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You might have heard through various webcasts, events or mails that SAP is investing heavily into fortifying our solutions for customer self-services. Some of you talked to me directly in recent months and some I met just last week at the SAP for Utilities conference in Huntington Beach, CA. One thing became clear to me. Utilities across markets and regions are asking how to improve customer engagement and how they can approach this endeavor within their companies. The following blog discusses our plans to help utilities define a multichannel self-service strategy and provide solutions to make it a reality.

First of all, I woud like to share exciting news. In just a few weeks in November, we have planned to release a major development. The SAP Utilities Mutlichannel foundation. This development is one major building block of our strategy and solution offering.

As many of you know, we have offered web self-services for a number of years. In late 2012, we decided to invest again in not only bringing new self-service application to the market but also making it easier and cheaper to implement and run apps for any current and future channel.

What is the SAP multichannel self-service strategy about in detail? Here is the rundown.

Utilities are asked to provide better self-service options. Customers are more engaged on many levels with service providers in general. These expectations do not change when dealing with their utility. Moreover, in some markets regulators have requested utilities to increase customer satisfaction in light of major weather events. And compeitive utilities and retailers always can use an edge.

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Customers expect exceptional service from their utility. Just imagine power is out. As one keynote presenter said: Just imagine when your water is out! But also for everyday tasks we as customers expect somewhat of the following:

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Essentially, customers want more apps to make their lives easier. Mobile apps, social apps, better apps when calling in (via the IVR), better experiences when answering e-mails or when busy with facebook, twitter or other social channels. Another keynote speaker highlighted that utility customers are shifting their preferences based on their age and exposure to technology that they experienced in their lifetime. We have to be aware of the fact that a 30 year-old customer had the internet at their disposal basically since he/she was in their early teens.

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Utilities have been asking us to provide a way to deploy and develop self-service apps in an affordable and scalable way.

Our approach is two-prong.

1. SAP continues to deliver self-service apps.

An important milestone has been our mobile self-service app. In June we shipped version 2 available via iTunes and GooglePlay (search for “SAP Utilities Customer Engage”).

Another important building block will be our new web self-service app planned to be released in November. It is a beatiful HTML5 web self-service application featuring the deep out-of-the-box integration into SAP.

Both apps are not only new apps that utilities cannot deploy right away. The web self-service application and any consumer app that SAP, partners, utilities and 3rd parties provide can now run on the this new self-service “platform” (see 2.). Already today we ask customers and partners considering implementation of UCES to take a look at the new developments. In fact, we recommend implementing the new apps and platform. However, we are still supporting UCES as part of SAP ERP until 2020.

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2. Our new SAP Utilities multichannel foundation supports any consumer app and any channel – connected to any CIS or other systems like OMS
The SAP Utilities Multichannel foundation is essentially is a Netweaver Gateway server that “speaks utilities”. It connects consumer apps with backend business systems using web standards like OData and HTML5 and that in the context of the requirements of the utilities industry.

As such, the foundation creates a development environment for consumer apps that allows web developers to connect to backend system without the need to to know the backend system at all. For example, In case of SAP CRM and SAP ERP/ISU, web developers do not need to know ABAP or how the process looks like in SAP. All they need to know, is the OData service for a move-in/out, view bill, pay bill, enter meter read and so on. Same for retrieving outage information for a mobile app or to post to Facebook. They only need to know the OData service.

This results in faster and cheaper development. Moreover, the foundation is not just another integration server. Besides the utilities Odata services, the foundation offers customer preferences, user management, channel analytics (to monitor usage of apps and self-service processes) – in short transparency of Utilities self service operations. When the utility runs SAP CRM and.or SAP ERP/ISU ready-made Odata services provide a great jumpstart to any implementation.

Since the foundation is built for B2C business, utilities and partners will enjoy scalability and robustness.

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What about the SAP mobile platform (SMP)?

The SAP Mobile platform is an integral part of the multichannel strategy. We recommend using the SMP for any mobile consumer app, being mobile apps or mobile SMS. You need the scalability and security especially in the B2C environment. Moreover, every utility should have a mobile strategy today. As such, SMP is the perfect solution since it provides one environment to operate and develop mobile apps no matter the target group, consumer, technicians or employees. The SMP can communicate to the SAP backend systems via Netweaver Gateway and in our case the SAP Utilities mutlichannel foundation.

Hopefully, the picture above gives you some clarity.

Outlook

SAP has decided to invest a good chunk of development dollars to help utilities implement modern customer engagement applications. The release in November is just another step in this direction. We plan to extend the offerings in 2014.

We also would like our partners to support our strategy and solutions, especially the SMP and the Multichannel foundation. For the future, we plan enhancements to web and mobile self-service applications, add additional apps likemobile SMS (push notifications) and support messaging in general (e.g. for marketing purposes or based on predictive analytics). The multichannel foundation as well as SMP can be run in  the cloud which opens new possibilities and flexibility for utilities and partners,

Partner workshops are planned once the multichanne foundation is released – again planned for November.

I am looking foward to your comments.

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14 Comments

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    1. Juergen Kuhmann Post author

      Hi Bill:

      While UCES is going to be maintained as part of SAP ERP until 2020, no further enhancements will be done on UCES . SAP Multichannel foundation for Utilities( Planned RTC for version 1: Nov 2013) should be positioned as the new solution for web self services instead of UCES. Current UCES customers can continue to use UCES. However, I think it might be worthwhile discussing with the customer their plans to provide self-services in the future when more and more channels need to be served.

      From an architecture point of view, UCES is not a required component. The closest similar architectural component in the new Mutlichannel foundation are the OData services and the respective CRM and ERP add-ons that we have developed for traditional transactional self service processes around bills, payments, move in/out . 

      However, UCES is no prerequsite for using the multichannel foundation nor is it a technical necessity. I see however an option for current UCES customers to generate new OData services based on the backend funciton modules and associated developments they have incurred for UCES in the past. It would be up to the implementation project to decide wich additional Odata services make sense by comparing the required scope and the services delivered with the foundation. Then generate new OData services for the ERP function modules.

      Regards,

      Juergen

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  1. Krishnakumar Ramamoorthy

    Juergen

    This is great news! Combining HTML5 and lean oData services is a great feature to have. Having lived through the extension on UCES, I think the new development model is also very flexible to implement customer and partner extensions. Waiting to get our hands on this to understand this offering better. Keep us posted when this is available for ramp-up or GA in the near term.

    Cheers

    KK

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  2. Rukmani Balamohan

    Hello Juergen,

    Would you be able to provide the difference between this and WCEM  capabilities ? Through WCEM can’t we not achieve the UCES functionalities

    If the answer is no, then can we achieve campaign management thru multichannel foundation ?

    Regards,

    Rukmani

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    1. Juergen Kuhmann Post author

      Hi Rumani:

      I would not recommend implementing utilities self-service features through WCEM. It’s too risky and too much effort. I have not seen an implementation that has enhanced WCEM for utilities self-service since there is not much out of the box you could use.

      Use the multichannel foundation to implement self-services and self-service applications. You can start with our template web self-service application for Utilities and enhance it to build your own. Most importantly backend integration is out of the box and extensible though enhancing the OData library. The Utilities multichannel foundation comes with utilities-specific content like view/pay bill, move-in/out, mnanaging payment data, user management etc. Things you see customers asking in almost every RFP.

      WCEM provides you with web shop capabilities geared towards retail, consumer goods industries. It integrates back into CRM Sales and Service or ERP SD. It does not integrate into CRM for Utilities features and not into ERP/IS-Utilities. If at all,. the markting functions might be of interest. But maybe this is too small a scope to justify WCEM. Check again the marketing requirements. Does the customer really ask for a web shop that allows showing marketing messages and recommendations to customers while they are online? IMHO, we see marketing requirements around pushing marketing messages to the web self-service portal and any other channel like mobile or IVR. You would need a messaging framework that can push messages to customers on any channel, not just web. We plan to provide this framework in an upcoming release of the multichannel foundation. That would make it possible to push messages from a variety of “senders” to utility customers like campaign-related messages, outage message, bill or payment reminders, high usage alerts.

      Regards,

      Juergen

      Regards,

      Juergen

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      1. Rukmani Balamohan

        Hello Juergen,

        Thanks for the detailed reply. As a intermediate arrangement, we think to retain UCES and use compaign management functionality alone from WCEM, which will enable the web channel managers / business to publish pages on collaboration sites. Pls let me know if it is a good option

        Regards,

        Rukmani

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    1. Anurag Gwari

      Hi Juergen,

      Thank you for your detailed information on Utilities Multichannel foundation. It is highly enlightening.

      Further, for our understanding, could you please provide your valuable inputs on :

      a. Can we consider the utilities for customer engage app as a demo app for Multichannel foundation too? Or is there a sample web version available to be demonstrated?

      b. We had just begun our work with UCES implementation, since we understand that Multichannel Foundation is the next recommendation for utilities, could we state that UCES functionalities would be one among other options that Multichannel foundation presents us with? These inputs would be highly helpful in choosing the next course of action that we can plan.

      As we’ve gone through the blog, we assume that SAP Multichannel foundation for utilities is SAP’s insight going forward for all future developments/enhancements and refinements.

      We are looking for a web self-services solution that should be device independent (can run on any device) and on which we can get long continued support from SAP as well.

      BR,

      Anurag

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      1. Juergen Kuhmann Post author

        Hi Anurag:

        great questions.

        reg 1: I would be careful how you message to the client. Yes, the features offered through the SAP Multichannel Foundation can power an app like the Utility Customer Engagement App. However, I would clearly state that this app their are seeing a demo of is just an example of a mobile application that can be delivered on top of SAP MCF. As you know, the utility customer engagement mobile app is built on a different “middleware”, not the SAP MCF. Standard maintenance for the  utility customer engagement mobile app will end in Dec 2015. Have you seen the latest blog post about new development for March 2015? We will release a native mobile app workin on top of MCF then. So, for any demo until March 2014, I’d stick to the sample web self-service portal and the sample mobile web app, use careful messaging if you need to show the utility customer engagement app. From March 2014, use the new native mobile app built on top of MCF. If you are an SAP partner, then download and install the MCF and show the included apps mentioned before.

        reg. 2: Not sure if I understand your question. There is no migration path from UCES to MCF that SAP supports. It would require project work to move a customer’s self-service processes from UCES to MCF. Functionalities are similar with MCF being the recommended solution to implement.

        Regards,

        Juergen

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  3. Jayshree Ravi

    Hi Juergen

    Thanks for the informative blog. I just came across this and am interested as we are in the process of implementing UCES as part of our IS-U project.

    I have a few questions and would welcome your input

    – Since you mention IVR and telephony, how does this position with SAP BCM?

    – What extra components are required on ISU and CRM?

    – How is authentication of a customer performed? Does it require IDM?

    – If we have already created services/backend functions for UCES can they be re-used?

    – Where can I find more technical infromation? (There is not much in the SAP link)

    Thanks in advance

    Regards

    Jayshree

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    1. Juergen Kuhmann Post author

      Hi Jayshree:

      instead of implementing UCES, you could also implement the SAP Utilities Multichannel Foundation and build the required web self-service features using our sample web self-service portal as a starting point. Please review the following information:

      Installation guide: http://service.sap.com/instguides -> Industry Solutions -> Industry Solution Guides -> SAP for Utilities

      Online help: http://help.sap.com/umc

      Learning material: https://service.sap.com/rkt -> SAP for Utilities -> SAP Utilities Multichannel Foundation 1.0

      Now, to your questions:

      Since you mention IVR and telephony, how does this position with SAP BCM?

      Juergen: MCF can take care of integrating BCM with SAP CRM and IS-U, for example for IVR scenarios. We are currenlty discussing this with the BCM colleagues.

      – What extra components are required on ISU and CRM?

      Juergen: The are MCF add-ons to install, one for ERP, another for CRM.

      – How is authentication of a customer performed? Does it require IDM?

      Juergen: At the moment, we supoport user mgmt in ERP and CRM. I think IDM is on the roadmap. We plan to post a technical article on SCN in th future about user management and other technical topics.

      – If we have already created services/backend functions for UCES can they be re-used?

      Juergen: If not delivered as part of the MCF, you can create OData services to call your existing function modules.

      – Where can I find more technical infromation? (There is not much in the SAP link)

      See above.

      Regards,

      Juergen

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    2. Andreas Halbig

      Dear Jayshree,

      if you have implemented UCES already, then it will be probably easier to either build up the any interface within UCES rather then introducing another environment. We also used ODATA, but to provide those services directly out of UCES for mobile apps as we also can use the same interfaces easily for the desktop browser frontend (UCES). The ODATA is a nice feature to expose interactive interfaces to third party frontend solutions or mobile apps.

      Regards

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