“Small and midsize utility companies such as municipal authorities are facing a tough time”, explains Lars Austermann, Head of Sales at the SAP Business Partner BTC Business Technology Consulting AG. “They not only have to overcome the challenges presented by greater competitive pressure but, since April 2000, they have had to address the issues of the government regulations arising from the German ‘Renewable Energy Act’ and rising energy taxes. Tariff systems and, as a result, accounting and controlling are becoming increasingly complex”, continues Lars Austermann. The industry has also seen changes to company structure such as “unbundling”, in which network services and power generation/energy sales functions must be divided into separate business units. Unbundling must only be carried out in companies of a certain size but it also has an effect on companies which are not directly affected in legal terms because it changes the process workflows of all players on the market. This can have massive effects on the IT structures of the utility companies because it essentially makes it necessary to have separate data for the network operating company and the energy sales company either as a two-client model or as a two-system model.
Mapping processes end-to-end
Off the shelf software solutions are no longer suitable for mapping the increased requirements, workflows and processes of utility companies, says Austermann, explaining the situation facing small and midsize utilities. These companies have to entrust their commercial and technical processes to an IT system that is a future-proof investment due to its high level of integration and established market position. BTC has therefore developed myEnergy, a qualified mySAP All-in-One solution based on the SAP R/3 standard, and the industry solution SAP IS-U/CCS in which the majority of business processes employed by the utility companies are already preconfigured. According to BTC, customization to the specific requirements of SMBs is possible at any time on the basis of these presettings. “The solution covers all the relevant processes of utility companies”, states Lars Austermann.
The modular industry solution is described by Lars Austermann as “a software building kit whose individual modules can also be used independently of each other.” BTC has four modules available – myEnergy.BA (business management applications), myEnergy.KM (customer management), myEnergy.GS (geographical information systems) and myEnergy.NK (network calculation). Both general business operations such as sales, financial accounting, materials management, personnel management and consumption accounting, and industry-specific processes are preset in the individual modules. For instance, there are special user interfaces for managing lines/mains and rights of way for building projects, domestic connection management and pipe network accounting. These are accompanied by add-ons for e.g. reading, accounting and invoicing or for stock management via wireless and MDE devices including barcode scanners, and an interface for the automatic transfer of the SAP-PAISY employee hours recorded in SAP to the PAISY system.
A complete solution is essential
According to BTC, data entries on all the user interfaces are linked to the central document management system. This means that users in controlling can access all the available data at any time using a master project management module and monitor any investment using this data. In order to make the authorization process for building projects easier, the user interface for managing lines/mains and rights of way has standardized interfaces with licensing authorities. The BTC programmers have also integrated a visual archiving system into their software package which can be used by anyone involved in the respective process to call up and view invoices and memos at any time. The documents have a barcode for this purpose. If desired, a geographical information system (GIS) can also be integrated into myEnergy. It opens up the possibility of visualizing all the information with a geographical reference with the click of a mouse either as a map or as pie or bar charts.
According to Lars Austermann, BTC’s myEnergy solution represents an “all-round, worry-free package” for small and midsize utilities. “We offer the solution as a complete package including licensing, migration, introduction and operation at a fixed price”, continues Austermann. BTC estimates it takes an average of between eight and twelve weeks to introduce myEnergy depending on the size of the project and range of services required. And what are the system requirements? “None”, answers Austermann. “The option of operating the solution in the BTC data center using the ASP process means that the customer doesn’t even have to have his own system landscape.” This enables significant potential savings particularly in terms of IT operating costs and “the time is now ripe” for this, adds Austermann in conclusion.