An odd title for a technology article—context is everything, almost.
In today’s world, aka “the present," we are bombarded from all sides with the latest and greatest technology “solutions," from AI (artificial intelligence – with deliberate emphasis) to AR (augmented reality) and ML (machine learning), to mention but a few. All of these are solutions pitched as panacea to our woes, with the sales pitches coming from those who know very little about our businesses and our problems (which they euphemistically describe as challenges and opportunities).
The UGI Utilities context and its journey began with our realization of the need for business transformation. The realization was that most of our business improvement opportunities were severely constrained by the aging technology in place, as represented by our two, decades-old, mainframe-based Customer Information Systems (CIS), as well as a misaligned financial system and aged work and asset management systems.
Our transformation journey was, and is, intended to bring us into the 21st century – we will worry about the third decade of our business once we reach the present-day. In phase one of our multi-year program, SAP Customer Relationship and Billing (CR&B, Suite on HANA) was selected and implemented on Labor Day in 2017. For Phase two, S/4 ERP was selected and implemented in July of 2019 and drove significant change, not least of which was moving us from a FERC-based chart of accounts. In addition, we implemented SAP Fieldglass to manage all aspects of work between our business and our construction companies.
Phase three of our program is underway, with Capital Planning and Budgeting being implemented in October of 2020, our first project delivered in this new, remote working world. Our second project focuses on the digitization of our multitude of paper forms used in the field. Our Electric division was transformed last June, with Gas planned in a month’s time. Next up will be functionality for our Field Scheduling and Dispatch and Field Technicians, for which we will be implementing SAP’s Field Service Management (FSM) and Service and Asset Manager (SSAM) solutions.
Our overarching philosophy has been to deploy the functionality as close to “out-of-the-box” as possible, aligning our business execution—aka transforming—to fit, and allowing time before making changes to the functionality as designed and deployed—always ensuring we are leveraging the solution we purchased.
A huge, fundamental change we made was establishing an Enterprise Business Transformation (EBT) team, which is separate and distinct from the program. The EBT team is charged with two primary responsibilities: 1) maintain knowledge of how the solutions are used on a day-to-day basis by the various business functions, and 2) extract additional value from the investments.
As we journey forward, we appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with all of you on your journey, and through our shared learning we reduce risk, lower costs, and gain more value from changes we implement along the way.
Thomas Lord is VP, CIO at UGI Utilities, Inc. For more from ASUG Utilities, attend the SAP for Utilities, Presented by ASUG conference in October.