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When discussing on SAP for Utilities features and use cases we mostly focus on electricity. Topics such as energy billing, smartgrid, unbundling, prosumers or smart meters get most of the attention while tending to forget that water and its specific subjects  and requirements have also accommodation in SAP portfolio combining the need to introduce new water specific business processes together with the needs of leveraging costs, improve efficiency, compliance with regulatory requirements, improve customer service and consolidate information systems. Result is that from 1.600 + Utility companies using SAP portfolio applications and technologies 200+ are Water and Waste Water companies. 

And this portfolio of applications has been successfully implemented in water companies around the world. A business system which can support in a single instance and integrated datamodel all processes of a company, this is the Backoffice, Commercial System and Analytics, with more than 20 years in the market provides a great assurance to get all functions and features needed, knowledgeable resources to support implementation and maintenance, high standardization and low TCO.

Support of SAP Portfolio of the Water Value Chain. High level conceptual view, the “integrated platform concept”

The idea of adopting a complete integrated platform to manage their specific business processes is still unique in the market after nearly 20 years of availability. This period of time has proven useful to show that while the application and technology Portfolio provided by SAP evolves on yearly basis companies can benefit by adopting new pieces of technology and functionality available or upgrading regularly their systems. This is the case of the water company of the city of Manila (now as Maynilad Water Services, Philippines), which implemented SAP ERP and IS-Utilities in early year 2000 and, based on such evolution, recently performed a major system upgrade which was awarded for its innovative approach and outstanding results. Or the case of Farys (former TMVW, based in Gent, Belgium ) which recently presented a use case of their roadmap evolution at on occasion of their upgrade to S4Hana

Farys roadmap, summary snapshot presented at the the 10th SAP International Utilities Conference, Le Hague April 2016. 

Adoption of SAP ERP portfolio to manage these business processes which are independent of the industry, such as Financials, controlling, purchasing or inventory management (this is known as Backoffice processes), is the largest component adopted  among water companies worldwide. One reference use case recently published is Empresa Pública Metropolitana de Agua y Saneamiento, this is the water company of the city of Quito, the capital of Ecuador,  where its CFO quoted that they selected SAP “because we want to be the best

Aguas de Quito, use case brochure. Available in spanish

A focus area of the Backoffice is Human Capital Management where the adoption of Success Factors is helping companies to manage processes of Personnel Administration and Organisation management with more transparency and easy use. This is the case of the Metropolitan Utilities District, that operates the drinking water and natural gas systems for Omaha, Nebraska and surrounding areas.

Metropolitan Utilities District presentation at the SAP for Utilities Conference, California, 2015.

Getting into the portfolio of applications and functionalities to manage the technical assets in its full lifecycle, this is from investment to commission and maintenance, there are complete use cases presented by companies in order to face challenges such as the lack of visibility into its own network assets, improve the management of leaks or improve the accuracy of the equipment, such as valves, pumps or meters.

However, current trend is more focus in the pursue of the assurance that ongoing and future water supply big capital investments to manage and improve current infrastructures ( many of them being very old ) have to be effectively implemented and traced: Portfolio Management, Construction process support, Financial Asset Management, Technical  Master Data Quality or efficient maintenance approach using mobile technologies are part of the scope.

Publiacqua Workforce Management Project use case. SAP for Utilities Conference,  Manheim 2014.

Metering and Supply Data Management have shifted in the last years from an efficient mechanical meter management, not only device specific processes but also meter reading organisation and control, towards an approach on improving the processes (and the costs) of water consumption. This is from the water sampling analysis along the whole network, as the case of Mekorot in Israel, to link onsite the process of metering and billing – invoicing using mobile technology as the case of ONEE in Morocco or the opposite, this is the implementation of water smart meters in order to trigger new efficiency processes such as water demand side management (change customer consumption behavior) or a more effective and proactive leak detection and calculation.

     Enemalta. Water Smart metering use case.

When considering as “Backoffice” all support to processes used by all companies, this is non industry specific such as purchasing and financials, the application which supports the Meter to Cash process, this is  Customer service, Billing and collections, is known as “Commercial Backoffice” and the possibility of a joint integration (physical or logical) of both systems  (ERP and IS-U) is the largest value proposal of this platform. As can be seen at the below copied screenshot from a use case presentation of Acueducto de Bogotá (Colombia), the implementation of SAP portfolio enabled not only the physical integration of their commercial systems into one single data model but to have a complete end to end process coverage of the meter to cash process. While System integration is one of the main drivers of triggering implementation projects, currently the goal of water companies to become customer centric organisations, had raised the need to implement processes and systems focused on the customer and find that SAP Portfolio can help delivering a an end-to-end customer centric solution for marketing, quotations, contracts, customer service, billing, payments and credit management.

Empresa de Acueducto y Alcantarillado de Bogotá ESP. Use Case presentation, Guadalajara 2008.

Technology and Functions for comprehensive Reporting and Analysis is a proof of reliability of the Platform. While a consolidated system in a single datamodel may improve the efficiency, Analytics help Improving business decisions by “presenting the right information to the right people at the right time and in right way”:  Dashboards, self service “slice and dice” as well as detailed drill down reporting can be tailored to each role or position in the organisation. As can be seen in the screenshot below copied from Water of the city of Köln (Germany), such reports help improving the technical asset maintenance and not only gather data from the IT platform but also acess reporting insights via maps and some operation data, this is IT – OT integration.

     Stadtentwässerungsbetriebe Köln use case, SAP Enterprise Asset Management Conference 2011.

Once completed the review in high level of the basic components which configure the SAP for Water platform, it is the place where to provide a conclusion:  Is this a platform for the future? . There are several are areas and use cases which may help to evaluate and enable to reach a conclusion. One of them is the technology shift, by adopting the S4Hana Platform, which may bring a wave of simplification and new functions and features for the future. As can be seen in the Farys example above, some companies already moved in order to take benefit of these features, such as simple finance or Fiori User Interface. Another benefit is the tight integration with other systems and platforms of the company landscape, not only IT applications but Operationals, such as Geographical Information Systems (GIS) through the Geonablement capabilities of the platform, or SCADA systems in order to trigger condition based or predictive maintenance strategies. However, seems tha tthe area which may indicate how this platform is ready for the future may be on the adoption of market liberalization practices in the water market.

Thames water use case presentation. Compilation of slides in a summary snapshot. Presented at the the 10th SAP International Utilities Conference, Le Hague April 2016

As can be seen in the picture above of the use case presented  by Thames Water (London Region, UK), water market liberalization is not only an idea but it is becoming a fact in some countries and requires not only to change the culture of the water companies, as electricity and gas have been experiencing since market liberalization and unbundling processes started in some countries around the world, but also need to adapt and evolve their IT platforms in order to fulfill such new requirements. And we think we can help.

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