German energy provider E.ON has gone through tremendous change in their business in the past couple of years. After years of improving legacy processes for cost efficiency in the existing system landscape, they had to refocus their efforts towards key capabilities required in the energy sector of the future. By carving out traditional power businesses into Uniper, they are now channeling their focus towards tomorrow’s smart energy networks. Along with growing demand for sustainable energy, customers and partners are increasingly calling for automated and easy solutions in the utilities industry. In order to address these challenges, E.ON Business Services has engaged with SAP through MaxAttention and BTS in beginning of 2016. Early on, one pillar of this engagement has been the establishment of a prototyping factory in their offices in Hanover. A guiding principle for showcase implementation through this factory was the combination of optimized commodity processes and flexible innovation adoption in a hybrid scenario for 2-speed IT. To achieve this, SAP Cloud Platform has been chosen as the innovation layer, building upon the foundation of a strong Digital Core through their GLOBE ERP landscape. Within 6 months, more than 15 prototypes with an average development effort of less than 3 weeks have been presented to different business units through a mobile roadshow. In March 2017, about one year into the engagement, some of these prototypes made their way to SAP’s International Utilities Conference (IUC) in Lisbon.
After being introduced to the general audience in the keynote of Peter Maier, SAP’s Head of Energy and Natural Resources Industries, interested visitors kept pouring toward the joint booth and often started interacting with the model of a connected E-Mobility Charging Station through Amazon Echo. In this prototype, sensor data about current occupation of power outlets as well as remaining charging times is being sent to the Cloud Platform, which can then be called by Alexa Voice Services. Several visitors asked how the billing mechanism for such a charging station would work, leading to discussions about solutions like SAP Hybris.
Similarly, a smart house equipped with sensors and WiFi was communicating data on its environmental conditions and security status to passers-by upon request. Quickly, questions about predictive services for the smart house came up. These low-effort prototypes therefore served as a very effective door opener for various additional topics, offering a smooth transition to the most prominent showcase presented at the booth: A smart city model with solar panels, a wind power plant and parking slots monitored and analyzed through Predictive Maintenance Services (PdMS) on Cloud Platform. By shading one of the solar panels or stopping the wind turbine through a dedicated ‘error switch’, visitors could experience how real-time alerts were automatically triggered and visualized in the PdMS Fiori Launchpad. Simultaneously, service notifications were created in the backend system.
Discussions quickly started on how the software can recognize patterns in sensor data and integrate external data like weather forecasts into the analysis. Spectators realized that in a real-world business scenario, E.ON can offer a low-cost service to optimize customer’s return on investment by maximizing the energy harvest throughout their equipments’ lifetime – all completely integrated with existing commodity processes. Other prototypes include management information and governance processes in a Digital Boardroom, new Fiori user interfaces for custom and standard applications on the backend system, and performance improvements for operational reporting through the technology shift to a HANA database. Feedback after the exhibition confirmed that through a joint team effort between E.ON and SAP, the ‘Innovation Lab’ booth became one of this year’s conference highlights.
By leveraging SAP MaxAttention hand in hand with Business Transformation Services, a model for a customer’s digital innovation lab has been established, offering compelling business opportunities for E.ON. The customer’s key learning from this experience is that SAP does not necessarily need to be a heavy weight environment, requiring thousands of man days to introduce simple and innovative operative processes. Using SAP Cloud Platform, new and scalable business offerings with a fast time-to-market can quickly be validated and rolled out to end users and customers.
Of course, prototypes are only one building block in the digital transformation E.ON is currently undertaking. Aligning the whole organization’s culture with established and new business processes, while leveraging technology for innovation at the same time, will be a continuous effort in a fast-paced market environment. For 2017, the engagement team has set out to turn some of these prototypes into productive use through SAP Cloud Platform, even before the complete backend landscape has been migrated to HANA. By experiencing and identifying use cases with the potential to scale, E.ON Business Services is actively generating future value for its customers.
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