As we head into the SAP for Utilities conference later this month, the ASUG research team took some time earlier this week to share the results of its research focused on this industry. Marissa Gilbert, research director at ASUG, was joined by Marc Rossen, enterprise architect for Snohomish County PUD #1 to discuss the finds of this research and break down the state of the utilities industry.

“2021 has been an exciting but certainly a challenge time for those in the utilities industry,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert and Rossen not only went over the trends and pressures most SAP utilities customers are experiencing, but they also focused on how these organizations are leveraging and implementing technology to bolster their operations. Here are some key takeaways from the webcast and the ASUG research focused on the utilities industry.

Trends and Pressures in the Utilities Industry

Gilbert kicked the webcast off by detailing the main trends and pressures SAP customers are seeing in this sector. Like just about every industry, utilities were greatly affected by COVID-19, which spurred change across the entire industry. Gilbert noted a few trends the research team spotted while looking over the data collected from this research project. Many respondents indicated that they are working to incorporate emerging technology like smart metering into their operations. Gilbert noted that “organizations want to remain relevant and competitive,” and that cutting edge technologies can help them accomplish that goal.

A few other trends ASUG is seeing in the utilities industry are tied directly to COVID-19. Remote working has become the norm for office employees, with many utilities organizations having to put into effort to ensure that their employees are supported while working remote. Rossen noted that working from home is going to continue being a significant aspect of the work experience in the utilities industry moving forward. In addition to this trend, the utilities industry has also needed to address customers that fall behind on their utilities payments because of financial hardships stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak.

Finally, many respondents were also concerned with cybersecurity. Gilbert said that many organizations are doing work to address and prevent external security threats and ensure that customer data is in safe hands.

The Impact of Technology

This research project also focused on how technology is affecting the utilities industry, and which types of technology are having the biggest impact on employees’ daily work. Data management topped this list, with 52% of respondents indicated that analytics and dashboards will significantly affect their work in the next 12 months. Similarly, 85% of respondents said that data management is one of the most important factors relating to their jobs.

“It’s all about information-based decision making instead of experience-based decision making,” Rossen said. He noted that younger employees don’t have the experience of their older colleagues, so it’s vital that the industry can give them easy access to data so they can make better decisions.

But, data and analytics capabilities are not the only technology solutions driving change in the utilities industry. 49% of respondents indicated that cloud solutions have a significant impact, with another 30% saying these solutions have a moderate impact. This bears out the earlier research ASUG conducted with DSAG, the German-speaking SAP user group, focused on cloud adoption.

Other technologies that are helping drive change in the utilities industry include internet of things (IoT) solutions (with 45% of respondents saying the technology has a significant impact and 30% indicated it has a moderate impact) and RPA solutions (with 29% saying this technology will have a significant impact and 38% indicating it has a moderate impact).

Technology Adoption

This round of research also examined what SAP solutions utilities customers are leveraging in their IT landscapes. These customers are running SAP instances on a variety of environments. 46% of respondents are running on a hybrid on-premise environment, 29% are leveraging a private cloud, 28% are using a third-party public cloud, and 25% have an on-premises solution.

The research also focused on SAP S/4HANA adoption among utilities customers. All respondents are somewhere in their SAP S/4HANA—and zero percent said their organizations do not have plans to move. Right now, 22% of respondents are currently live on SAP S/4HANA, with 35% of respondents who have begun the transition process, and 23% have active plans to migrate to the ERP solution.

Adopting cloud solutions is also popular among utilities customers. 35% of respondents have a cloud strategy in place, 38% are in the early stages of developing a strategy, and 26% are in the process of exploring a cloud strategy.

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