North Dakota Living staff report
During October’s celebration of Co-op Month, attention is placed on what cooperative enterprise has meant for early national growth, and on continuing contributions co-ops make today. This year, the success being experienced by the National Information Solutions Cooperative (NISC) is an ideal Co-op Month focal point.
In 2018, NISC is observing its 50th anniversary. NISC provides information technology software services to more than 860 cooperative and public utility customer organizations. Its North Dakota operations base is in Mandan; NISC also has operating centers in Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin.
NISC was formed from the 2000 merger of North Central Data Cooperative (NCDC), Mandan, with Central Area Data Processing Corporation, St. Louis, Mo. NCDC was formed by electric and telephone cooperatives of the Dakotas in 1968.
To help tell its enduring story of cooperation on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, NISC has published “The Power of Possibility – 50 years of Innovation and Member Service.”
The book’s introductory section makes a strong statement about what cooperative enterprise means to NISC: “The cooperative model underlies NISC success. While other software vendors want to create products they can sell to as many different types of users as possible, NISC designs its software to meet specific needs. Integrity, relationships, innovation, teamwork, empowerment and personal development – those shared values form the framework of NISC’s interaction with customers and employees.”
Jasper Schneider, NISC member and industry vice president, emphasizes this point.
“We give credit to our cooperative business model for our longevity,” Schneider says. “The co-op business model gives us focus, from a culture standpoint and from a prioritization standpoint. We serve our members.”
SmartHub, Operations Analytics, more
Modern software solutions stream steadily from today’s NISC.
To continue to meet customer expectations and to match how today’s customers gather information, NISC has developed a digital information app – SmartHub®.
With this electronic “dashboard,” a cooperative consumer-member can track use of cooperative services, and communicate readily with cooperative personnel on a wide variety of service matters. Consolidated Telcom, Dickinson, has found SmartHub to be a valuable customer service tool.
“We continually add new features, and in the three years we’ve been using SmartHub, we’ve been able to enhance it for the customer experience, whether it’s viewing and paying their bills, a notification about their service, or maybe a trouble call they place with us,” says Denise Barth, customer service supervisor.
Laura Biel, customer service manager, and Rhonda Fitterer, marketing and public relations manager for Consolidated, say the SmartHub app emerged from NISC collaboration with their cooperative. “We need to be able to have the communications tools available that will be relevant with the demographic that wants that app,” Biel says.
“It’s invaluable what NISC provides to Consolidated,” Fitterer adds.
Verendrye Electric Cooperative, Velva/Minot, is making use of new NISC digital information tools which facilitate current, precise analysis of how electric system infrastructure is performing.
In using the NISC Operations Analytics platform to retrieve system data, Verendrye Electric has been able to better model its system, as well as prevent issues with transformers and line loss.
“It’s definitely saving us money,” says D.J. Randolph, Verendrye electrical engineer. “When calculating transformer overloading, transformer underloading and line losses, it’s allowing us to size things properly as we’re replacing things in the field.”
Verendrye also employs the NISC Distributed Engineering Workstation (DEW). “It allows us to do near-real-time analytics – basically the next day we can go in and do a voltage study on the system,” says Brad Doll, Verendrye electrical engineer.