Think Tank Recap – What are on the minds of Utilities?

The following article is written by Tammy Powlas, Senior Business Analyst at Fairfax Water and SAP Mentor. The originally published piece can be found on SAP’s blog.


The SAP for Utilities conference team came to Newtown Square yesterday, bringing utilities peers together for an interactive discussion on the biggest challenges, trends and opportunities utilities are facing today.  This was my second time attending, as I attended first back in 2016.

Led by IBM, this half-day event was an opportunity to collaborate with other industry professionals on common pain points and solutions within today’s landscape.


8:00 AM: Breakfast, coffee and informal networking
8:30 AM: Conversation led by you, facilitated by an industry expert
12:00 PM: Lunch and networking
1:00 PM: Session concludes

This research discussion is part of Eventful Conferences’ blueprint for the 2018 SAP for Utilities conference.

Jen Mellace, Head of Research & Production at Eventful Conferences, said this was the 11th year for SAP for Utilities conference in North America. She said part of their research is to understand what customers want to learn about and things they want to hear. She also said this is made easy by the fact that utilities aren’t competitive with each other.

We started out by introducing ourselves, who we are, where we’re from, and a offering fun facts.

IBM lead the roundtable/discussion portion.

First, we split up into 4 groups to discuss 5-10 pain points our utilities are facing.


Group One

Group 1 discussed the following topics:

  • Front office replacement; CIC0 is deprecated is in S/4HANA. Options? Hybris, C4C, CRM embedded S/4HANA?
  • Customer enablement / customer centric – getting data to the customer; we use multi channel, some customers felt this was a too expensive option; getting customer to paperless
  • Analytics – BW/4HANA for Utilities content exists, how can we get there?
    SAP Analytics Cloud – predictive aspects
  • Operational Data/Enterprise Data
    • Master data management
  • GIS integration
    • Change management
    • “3 required fields to create a notification” – Loudoun Water presentation from last week’s ASUG Virginia Chapter meeting
    • Alliander demo from an ASUG webcast


Group 2

Group 2 discussed the following:

  • Culture and process change with new implementation
    • Slow to adoption
  • S/4HANA Roadmap Definition + data analytics
    • Peripheral impact (GRC, Leonardo)
    • Should we do something in next 1-2 years to have it ripped out?
    • What should we do?
  • Data Analytics Self Service – great data captured, how normalize data, how choose and use the correct products to empower the user
  • Data Warehousing options, pros and cons
  • Getting the most out of standard functionality
    • SQXX
  • S/4HANA Business Case
    • Treasury, consolidation, BPC – replace Hyperion
    • Business case for S/4HANA Utilities period
    • Backlog of quandary – invest in bots, cognitive thinking, intelligence, where make additional investment
  • Net New/Greenfield
  • Peripheral – GRC, SucessFactors, Leonardo, Ariba


Group 3

Group 3 discussed the following:

  • Bad Debt Expense – metrics
  • BPEM Case Management – BDex to implement
    • Replication – CRM to backend
    • Debugging application issue
  • Data integration
  • Multichannel foundation
  • Deployment – agile, minimal viable product and waterfall


Group 4

Group 4 discussed the following:

  • Meter procurement process – best practice? Purchase to retirement, tracking to level
  • Aging workforce – PG&E, Skunkworks; recruit new employees; company loyalty; transient workforce; standardize training (augmented reality with meter); expose work force to emerging technology
  • Culture change and new process
  • Meter data management / AMI (water does not have time of use) – how to manage for water space; no on demand readings for water, remote disconnects
  • Wants vs. needs – standard SAP functionality



  • IBM suggested getting involved with the ASUG Utilities Community
  • What we didn’t discuss as groups:
    • Security/IoT
    • GDPR for Utilities; applies to European Citizens here
    • Blockchain? No one exploring
      Robotics – no AI
    • One company is doing a robotics pilot, learning sprints – bot needs to understand
    • Other utilities have innovation hubs with bots hands off, RPA
    • Another company is looking into drones for inspections (tower inspections for safety) – hi res, low level images for GIS

Top 10/11 Items we “voted” on:

  1. SAP’s roadmap for S/4HANA for Utilities
  2. Path for S/4HANA – Roadmap – Utilities, peripheral, IS-U
  3. Advanced Analytics
  4. Data Governance/Stewardship
  5. Workforce – retain, store, excite (safety), – reg & safety – certification/qualification
  6. Process and change, optimization, digitization
  7. Getting the most – leverage the most of what you have – optimize current investment – run sustain
  8. Integration systems, GIS, PowerPlan, OMS (outage management)
  9. Front office replacement – roadmap – call center direction, (C4C, Hybris)
  10. Customer centric
  11. IT/OT/data convergence and enablement

Time to vote – what topics are important?

  • Green means important to my utility, yellow means topic is relevant but not to me, red means not relevant at all.
  • Looks like SAP’s Roadmap has the most “green” circles, with IT convergence /enabling receiving the fewest.
  • How did we do?  What did we miss?




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