After nearly two years of conducting completely virtual events, ASUG hosted the SAP for Utilities Conference in San Diego, California, the first in-person conference since the COVID-19 outbreak last year. Featuring SAP experts, customers, and partners, the event allowed for in-person and virtual attending options and underlined the importance sustainability and employee experience are both playing in the utilities sector. Here are some key highlights from the two-day event.
Topline Utilities Trends
Geoff Scott, CEO of ASUG, and Michael O’Donnell, national vice president of utilities at SAP were joined on day two by Brian Roach, senior vice president and managing director of regulated industries at SAP, for a wide-ranging conversation on the key trends in the utilities sector. They began the discussion by addressing the sheer amount of disruption that utilities—and most other industries—have experienced over the past two years.
“Right now, we are obviously in a very transformative state,” said O’Donnell. “There is an opportunity for us to transform what the future of utilities looks like.”
One of the main drivers of this transformation is the adoption of new, innovative technologies, that are allowing utilities organizations to be more agile, flexible operations, two vital characteristics moving forward. Roach noted that technology always leads the way about periods of disruption like COVID-19. Along those lines, Roach, O’Donnell, and Scott discussed the utilities sector’s adoption of SAP S/4HANA over the past year.
“We have seen a massive up in activity and discussion in our customer base,” O’Donnell said, noting that many utilities customers are currently “exploring and road mapping” their journey to the ERP solution. Roach said that the need to accommodate the “massive amount of data” SAP utilities customers require, along with the necessity to build a “modern grid” are influencing factors in these discussions.
Most importantly, the conversation also focused on the importance of sustainability in the utilities industry. O’Donnell spoke about this topic at length when ASUG sat down with him last month to discuss the industry’s overarching trends and challenges. During the conversation last week, Scott spoke about how this particular topic is “resonating across all industry segments.” Speaking specifically to how this focus on sustainability is impacting the utilities industry, Roach noted that many organizations are preparing to accommodate government restrictions and regulations and are putting a focus on measuring carbon footprints.
Breaking Down Four Successful CIS Go-Lives
Speaking of leveraging new technology, the conference also featured a conversation between Jassi Arora, vice president of customer connect delivery and customer solutions at Duke Energy; Laura Atkinson, director of customer information systems program at San Diego Gas and Electric; Christine Gonzales, program director at Southwest Gas; and Lorene Miller, managing director of customer service at Southern California Edison about their implementations of SAP customer information systems (CIS) earlier this year. The four organizations represent approximately 10% of the United States population, and collaborated before, during, and after their respective go-lives to ensure successful projects.
“We really did take the opportunity to sue the deployment council to talk through things,” Gonzales said.
Miller discussed the need for this project, noting that Southern California Edison had an aging system that simply would not sustain the necessary growth. The organization needed an agile and responsive system that supports California's carbon-neutral goals and the increasingly complex interactions between customers and employees. Atkinson also touched on this topic, discussing how the CIS project would support the clean energy strategy in California.
“In California, we have some of the most complex requirements from rate tariffs and electric vehicles,” she said, further noting that the shift has allowed San Diego Gas and Electric has become more agile since the implementation.
Emphasizing Employee Experience
Another main topic throughout the conference was employee experience. Steven Hunt, chief expert of technology and work at SAP; and Jim McArdle vice president of sales for platform and technology at SAP for North America's regulated industries gave a keynote focused on future-proofing workforces, noting that the past two years have caused organizations to rethink the way they attract, retain, and support talent.
Hunt discussed one of the main changing facets in many organizations: the evolution of the manager, noting that the role of middle management “has become more critical and expanded,” as management is now employee-facing. Additionally, the requirements of workforces are now changing, with a new emphasis being place adaptability and change orientation.
“You’re not hiring people for what they know,” Hunt said. “You’re hiring them for what they are learning.”
He broke down some of the topics that leaders in the organization need to be attuned to, including inclusion and diversity, wellbeing and resilience, and the shifting to hybrid working models.