Fairfax Water Taps SAP Communities for Mission-Critical Insight

Doing more with less seems to be the standard mantra for a lot of businesses these days. Fairfax Water, the largest public water utility in Virginia, is no exception. With only 400 employees, the company runs lean, yet manages to serve about 1.7 million customers. How do they do it? Is there something in the, ahem, water over there? Hardly.

Tammy Powlas, active SAP Mentor, ASUG volunteer and senior business analyst of Fairfax Water tells me it has something to do with the power of SAP for Utilities solutions. But that’s not all. It seems Fairfax is thirsty for more insight about how to get the most out of their current and future SAP investments. Enter, SAP Community Network.

“We have 1.7 million customers using the SAP utility solution so that makes us slightly unique compared to others,” she said. “And that’s why we rely on SAP Community Network. We’re a small shop that’s called upon to handle a variety of different tasks.”

Tammy said she is currently knee-deep in a handful of projects related to SAP Solution Manager and SAP IT Service Desk Operation. Both will help Fairfax better manage its IT processes, especially within SAP. “There are a lot of good SAP Solution Manager blogs on the community network that we’ve used quite a bit for guidance.”

I’ve heard a lot of conflicting opinions about the value of SAP Solution Manager so thought it couldn’t hurt to ask Tammy to weigh in. As a seasoned IT pro, Tammy is a firm believer in the term “patch well, patch often” and thinks this holds particularly true for SAP Solution Manager. The new support pack for instance, contains a lot of new functionality and SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse reports. “The beauty is that you don’t need to know SAP NetWeaver BW to continue with it on SAP Solution Manager,” she says. “Workcenters also eliminate the need for the standard GUI. SAP has really made SAP Solution Manager much more seamless and easy to use.”

In addition to supporting daily operations and getting up to speed on SAP Solution Manager, Tammy is busy working on an SAP BusinessObjects software proof of concept and needs to determine what landscape to use. Thankfully, she has found a wealth of information on SAP Community Network, a majority of which comes from active community blogger Ingo Hilgefort.

Ingo created webinars for different SAP BusinessObjects landscapes, which helped Fairfax map out its own SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence platform. Even working with other SAP BusinessObjects software like SAP BusinessObjects Analysis software, SAP Crystal solutions and Xcelsius software, there is a lot of relevant information on the community network about installation and integrating with SAP, according to Tammy. “I check out SAP Community Network everyday for the blogs and SAP University Alliances. It’s a great exchange of information and will definitely help us with our broader SAP BusinessObjects software go-live in 2011.”

Certainly, one could easily surmise that Fairfax is saving time and money by tapping the value of SAP Community Network. But how does this translate into cold, hard ROI with regards to the company’s broader SAP utility footprint? Tammy said the time to close Fairfax’s financial books has been significantly reduced. In addition, Fairfax’s operations are more transparent and real time, which wasn’t the case pre-SAP. “Our customers want to be sure we’re good stewards of the money,” said Tammy. “SAP and the community network enable us to fulfill the unique obligation we have to our customers.”