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Analytics in Action: Yarra Valley Water and Application Processing

As 2016 draws to a close, I am grateful for the many, many ingenious ways customers use FICO® products to solve business problems. Clearly, FICO World 2016 was a bonanza of an opportunity for me to learn exactly how. Customers traveled to our event, held last April in Washington, DC, from all over the world.

The folks from Yarra Valley Water, in Melbourne, Australia, made one of the longest journeys, and I enjoyed hearing the retail water utility’s story at FICO World’s closing panel discussion. Yarra Valley Water uses FICO® Blaze Advisor® decision rules management system and FICO® Decision Management Suite to reduce the time required to the water application process from months to minutes, without adding staff.

That’s pretty amazing––watch the video below.

An early adopter of automation

Yarra Valley Water provides water and sewage service to 1.8 million residents and over 50,000 businesses. In 1995, it worked with Wise Technology Management to build a workflow system to automate its land development application process (specifically, a system that real estate developers use to apply for water access rights). Yarra Valley Water receives 25,000 land development applications annually.

The resulting solution, easyACCESS, won multiple awards for innovation. But by 2011 easyACCESS had reached end-of-life limitations and was unable to keep up with increasingly complex applications. Only 40% of each year’s submissions were handled automatically; the rest required human intervention.

Wise sought a technology partner that could provide more than just software tools—Yarra Valley Water needed a firm that could understand the company’s unique business processes and translate them into an exceptional solution. Wise chose FICO, and FICO Blaze Advisor as the best option to allow the Yarra Valley Water staff to take control of defining business processes and configuring decision-making rules without IT support.

Putting decision-making power into users’ hands

The Blaze Advisor decision rules management system separates business logic from the underlying mechanics of the software, so Yarra Valley Water employees can change decision rules at any time without having to know application development or programming languages.

“We haven’t just automated a manual process, we’ve also taken knowledge that was in the heads of our engineers or in scattered documentation and built that into the rules in Blaze Advisor,” says John Wise, Principal Consultant at Wise Technology Management. “There was no other tool we could have done that with.”

Taking easyACCESS to the next level

Automation using the FICO Decision Management Suite has aided Yarra Valley Water, which has been able to handle considerably more service applications per year without increasing associated staff. "By managing our business rules systematically, we have been able to aggressively scale our business with full confidence that we are complying with industry regulations," said Stuart Squires, systems manager at Yarra Valley Water.

easyACCESS features a self-service web interface through which developers and contractors can complete applications that have been customized for different tasks, such as setting up a new water or sewer connection. With easyACCESS, 80% of applications can be approved immediately, and it routes the rest to appropriate Yarra Valley Water employees for further consideration. This has reduced the time it takes to approve and finalize applications from weeks or months down to hours or even minutes––again, that’s pretty amazing. The whole project was so successful that it earned Yarra Valley Water a 2015 FICO Decision Management Award.

As FICO’s Chief Analytics Officer, much of my time is spent on developing new analytics intellectual property and technology that, somewhere down the road, customers will use in FICO products. At events like FICO World, it’s humbling to see how our analytic ideas improve the way business work, and people’s lives.

Wishing you a happy and safe holiday season. I’ll be blogging again in January 2017! Follow me on Twitter @ScottZoldi.

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