Just two days after Valentine’s Day, love was still in the air. How else could we describe the perfect match between SAP’s solutions and the way they address the specific needs of utilities? To celebrate this match – and to show utilities how SAP accelerates business in their sector – we decided to host our first annual Utilities & SAP event.

No sales talks, but an afternoon showcasing SAP’s utilities solutions and discussing how they address the energy challenges of today and tomorrow. To top it all off, we had the honour – and we don’t use this word lightly – of welcoming Daniela Sellmann, Global VP and Head of Utilities at SAP as our keynote speaker. She gave us first-hand insights into the Utilities unit’s roadmap for the future. Needless to say there are interesting times ahead for utilities. The sector is transforming quicker than ever, but with the right tools at your disposal, you can take your company and your customers to a future of smarter and greener digitised energy consumption and production.

 

What challenges does the utilities sector face today?

First of all, utilities rely on several regulations that are often very specific to the country in which they are operating. Legislation does not always change quickly, but when it does, companies have to implement those changes for millions of consumers. In addition, providers such as SAP need to make sure their solutions meet the regulatory requirements of all markets they enter. That’s why SAP actively looks for partners on a regional and a national level. Or, as Daniela Sellmann explaineds, partners like TheValueChain, who help tailor their systems for specific markets.

This is not a new challenge. What is new, however, is the fact that the utilities sector is quickly digitising. And this has several repercussions. Customers now expect their providers to be available at all times across all channels – from phone and mail to text message and social media. They also expect a quick response.

These consumers increasingly want real-time insights into energy usage and production. Smart meters, currently being rolled out in Belgium, will make this possible. Grid operators will also have access to this meter data. But it’s not just meters that are connected. With the rise of the smart grid, all assets in the network will generate copious amounts of data that need to be processed.

Moreover, customers are no longer just consumers, as Daniela Sellmann stressed. They are prosumers, generating their own power with their solar panels and injecting the excess back into the grid. They may also be flexsumers who store their power locally in home batteries or electric cars to reuse when they need it. As such, they reduce their dependence on the grid and put less strain on it. The latter is important in light of the increasing electrification of buildings, with electric cars and heat pumps replacing fossil fuels. Decarbonisation is another evolution shaking the utilities sector.

This move towards greater self-sufficiency makes the grid greener, but it also requires utilities to develop other business models: new services for new types of energy users.

 

How does SAP help utilities tackle these challenges? The SAP roadmap

In her presentation on the strategic roadmap of SAP’s Utilities business unit, Daniela Sellmann also addressed several of these challenges, particularly those related to decarbonisation, flexsumers and distributed energy resources. She discussed how the company is building end-to-end solutions that will enable utilities to cope with these evolutions, from generation to distribution and retail. Many of these solutions were developed in close cooperation with utilities from around the globe; an example of how SAP values co-creation and co-innovation, much like we do at TheValueChain.

In addition, Daniela Sellmann highlighted SAP’s ongoing efforts to contribute to a more sustainable energy market. The company strives to become net zero along its value chain by 2030 and is part of the CEO Alliance for Europe, uniting 13 leading companies across industries working towards a more prosperous, sustainable and resilient Europe. Furthermore, with a tool such as the Sustainability Control Tower, SAP enables companies to gather reliable sustainability data, create auditable ESG reports, make informed decisions, and, most importantly, act.

Finally, Daniela Sellmann warmly invited us to the International SAP Conference for Utilities in Basel, Switzerland, from 18 to 20 April.

 

A showcase of key solutions available today

All of these evolutions and challenges may seem daunting for the utilities sector. However, with the right solutions, they become opportunities to accelerate business growth. To showcase the possibilities of the powerful tools that SAP offers today, we invited four of our specialists to discuss specific use cases and how to tackle them with SAP’s utilities solutions.

SAP Innovation Architect and SAP Mentor Geert-Jan Klaps stressed the importance of ‘keeping the core clean’ as a means to speed up innovation. Legacy custom code is a problem in many organisations, not just utilities, and leads to a slower time to market, more complex projects and unexpected issues during upgrades. To remedy this, companies should work towards a clean SAP core. In his talk, Geert-Jan Klaps discussed the clean core methodology, its benefits and how to work towards a clean core.
Jeroen Poot, CX Unit Lead, addressed how omnichannel intakes are a must for utilities in a digitising world. With consumers now not only calling or e-mailing your service agents, but also chatting with chatbots and human agents and messaging them on social media (and expecting a swift response), a 360° view of your customer is crucial. SAP Service Cloud provides your service centre with a user-friendly toolset that supports omnichannel communication and facilitates access to a knowledge base to better help your customers.
Pieter Bangels, Utilities Unit Lead, focused on SAP Field Service Management. This solution can be part of an end-to-end service process and allows users to schedule and dispatch technicians. Meanwhile, the latter have a mobile application to assist them in their operations and log all necessary data, which is stored in SAP. As such, SAP FSM is a valuable addition to utilities’ SAP systems, as it helps them to accelerate operations in the field.

Pieter Bangels also discussed how SAP’s Market Process Management helps optimise market communication among utilities. This is all too often a cause for headaches, as there are several less-than-ideal solutions and tedious workarounds required. With SAP MPM, these are a thing of the past and market communication is smoother than ever.
Oleh Korolyk, Utilities Industry Lead, demonstrated how SAP now allows utilities to combine commodity and non-commodity services on one invoice. Previously, billing and invoicing non-commodity services required complex workarounds or even manual work. With BRIM (Billing and Revenue Innovation Management), SAP brings a flexible and modular solution to optimise non-commodity invoicing. Simultaneous commodity and non-commodity invoicing is no longer a distant dream.

 

Ready for tomorrow’s utilities landscape

As the energy industry is rapidly evolving, it’s critical that utilities companies partner with SAP experts who understand the unique challenges of this sector. TheValueChain is the largest and most experienced SAP Utilities partner in Belgium, with a dedicated team of 40 consultants that bring unparalleled expertise to your project. This not only includes SAP knowledge, but also deep industry knowhow. As such, you can be sure you’re getting the most comprehensive and effective solutions available.

And it’s not just technical expertise that sets us apart. At TheValueChain, we’re committed to co-innovation and collaboration with our clients. We take the time to understand your case and work with you to develop tailored solutions. That’s how we help you accelerate your business and stay ahead of the curve in a sector that’s always in motion.

Want to put us to the test? Contact us for a demo of SAP’s utilities solutions at your company.