Drawing on a Continuously Fresh Supply of Integrated Data and Processes

As a regional multiutility enterprise, Mainova AG supplies approximately 460,000 households in Germany’s Rhine-Main region with electricity and natural gas heating and water. Dedicated to achieving the highest possible customer satisfaction, Mainova develops forward-looking energy concepts, advises consumers on how to save energy, and operates state-of-the-art power plants.

Detailed OnlineService of Mainova
Detailed OnlineService of Mainova

With its redesigned Web site, Mainova now provides key processes for its residential customers. Customers can now update their own master data and address data, change banking information, or enter their own meter readings online. “No longer restricted by office hours, our customers are really taking advantage of this Web service. They appreciate its ease of use and the fact that it’s fast and much more transparent than traditional communication channels ever were,” says Anke Morlath, e-business manager at Mainova. Mainova has also simplified its processes, eliminated information loss due to media switches, and improved data quality and customer retention, boosting Mainova’s image.

Integration of front end and back end a priority

The goals of the project
The goals of the project

Mainova had estimated a turnaround time of six months to implement its variation of SAP’s energy industry solution (now known as SAP for Utilities), a technically complex solution introduced in 2002. Mainova’s goals from May to November 2003 were first to develop a rough concept, then a detailed concept or realization, a trial run, preproduction, production support, plus maximized integration of the Web site front end viewed by customers with the corporate SAP back end. To achieve these goals, Mainova needed to clarify, among other things, which target audience it wanted to address. Should only direct debit customers be able to use OnlineService or those who paid cash, too? What are the company’s relevant services and how can they be modeled by event-controlled process chains? In implementing this project, Mainova was determined to carry out an extended and thorough trial phase of more than six weeks – a wise choice because it guaranteed an error-free, stable, and high-performance application.

Another challenge was to offer Mainova’s customers and customer representatives maximum ease of use. This was enabled by a high degree of system integration (and, thus, consistent data), an optimal user interface, and the deployment of workflow technology. The highest degree of interaction was with employees from Mainova’s e-business, IT, sales, accounting, and marketing departments, plus with an external service provider, bpc AG. Mainova’s e-business department headed up the project, and its IT department provided system infrastructure. bpc AG shared its experience with portal solutions for energy providers, such as Stadtwerke Bochum, and with various implementations of the SAP energy solution.

Proven data quality

Achieving high data quality was a top priority for Mainova. Wolfgang Janik, private banking manager at Mainova, sums it up this way: “Better data means lower costs.” That’s why Mainova verifies its front end data by predefined routines – such as for address or banking data or meter readings – and then transports them to the SAP solution.

In Mainova’s solution, SAP work items in the customer interaction center send services whose workflow logic data cannot be extracted directly to the SAP vertical market solution to a customer representative. The rep is queried as to whether the data should be edited or released, whether notes should be stored, or whether the customer should receive an e-mail confirmation. A specific workflow regulates data processing.

When customers edit data online, the SAP solution can determine who carried out which processes at what time. This lets Mainova determine how the service is being used and which business partners changed their banking information.

SAP Web AS and SAP EP closely collaborating

For its OnlineService, Mainova relies on state-of-the-art technology to further improve customer retention and interaction. These services are based on SAP Web Application Server 6.20 and SAP Enterprise Portal 5.0, parts of the SAP NetWeaver integration and application platform. SAP Enterprise Portal is at the core of Mainova’s application, controlling all the processes and providing functionality for all OnlineService, including single sign on and help text maintained in the content management system. An LDAP server acts as the main instance for storing necessary user data.

Services were generated by SAP Web Application Server, then connected to the portal. “Business Server Pages (BSP) were used for development, merging the functionality of browser-supported HTML Web applications with SAP’s own ABAP programming language,” says Morlath. Integrated by the portal and SAP Web Application Server, OnlineService correlates seamlessly with the Mainova Web site. When viewing static Mainova Web site content (with the RedDot Content Management System), users are unaware of any switch to the interactive OnlineService (run by SAP Enterprise Portal and SAP Web AS), launched by navigating or rapid access buttons implemented on the main page.

OnlineService functions and access to Mainova data and processes modeled in the SAP solution are enabled by ABAP programs on SAP Web AS. SAP Web AS developers can leverage all of the Web’s functionality, plus the power of SAP’s development tools, which competitors’ solutions are unable to offer.

OnlineService primarily used during the evening

To meet the needs of customers, Mainova has apparently struck a chord with its high-tech service offering. “Since going live in December 2003, more than 1,500 customers have signed up online, using this new form of communication primarily on weekends or between 8 p.m. and midnight,” says up Bernhard Vogt, department manager for marketing and sales strategy at Mainova. “Our OnlineService is a classic win-win situation. We can optimize our processes and achieve higher customer retention, while our customers profit from the data transparency and more flexible timing.”

In addition to continuously optimizing existing customer scenarios, the company plans to launch additional services, such as flat-rate payment for residential customers and additional services for corporate customers. In this context, Mainova wants to leverage the knowledge acquired in its OnlineService for future projects.

Tobias Zierau
Tobias Zierau