Delivering Business Strategy

Perspectives on delivering business strategy for SAP customers

SAP for Utilities and the Digital Lemur

Reduce exceptions in SAP CR&B

I have recently returned from the 8th annual SAP for Utilities conference for North America; held this year in beautiful Huntington Beach, California.

This was my 4th year in attendance and as always it was the ideal opportunity for the SAP for Utilities ecosystem to meet and discuss the key topics, market trends and technical developments affecting the industry.

Key themes throughout the conference were digital disruption and the Digital Utility. Digital disruption is the impact that occurs when new digital technologies and business models affect the value proposition of existing businesses.

As I mentioned in my recent webinar, the modern consumer is connected from the time they wake up to the moment they fall asleep. Driven by their experiences with innovative companies like Amazon, Netflix and Uber, not only do they expect to interact with Utilities through multiple channels, they also want their experiences to be customized to reflect their own preferences.

With the balance of power increasingly shifting towards the consumer, Utilities have to find a way to increase levels of customer service and satisfaction.

Utility 2.0 needs to have cohesion across all of the customer journeys, across all channels, underpinned by a strong digital core.

As we heard from SAP America President Jennifer Morgan’s opening keynote, the pace of technology adoption is rapidly advancing. Utilities should not fear disruption, they should embrace it and even create their own.

It’s not going to go away, or shift down a gear. The astonishing pace of disruption opens up countless opportunities for innovation.

“Change today has never happened this fast...ever...and it will never happen this slowly again”. Jennifer Morgan, SAP North America President.

In the Age of the customer it's all about how fast you can respond

In the day one closing keynote, JD Power’s Jeff Conklin outlined the four drivers of high performance brands: Eradicate problems, anywhere/anytime, communicate to engage and personalize interactions.

On the subject of anywhere/anytime, he stated that utilities need to ‘Get Ready to Chat’, a message that particularly resonated with me, as I believe this is channel that is currently underused by many utility companies and something that Basis are looking at, to provide tools that can better equip utilities for self service customer engagement.

Leaders are Lemurs

The unexpected downpour on day two of the conference did not dampen anyone’s spirits. The day started with two excellent keynote sessions. Firstly Steve Lucas, President of Platform Solutions at SAP, continued the discussion on the Digital Utility.

He outlined that Utilities facing the digital era should not be ostriches, burying their heads in the sand, or fish following the crowd but rather lemurs because they are adaptable, agile and hyper aware. ‘Leaders are Lemurs’ serves as a unique rally cry to senior utilities executives facing the challenges of digital disruption.

For the 2nd keynote, we were privileged to have Lt Commander Rourke Denver, a 13 year veteran of the US Navy SEALs talk to us about the qualities of leadership.

In a profession where poor decisions can literally cost lives, there are few people more qualified to talk about the qualities of effective leadership.

Commander Denver told us about the advice he received during his SEAL training, that people will mirror, or even amplify, the behaviour of those people they report to. “Calm is contagious” is a management mantra we can all learn from.

The biggest highlight for me was the launch of Basis Technologies’’ Utilities Solutions User Group. This was a tremendous kick off event, mixing established customers American Water, Puget Sound Energy and Tacoma Public Utilities with new customers DTE Energy and TECO.

Not only was this a chance for our customers to more closely engage with Basis but an opportunity for the Utilities to share their experiences running BDEx and our other Utilities Solutions.

The must have add-on solution for Utilities running SAP CR&B

It was great to receive so much positive feedback from our users and for me personally very exciting as the culmination of the past 4 years driving our Utilities Solutions forward. At one point during the break, one of our customers even described Basis as the Beatles of the SAP world (for our innovation and high quality). We are still working out internally who gets to be Ringo.

With the accelerated pace of digital disruption and the transformation opportunities that it affords, there has never been a more exciting time to work in the utilities sector and in particular the SAP ecosystem.

The SAP for Utilities conference is a great event to learn more about the upcoming challenges and to see the innovative ways that utilities are leveraging technologies such as SAP HANA. Now is the chance for us all to embrace our inner lemur.

If you would like to read more about Utilities and the Digital Economy, you can download this e-book where you can find out four key characteristics utility companies are adopting to drive increased revenue, lower operational costs and achieve high customer satisfaction.

Why fixing Late Billing doesn't have to be Mission Impossible

Late billing in SAP CRB doesn't have to be mission impossible

This year sees the release of the latest instalments in two of the most beloved spy film franchises, Mission Impossible Rogue Nation and James Bond in Spectre.

I absolutely love spy films... fast cars, exotic locations, amazing stunts...what’s not to like.

Unsurprisingly as someone whose professional career is in IT, my favourite thing about these movies are the gadgets.

Something we can learn from the heroes in spy thrillers is to always have the right equipment at our disposal.

I do have to question the business case for some of the Bond gadgets however.

While undoubtedly cool, what exactly was the ROI for the invisible Aston Martin in Die Another Day?

Or the crocodile submarine from Octopussy? Not to forget the explosive chewing gum from the first Mission Impossible film...surely an extreme countermeasure for halitosis.

While I am yet to attain my goal of international gentleman spy, globetrotting SAP expert is a close second. And like James Bond, Ethan Hunt, Harry Hart or Jason Bourne, I recognise the need to pick the right tools to get the job done.

Thankfully in the world of SAP for Utilities we don’t have to contend with far fetched theatrical plots, evil henchmen, or megalomaniac villains bent on global domination.

That’s not to say there aren't one or two rogue elements we have to routinely tackle.

Instantly identify late billed contracts

Late Billing is one of the challenges that I have faced at numerous times during my time working with Utilities running SAP.

SAP’s an extremely powerful billing engine, but pinpointing where in the meter to invoice cycle revenue has been locked is incredibly difficult and time consuming.

This ultimately leads to a negative customer experience if the problems are not resolved quickly enough.

There are 10 key milestones in the meter to invoice cycle. Understanding where your late billed contracts sit in the journey is of pivotal importance.

Thankfully we have our very own bag of tricks at your disposal.

Blade: Not a reference to Rosa Klebb’s footwear but rather analytics to identify where in the meter to invoice cycle accounts are held up, calculating the potential trapped revenue from late billing.

Our late bill analytics tool provides your business with an accelerated method of discovering the extent of late billing, mapping these to the billing milestones and to help pro-actively tackle the underlying root causes.

Our Tolerance Optimizer tool Torch is more sophisticated than a vodka martini and faster than a DB5, Torch provides the ability to model the tolerance settings in SAP for implausible reads, billing and invoicing outsorts.

It opens up the opportunity to perform ‘What If..’ modelling, finding the ideal configuration and balance for exceptions generation. Tolerance configuration is extremely difficult to get right first time, so to have the ability to model the outcomes in advance is critical to striking the right balance and keeping billing exception volumes to a minimum.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it...is to click here to find out a faster, better way to effectively manage the challenge of late billing. This blog will self destruct in 5 seconds...

5 Tips on using an Organizational Structure in SAP for Work Distribution

5 tips on using an organizational structure

Just like any well-oiled machine, the smooth running of a streamlined and efficient SAP system depends on proper maintenance and regular servicing.

Only in the case of the former, rather than oil, it could be argued that the necessary lubricant is proper decision-making, needed to avoid decision paralysis.

And in the latter, what servicing is required depends upon the right resources being available to deal with the right tasks at the right time.

This applies to the human element of a SAP system just as much as as it does to the hardware itself. Spare the maintenance and risk clogging up the system with a backlog of stuff you might never clear out.

Skimp on the servicing and you just might have to redo what has already been done incorrectly, or, worse, rue that it was never done at all when it should have been.

Inevitably, in every SAP implementation, there comes a time when the following questions come up and need answering:

Q.What type of work is required and why? A.Business Process Models
Q.Who needs to do it? A.Agent Determination
Q.How is it sent to them? A.Inbox Solution
Q.How long have they got to do it in? A.Deadline Monitoring
Q.What are the consequences of it not being done? A.Escalation & Lifespan
Q.What happens next? A.Reporting & QA

Often, though, before any of these questions can be properly addressed, there is always a fundamental question that needs tackling first:

“How should the agents of a system be defined and organised?”

In most cases the SAP HR Module provides the ideal answer: Organizational Management.

For experienced Workflow Developers or Payroll Experts this part of the HR Module should be as basic and as familiar as logging on.

To experienced Developers who have come across Workflow or other types of assigned work, such as BPEMs, the underlying concepts will be very familiar indeed.

And yet, it’s often surprising how even experienced Functional Consultants or ABAPers alike can find some of the concepts involved a little daunting.

Here are some key things that I’ve learned along the way that I try to re-use and pass on to the uninitiated on this subject whenever I can.

Tip #1: (Re-)Draw the Organizational Structure from a Work Management perspective

Sounds simple but if done right even a skeleton diagram can open up a world of discussion and highlight areas of contention for later, much more easily than a wall of text, no matter how well-structured that text may be.

Annotate this diagram and overlap the work with the people if you can. Try not to get bogged down in the details if an existing Payroll Org Structure has already been defined as this may not be appropriate for the distribution of work.

Note that Employee Assignment and User Assignment are not the same thing for exactly this reason.

Tip #2: Agree on terminology so that everyone knows what the objects within the Org Structure represents

Another self-explanatory thing to do but sometimes just agreeing on what the word ‘Team’ means can be quite an achievement in itself.

This can often flush out mismatches between the real world and the virtual world where real concepts like geographical location may have very little to do with actual work distribution in the virtual world.

Tip #3: Subdivide the Org Structure until at the lowest level there are logical groups of agents of no more than 50 individuals

Sounds obvious, but if the number of users assigned to an object is high this can lead to complications later on with higher processing costs at the expense of system performance. Don’t be afraid of multiple objects being assigned as possible agents as sometimes this is perfectly acceptable and actually desirable.

Tip #4: Decide whether agents should be assigned concurrently to more than one object

And, if so, agree on the correct weighting percentage of their assignments - Some Businesses have static Teams, others dynamic Teams. Some Businesses rotate their staff routinely, others have stratified levels with fixed paths.

The right solution might need an Org Structure that supports all of these things at once.

Tip #5: Choose the right level object to distribute work to

Typically the right level to aim at in an Org Structure is at the ‘Position’ level (Object Type ‘S ‘). This tends to be the ‘goldilocks’ zone where the granularity of the people involved and the work to be done can be finely balanced.

However there’s an additional dimension to bear in mind here: the volume of both parts of the equation.

Distribute to too few people and work may be left un-handled for too long. Distribute too much work and the people receiving it will be swamped and backlogs will ensue. So in some cases this might mean that work should be aimed at the next level up, i.e. at the ‘Org Unit’ (Object Type ‘O ‘).

In others this might mean assigning work to across other Teams, such as at the ‘Job’ level (Object Type ‘C ‘). Or in other cases this might mean that multiple objects need to combine their efforts and a combination of objects might be the right answer, e.g. multiple Positions.

It’s also important to remember that an Org Structure will always be subject to change and may have to evolve. It may need to become simpler, it may become more complex. Either way don’t be afraid of using draft ‘Plan Versions’ in the HR Module if need be and experiment.

But do be mindful that as with all things related to HR the large majority of relationships defined in the Org Structure are based on validity periods or ‘timeslices’.

This includes the answer to the second question in the list above: Agent Determination. Sometimes the people who received the work yesterday may not be the same as those who receive it today or tomorrow, but the Org Structure itself may not need to change at all to reflect this!

Solving the equation should thus be a simple matter of combining the right Team with the right Work, i.e. Team + Work = Teamwork.

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