At the recent SAP for Utilities, Presented by ASUG conference, professionals from various utility companies convened to discuss the challenges and successes of their SAP Field Service Management (FSM) solution implementations.

The panel session featured candid insights from industry experts, while the follow-up breakout session delved into the nitty-gritty of lessons learned and best practices unique to each organization. This two-part FSM session highlighted issues like technology adoption, document management, and change management, emphasizing the need for the modern enterprise to bridge the gap between traditional pen-and-paper methods and cutting-edge technology.

“The future of utilities in North America has shifted,” said Dominic Brennan, Senior Specialist, Utilities IBU with SAP, in opening the sessions by reflecting on a transformational period driven by customer demands, shifting expectations, and rapidly changing global events. As utilities confront modern challenges, innovative technology solutions are helping them to not only meet current demands but also to improve upon long-held, inefficient work processes. 

Brennan, who moderated the panel, kicked things off with a thought-provoking remark. “This session isn’t about the product,” he said. “It’s about the journey.”

Brennan was joined by Kyle Worgan, Senior Manager of EAM Transformation at Liberty Utilities; Travis Knabe, Chief Information Office of Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB); Tony Foreman, Solutions Manager at Loudoun Water; and Greg Hall, IT Manager of EAM Functional and Solution Architecture at TECO People’s Gas. All the panelists are in the midst of tackling field service management transformation projects, with most of the panelists leveraging the SAP Field Service Management module. 

The ensuing conversation covered not only the specifics of each organization’s project but also touched on the ways new technologies can lead to greater work process efficiencies in the utilities sector. 

Meet the Panelists and Learn from their Unique Journeys 

Kyle Worgan, Senior Manager - EAM Transformation, Liberty Utilities

Worgan recounted the initial resistance that his team at Liberty Utilities faced as the organization approached its SAP FSM implementation. He emphasized that change management and user adoption were among the biggest challenges, with field personnel proving initially reluctant to embrace the new technology. Liberty’s personnel had to ease into use of the technology, adopting a “crawl, walk, run” approach that encouraged more frequent optimization rather than optimizing orders overnight.

Worgan stressed the importance of “telling the whole story” to motivate employees during technology training and focusing on user adoption throughout the technology modernization journey. Worgan also spoke about the business value of having a single source of truth for relevant FSM documents at Liberty, which provides services to over 1 million customer connections, and integrating all data sources to overcome fragmentation. 

A vendor in the audience also highlighted the potential of integrating map systems with asset management to improve field mobility solutions. Worgan also spoke to the improvement in customer experience that leveraging SAP FSM enables, with features allowing users to track service personnel and increasing overall transparency.

Travis Knabe, CIO, Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB)

Discussing his journey at EWEB, Oregon’s largest customer-owned utility, Knabe echoed similar goals for enhancing the customer experience and emphasized the importance of employee experience for better service delivery. He emphasized the prevalence of paper-based operations in the field and the challenge of introducing technology to field service teams. “The crews don’t have anything normalized from a tech perspective,” he said, noting that some of the challenges stemming from paper processes have an impact on customer services, with customers having limited visibility into project statuses and updates.

Knabe also mentioned EWEB’s aspiration to develop a new FSM system from the ground up, to bridge the tech gap unique to water and electricity utilities. The challenge of adopting FSM and other such technology, as he pointed out, often involved introducing new tools to seasoned field service teams accustomed to their traditional methods.

Tony Foreman, Solutions Manager, Loudoun Water

Foreman highlighted Loudoun Water’s main challenge: a field service team unaccustomed to mobile technology as a tool for FSM. In contrast, Loudoun Water’s utility protection teams were further along in their adoption of technology, creating an internal tech skills gap that the organization’s IT leaders sought to bridge.

Foreman echoed Worgan’s comments about the importance of establishing a single source of truth for documents at Loudoun Water; he also saw great potential in customer self-service and reporting, reducing the need for customers to call into offices to submit their requests and reports.

“One of the biggest challenges I see is that our field service management team doesn’t have a global solution today,” Foreman said. “The challenge is: how can we get all our service tech teams into a single module?”

Greg Hall, IT Manager, EAM Functional & Solution Architecture, TECO Energy

Hall outlined the long journey of transition that TECO Energy embarked on in early 2018, and the many challenges faced during the process. Switching from laptops to iOS devices brought issues like managing iCloud accounts and Airdrop into focus for TECO Energy, while the remote working models imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic came as an unexpected twist. Despite these hardships, TECO Energy thrived by soliciting technician feedback throughout its journey, which proved invaluable.

TECO Energy opted for simultaneous SAP Field Service Management (FSM), SAP Service and Asset Management (SSAM), and SAP implementation, although the SAP portion remained underutilized initially. Streamlining operations across a large, diverse state like Florida was no small feat, with territory variations impacting the roles and requirements necessary for service providers to fulfill. Tech teams in rural territories are more likely to have to cover every single part of a project, while teams operating in metropolitan areas are more likely to have specialized areas of service and work.

Hall pointed out the importance of network coverage when deploying iOS devices across a large state. He also shared insights into TECO Energy’s approach to technology training, including iPad 101 sessions and hands-on training. By making training more interactive and tailored to what the field personnel actually need, TECO kept trainees engaged and excited about the change instead of making them resistant and fearful. Hall expressed his excitement for realizing the original vision for transformation now that the company has stabilized, and he expressed that all at TECO looked forward to harnessing the full suite of available technology.

Q&A Session with the Audience Participants

Part 2 of this session delved into lessons learned, including the importance of network coverage, engaging service personnel early in solution development, and addressing change management issues for a successful implementation of SAP Field Service Management (FSM).

Attendees were engaged in the conversation and had several questions for the panelists. One question was around decision-making for SAP Field Service Management (FSM) and SAP Spatial Asset Management (SSAM). When asked about the decision-making process for FSM and SSAM, Hall highlighted TECO Energy’s forward-looking approach, positioning the business for the long term by adopting iOS devices, which aligned with user preferences and experience. Worgan mentioned that Liberty Utilities was still using Click and hadn't made a change to its devices.

Reflecting on the panelists’ pain points related to change management, Hall mentioned TECO Energy’s challenge with user buy-in, which led to a shift from email communication to more personalized visits to users. Addressing training for users of various age groups, Hall talked about their iPad 101 sessions and traveling to meet field personnel, to make the training more accessible within their day-to-day work. In response to a question about the impact of FSM implementation, Hall acknowledged the ongoing learning process that accompanies optimizing operations.

Knabe emphasized the need to balance technology modernization with current employee needs and preferences. “For us, we know there are projects coming down the road, and we hope they will buy in,” he said. “We are working on making the process as seamless as possible.”

One audience member suggested bringing service personnel in at the beginning of solution development, fostering ownership and championing change, and also emphasized the power of engagement in making change management successful.

The FSM dual session provided valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities within field service management. It's evident that the journey toward adopting and optimizing new technology is a complex and ongoing one, with user buy-in and change management both key components of success. The shared experiences and lessons learned at this conference will guide utilities companies as they continue their technological transformation.

In closing, Marc Rosson, Enterprise Architect with Snohomish County PUD, emphasized the importance of the utilities community coming together to learn and provide feedback, including through engaging with the ASUG Utilities industry newsletter

Alyssa Perna is Producer of Enterprise Content Programming at ASUG.

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