary when we’re going through a digital transformation or a paperless process like Clark has been doing.

Any last thoughts? Anything else that you guys wanted to share from either side before we wrap up for today?

Kris: It’s just that we love the partnership that we have with Clark and it’s great to see it in fruition and in action and happening. So thanks for being our customer.
Crystal: Suzi, Michael, anything else on your side?
Suzi: No, we just appreciate all the help and support we’ve gotten and how flexible ImageSoft has been throughout our projects, whether we needed project management support, or discovery support, or technical support, you guys have been there for us and we appreciate that so much being there whenever we needed it.
Michael: Definitely.
Crystal: You have a big heart emoji on my face right now. We really like working with you guys. Well, thank you guys so much for sharing your stories today about both my team’s experience in working with our customers and more importantly about Suzi and Michael’s journey through the digital paperless transformation. Kevin, I think last thoughts here?
Kevin: Yeah. I thought this was a great discussion and I think it was so helpful to hear the perspective of both sides talking about other experiences going through this. And I think this was really insightful. Anybody that’s looking to go down this kind of path where they’re looking to implement some sort of strategy automation, change management, those types of things, those are all such key things. So thank you everyone again for attending our podcast today. For Suzi, Michael, Crystal, Han and Kris, thank you for participating. And for our listeners, if you want more information you can check out our website at imagesoftinc.com, that’s imagesoftinc.com hit the services tab, just like professional services and you can see a little bit more about us in terms of what we do and what’s there and might give you some ideas in terms of how you might want to work through your implementation project. So, thanks again.

Thanks again for joining us on this podcast. And if you haven’t already done so, be sure to subscribe to Paperless Productivity where we tackle some of the biggest paper-based pain points facing organizations today. We’ll see you next time.

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