On our latest episode of The Best Run Podcast, I caught up with Fionn Gilmour, Delivery Manager of Operations Technology for AGL Energy. We explored his company’s digital transformation journey, looking at the benefits and considerations businesses should be conscious of when considering the move to the cloud.
Fionn noted that he joined AGL in May 2017. “That was a few days just before we kicked off our digital transformation program, otherwise known as PT3,” he explained. “I had several roles throughout the program, primarily starting in the work management space and then moving into some analytics and BPC areas – so I got a really good spread of experience across the program.”
With over 11 years working in the utilities and SAP space, Fionn’s primary role now is supporting AGL’s energy-generation sites. “I work with the technology team and focus on delivering new capability on our brand new S4/HANA platform. The focus is really delivering new solutions and capabilities to our integrated business energy unit, so AGL is really focused on all our power stations throughout Australia, which includes our coal, thermal science, gas, wind, solar, hydro, and soon, very excitingly, our grid-scale batteries.
“What we also do is support AGL in our drive around acquiring new business. Every time we buy a new company, they come into our technology team to help bring them onto our existing S4/HANA platform.”
Fionn said shifting from an on-premise to a cloud-based solution has given AGL greater consistency, transparency, and control over its vast network of sites and functions. “Prior to PT3, we had over 50 legacy ERP applications around the business because we’d acquired a lot of energy businesses to secure those energy sites.”
According to Fionn, this transformation journey was delivered by AGL internally, collaborating with various partners throughout the program’s implementation. “We decided not to go outside and bring in a large consulting company, so it was effectively managed and delivered by AGL people with a lot of help from obviously SAP, but also a lot of consulting partners as well. It was a really great project team because it was heavy with businesspeople and technology people, so quite a unique deployment.”
AGL has been making ongoing investments into its technology, Fionn explained, not only in digital transformation, but other backend processes that helped a majority of its 4,000 staff members move to remote working during the pandemic outbreak.
“SAP S4/HANA was just one of the key ingredients, but it has given us far more operational transparency across our business.”
“One of the challenges of having 50 ERPs across your business is that it makes it very hard to have visibility of activities happening or have trust in data. Having a single platform certainly gives a greater view of information that comes out of our various business units, providing a lot more trust in that we know the data is right in having one platform.”
Another key benefit Fionn highlighted was the significant improvement in AGL’s flexibility for managing business change. “AGL, just like any other utility at the moment, is going through a period of change where the future is very uncertain, so we have to be flexible and nimble. Having one platform provides that flexibility.
“In recent times, we purchased a new energy business in Western Australia, and over a period, we were able to bring that onto our existing S 4/HANA platform so that business aligns with the AGL way of working, which has been great to see.”
AGL implemented other SAP cloud-based solutions to further streamline and standardise its internal processes. “Our business has a lot of contingent workers that support us, so we rely on SAP Fieldglass quite heavily for that,” Fionn said. “We’re also using SAP Ariba to support our procurement process. It was quite exciting to see those two cloud products heavily integrated into our platform as well.
“We digitalised 78 business processes, so it’s been fantastic that all those processes are on state-of-the-art technology that works whether you’re sitting inside the office or at home, maybe if you’re lucky enough even on the beach, or even on mobile devices. With that technology, it has certainly given us a lot of flexibility as an organisation.”
Fionn expressed that the big two factors for a successful transformation are about business support and basing decision on people. “Through our digital transformation, we had business people from across our business and corporate functions that were embedded in the team. That enabled us to make sure we weren’t just delivering a technology solution, but we were also delivering a business solution.
“The second thing I would like to call out with these activities is that your people should always be the focus in everything that you do. Ultimately, it’s a people-based solution, so you need to make sure you’re thinking about how they’ll be using the tool in the future and what sort of change impacts that might have.”
For businesses considering this cloud-based solution, Fionn offers some important tips for kickstarting a digital transformation journey. “One – don’t be afraid of S4/HANA. There are a lot of known unknowns in that space, but I highly recommend getting onto that platform and doing it as quickly as you can. All the incredible new capabilities that SAP are releasing are all built for the S4/HANA stack.
“Two – focus on people and change. It really is the most important area because if people don’t embrace the technology, you won’t be able to deliver on the benefits of such an implementation.
“Three – user experience should always be front of mind, so make sure you put the right focus and attention into delivering solutions that help people through their day-to-day activities.
“And finally – study the S4/HANA simplification lists just to understand what is in and out from each version. There is a lot of critical information in those documents, so I highly recommend you study those so there aren’t any surprises.”
To hear more from my discussion with Fionn, check out the latest episode of SAP’s The Best Run Podcast.