“You’re only as old as you feel,” according to the Düsseldorf Public Utility Company, and the company doesn’t feel half as old as its long history might lead one to expect: it has been supplying water and electricity to private and corporate customers in Düsseldorf for over 130 years. The fact that, despite longtime existence, the Public Utility Company has the energy and innovative force of a much younger company is borne out not just by the positive balance sheet. The company’s willingness to continuously adapt existing systems and structures to new requirements is also an indication of great flexibility. Thus the Düsseldorf-based energy supplier reacted to the higher degree of competitiveness in the more liberal market at an early stage. “We developed our organization further, drew up a future-oriented model, and synchronized this with the IT strategy,” reports Gert Gruben, manager of private customer sales. The company’s stated aim is to further increase its market position.
The information technology used to support the many different business activities comes from SAP. The Düsseldorf Public Utility Company has been using SAP’s ERP since 1994 – initially SAP R/2, which was upgraded to SAP R/3 in 1999. As part of the standardization of processes and the IT landscape, a decision was made in the fall of 2002 to supplement the existing SAP R/3 application with SAP for Utilities in the areas of customer service, consumption billing, receivables management, and device management. The solution, developed specially for gas, water, electricity, and waste disposal companies, enables all industry-specific requirements to be handled in an integrated environment – from master data and device management, through work and energy data management (EDM), to customer service, settlement, and contract accounts receivable and payable.
Incorporating innovations at an early stage
Düsseldorf Public Utility Company’s decision in favor of SAP for Utilities was based on a number of criteria. First, the company was impressed by the solution’s functional scope, which helped to simplify the processes relating to new energy legislation and the conditions of the deregulated energy market. Second, the company felt it was in good hands, thanks to the investment security offered by SAP.
Another important consideration was the fact that the already installed SAP components could be easily integrated in the industry solution. The modular structure and open interfaces of SAP for Utilities mean that other fields of business, such as waste disposal, can be included easily. “Thanks to the openness for growth and the cooperation model, we can also integrate future SAP innovations with SAP for Utilities and take advantage of process cost advantages,” states Gert Gruben, explaining a further reason for the strategic decision in favor of SAP for Utilities.
Once the project was launched in September 2002, the Public Utility Company specialists and the experts from the IT service provider SAP SI got to work. The aim was for the company to support all residential customers and special contract customers in all areas in the future using the SAP industry solution. The first step was the implementation of SAP for Utilities, including the migration of data from the legacy systems. Preparations for the upgrade of the SAP R/3 application with the components for financial and asset accounting, controlling, sales and distribution, materials management, plant maintenance, and service management to Release 4.6c also needed to be made. And finally, the external systems needed to be connected up.
SAP SI took over responsibility for process organization, customizing, and parts of the required programming. “The fact that we handled the largest IT project in our company’s history with SAP and SAP SI so successfully is due not least to the effective project management and leadership in the specialist area,” states Dr. Matthias Mehrtens, Information Service manager. “We thus defined milestones and strove towards these systematically. We were therefore well within schedule.” Another key factor was the well-considered procedure for the success-critical data migration: central address management and business partners were merged step by step.
Around 400 users in the Düsseldorf Public Utility Company are now working with SAP for Utilities. “Our employees got used to the new system quickly, because we provided them with comprehensive training beforehand,” says Gert Gruben. The complete integration of technical and business data simplifies processes, which – thanks to workflows – are now also more transparent and thus easier to control. Customers can register or deregister meters or make changes to their address over the Internet, and invoice and consumption data can be displayed directly. The 1,200 employees who work with SAP R/3 also benefit, because the integration of the systems creates much more transparent information, and all work processes have been optimized.
For the Public Utility Company, the first phase of the large project was a complete success. A four-month transaction measurement, carried out in parallel to the project, shows that the system is stable and the performance is very good. “We were able to optimize maintenance times and batch processes, and we also regard the fact that all these objectives could be achieved without additional IT personnel as a success,” states Dr. Matthias Mehrtens.
Further projects planned
The energy supplier’s residential customers have been successfully supported by SAP for Utilities since the beginning of 2004, and the next step will now be to transfer the data and processes of the 8,000 or so business customers to the new solution. And this is not all. Thanks to the positive experiences with SAP for Utilities, further projects are being planned. For example, preparations are being made for the use of SAP Business Intelligence, and in future, the interfaces to other systems used by the utility company will run via the SAP Exchange Infrastructure. In the medium term, the company plans to introduce SAP’s portal solution. With these measures, the Düsseldorf Public Utility Company is setting a further milestone on its SAP strategy roadmap.