Yarra Valley Water is Melbourne’s largest retail water utility, providing essential water and sanitation services to over two million people across the Australian city. Using MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform, Yarra Valley Water has embarked on its digital transformation journey to provide a superior, connected experience for its customers, employees and partners. In this blog, Glenn Wilson, General Manager of Service Futures, shares more about Yarra Valley Water’s digital transformation story.
Globally, the water services sector faces a number of challenges – particularly the impacts of population growth and climate change, and with it, pressure to boost resilience and become more sustainable. Innovation and technology will play a vital role in supporting the sector’s progression, particularly data and analytics.
At Yarra Valley Water, we aim to support the health and wellbeing of our customers and create a brighter future for communities and the natural environment. We believe that an innovative and regenerative approach to delivering our services will provide better outcomes for customers now and in the future.
As part of our wider digital overhaul, we’ve taken significant steps towards future-proofing our architecture and systems. Part of this includes working with MuleSoft to harness the power of integration to improve customer and employee experience as well as partner integrations and network management.
Overcoming integration challenges
Over 30% of Victoria’s population relies on Yarra Valley Water’s services around the clock. And, with water being such a critical utility, we have to be always-on in terms of how we get information from stakeholders and then share that information with our customers — particularly with respect to disruptions and other issues which may be impacting their service. With so many moving parts and a complex supply chain, this is not an easy task.
We needed to simplify the systems of engagements — both new and existing — that our customers and staff are using. A key part of this was integrating with the systems our network partners use. Yarra Valley Water works with roughly the same number of contractors as we have permanent staff, so we’ve always had a heavy reliance on those contractors to provide us with information in a standardized, speedy, and easy way.
We selected our starting APIs based on where experience research had identified the greatest pain.
Before implementing MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform last year, we faced regular delays in getting water quality test results back due to the sheer volume of samples taken each year and the protocols in place to process them. Today, one of the 15 APIs that we’ve built so far has enabled us to integrate with the Australian Water Quality Centre (AWQC), our laboratory services provider, for real-time water quality test results. We perform around 100,000 lab tests a year to gather critical information about our water, recycled water, and wastewater networks. Through the integration, lab results from AWQC are able to feed directly into our systems in real-time, reducing manual handling, data input errors, load times, and making the data far more accessible — allowing our operations team to focus on higher-value work.
The solutions have rapidly accelerated the time frames for securing lab test results, decreasing the historical average from seven days to merely hours in many instances. For example, total chlorine results are turned around in 1.8 hours, and E.coli in 25.1 hours.
Transforming customer services
Another crucial result of our API strategy has been a major enhancement to our Fault Calls Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system.
By building APIs to automate data sharing through the IVR call handling system, we estimate that will eliminate around 3,000 inbound phone calls to our call centre per year. Customers are now able to gather critical information about service outages or interruptions through a self-service system without having to speak with an operator.
When customers dial-in for assistance, the system is able to identify their property and pull data from the asset management system in near real-time. This determines whether their water supply is on or off and relays the message back to the customer in a quick and convenient manner, even providing information on where they can access bottled water from in the interim.
Building for an API-led future
Our work with MuleSoft represents a key strategic relationship for us going forward, with the MuleSoft platform ultimately becoming the cornerstone of our future technology roadmap — in effect the glue that brings all of our different systems together through an API-led approach.
With even more APIs in the pipeline, our API and integration-led strategy is part of a wider digital overhaul, which spans improvements to customer experience, business operations and partner integrations.
In the long-term, we aim to move to a microservices-driven future where our systems of engagement that focus on customers, employees, and assets will draw the information they need on request from our core systems, improving performance and minimising processing and data storage costs. Our work is only just getting started!
To learn more about how your organization can build its own API strategy, read our API Strategy Essentials guide and see more API strategy resources.