As the world becomes increasingly digital and every aspect of the utility business model is being transformed, utilities companies are generating vast amounts of data. From smart meters and IoT devices to customer interactions and supply chain operations, utilities must process and analyze massive amounts of data to drive operational efficiencies, improve customer experience, and gain competitive advantages.
To do this, many utilities companies rely on data warehouses, which can be hosted on-premises or in the cloud.
Yet with data landscapes distributed among different applications and systems both in the cloud and on premises, utilities spend countless resources extracting, rebuilding, and integrating their data.
In this blog, we'll explore the benefits and opportunities that customers can expect when moving part or all their data warehouses to the cloud, with a particular focus on SAP Datasphere.
Probably the biggest product announcement from SAP in the first quarter of 2023 is the announcement of SAP Datasphere, a comprehensive data service built on the SAP Business Technology Platform that enables data professionals to provide seamless and scalable access to critical business data.
Many utility companies have already adopted analytics and data warehousing solutions to meet the challenges of a fast-changing landscape. As they continue to transform their operations to remain reliable and meet future needs, many are investing in advanced technologies and solutions.
SAP provides customers with a clear pathway to cloud adoption, offering various starting points tailored to their needs.
When it comes to data warehousing in the utility industry, we can distinguish between different approaches to get started: a hybrid approach, where some data warehouse functions remain on-premises and some are moved to the cloud, and a cloud-only approach.
Some of the benefits of a cloud-only approach are:
Scalability: Cloud-based data warehouses offer a high degree of Customers can scale up or down as needed without having to worry about investing in additional hardware or infrastructure.
Reduced capital expenditure: With a cloud-based data warehouse, customers don't need to invest in hardware or infrastructure. This eliminates the need for expensive up-front capital expenditures and ensures that customers only pay for the resources they need.
Accessibility: Cloud-based data warehouses can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection, which makes it easy for customers to collaborate and share data.
Data Security: Cloud providers offer robust security measures, including data encryption, firewalls, and access controls. Additionally, cloud providers have extensive backup and disaster recovery capabilities.
While retaining some of the benefits of a cloud-only approach, a hybrid approach may make sense for utilities who have already invested in an on-premises data warehouse: By moving only parts of a data warehouse to SAP Datasphere, utilities can take advantage of the cloud's scalability and agility while avoiding the costs and risks associated with a full migration. By moving only specific data sets or applications to the cloud, utilities can experiment with new use cases, reduce infrastructure costs, and improve overall performance without disrupting their existing operations.
SAP offers another approach to help utility companies modernize their data warehousing capabilities while preserving their investment in SAP BW/4HANA: SAP BW Bridge is a solution that addresses several challenges that arise when moving an existing data warehouse to SAP Datasphere, such as data migration, system configuration, and user adoption.
By using BW Bridge as part of SAP Datasphere, businesses can leverage their existing SAP BW/4HANA investments and seamlessly connect them to SAP Datasphere. This integration provides several benefits, including a faster time-to-value, reduced risk and disruption, and a more cost-effective migration approach. (More details can be found in the blog SAP Datasphere, SAP BW Bridge: Overview and Technical Deep Dive)
The following diagram visualizes the various approaches:
The SAP Datasphere journey for utilities has just begun. While the two approaches on the left support the full range of use cases, including many regulatory use cases, the third approach currently supports a limited set of use cases. In the future, SAP plans to provide a more native integration between SAP S/4HANA Utilities and SAP Datasphere. This will be made possible by enabling more and more Core Data Services (CDS) in SAP S/4HANA Utilities for SAP Datasphere. The result will be high performance integration and the ability to take full advantage of the capabilities of SAP HANA For more details, see the SAP Roadmap item Leveraging of SAP Datasphere for the utilities industry (log-in required).
In the following picture you find the statement of direction of SAP:
SAP Datasphere with BW Bridge and/ or SAP BW/4HANA help utilities manage key business processes, such as
Sales Statistics: Enables utilities to analyze sales data and gain insight into their revenue streams. Sales statistics can be used to generate the necessary analyses, statistics, and reports to industry associations and organizations about the quantities sold and the resulting revenues.
Unbilled Revenue Reporting: Supports balance sheet preparation by identifying billed volumes and revenues for a billing period, as well as volumes and revenues that have not yet been billed. By simulating contracts and posting data, utilities can evaluate and analyze data to determine the actual operating profit expected for the fiscal year. This process becomes more important as the time between meter reading and the balance sheet date increases.
SAP Analytics Cloud
While SAP Datasphere provides the foundation through efficient data warehousing and modelling, SAP Analytics Cloud helps business users create visualizations and dashboards as well as planning and predictive scenarios to improve data-driven decision-making. SAP Analytics Cloud gives utility business users real-time insight into integrated line-of-business data from SAP and third-party applications. The solution provides visualizations and data stories by slicing and dicing data, regardless of its size. What-if simulations illustrate the impact of decisions to drive better business outcomes.
SAP Digital Boardroom is an add-on to SAP Analytics Cloud that improves boardroom decision-making with real-time, accessible insights. SAP Digital Boardroom transforms the modern boardroom experience with a unique and engaging user experience that invites executives to interact with data and simulate the financial and operational impact of different options to make decisions with confidence.
By leveraging SAP Analytics Cloud and SAP Digital Boardroom, utilities can effectively support their business with use cases such as
Reduce asset maintenance costs and unplanned downtime by optimizing the use of resources based on the current health of critical assets and associated maintenance and replacement costs.
Improve financial planning by leveraging energy consumption and billing insights for each type of consumer and providing real-time weather, energy generation, and consumption information to the plan scheduler.
Increase customer satisfaction by optimizing the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and improving the customer experience.
Advanced data, analytics, planning, and predictive capabilities help utility companies to make better decisions in their core business processes. To do this, they need all the necessary information from multiple data sources available for real-time analytical processing.
Key benefits of SAP data warehousing and analytics solutions are
Self-service for everyone: SAP analytics solutions offer advanced self-service capabilities, empowering business users to access and analyze data without relying on IT teams. This speeds up decision-making and improves overall business performance. (For a hands-on tutorial how this works in practice, see SAP Data Warehouse Cloud: Much more than just Self-Service Data Preparation.)
Augmented planning and analytics: SAP analytics solutions provide simulation and forecasting capabilities that help organizations make more informed decisions, identify potential risks and opportunities, and develop effective strategies.
Real-time analytics: SAP analytics solutions offer real-time analytics capabilities, enabling organizations to quickly access the data they need to make informed decisions and take proactive measures to address issues or capitalize on opportunities.
End-to-end analytics: SAP analytics solutions provide a seamless and integrated approach to managing data and analytics processes, from the business system to the data fabric to the analytics and planning functions. This reduces the risk of errors and improves efficiency.
Several utilities have already seen success after implementing SAP data warehousing and analytics solutions, including Gelsenwasser, a German water, electricity, and gas utility. With ConVista Sales Intelligence Cloud, based on SAP Analytics Cloud, they were able to improve their end-to-end planning process and planning quality, resulting in significant savings in planning time and effort. (See the slide Gelsenwassersignificantly improves quality of planning thanks to SAPAnalytics Cloud.)
With SAP Datasphere, SAP Analytics Cloud, and SAP BW powered by SAP HANA, Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas can quickly turn data into actionable insights to stay competitive in the industry with increased reporting efficiency and a single version of the truth. (See the slide Gaining Better Insights and Forecasts with Cloud Solutions.)
SAP Datasphere is a new data service built on the SAP Business Technology Platform that enables utilities to access business data seamlessly and at scale. As utilities generate vast amounts of data, SAP Datasphere provides benefits such as scalability, cost savings, accessibility, and data security. Utilities can adopt a cloud-only approach, a hybrid approach where only parts of the data warehouse move to the cloud or use the SAP BW Bridge to leverage their existing investments in SAP BW/4HANA in the cloud. On top of SAP Datasphere, SAP Analytics Cloud provides advanced analytics, planning, and predictive capabilities to enable better data-driven decision-making, and SAP Digital Boardroom is an add-on that provides real-time insights into integrated line-of-business data for top decision-makers in utilities companies.
We are always interested in what our customers want to do with these innovations and what questions they have. Feel free to comment below the article and contact us with your questions.
This blog was co-authored by
joachim.stiehl and jutta.weissing-hess (Product Management Utilities), raik.kulinna and bpincolini (Solution Management Utilities) and 553538 (Customer Advisory Utilities)