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Smart Technology for Sustainability & Innovation

We often think about societal goals and business goals as though they were two separate things. That is, at best we assume there is a tradeoff of one for the other, and at worst the two might seem diametrically opposed.

The truth is, though, that making the world a better place can be good for business and thier bottom line, too. Sustainability initiatives, for example, are driven by data. They’re all about increasing efficiency, streamlining operations, and using fewer and cleaner resources. All of these elements align perfectly with improving the bottom line.

Our latest SAP Better Together: Customer Conversations episode focuses on the intersection of innovation and technology that can improve business performance, customer experience, and promote larger societal goals at the same time. Belgian water and sewer company FARYS and partner Capgemini worked with other water providers in Flanders to develop a smart water platform that offers a host of benefits to the city, its citizens, and the companies that use it.

We talked to Inge Opreel, Directiemanager ICT, at FARYS, and Kevin De Wilde, Project Manager at Capgemini, to learn how this project came to be, what outcomes they’re seeing already, and their plans for the future.

  1. For the podcast Tamara McCleary, CEO at Thulium, talked to Inge and Kevin about the larger context of sustainability and customer experience that are driving businesses to this type of innovation. They also discussed how crucial it was to collaborate with other businesses in their space to bring the project to fruition.
  2. In the LinkedIn session I talked with Inge and Kevin about the practical details of the project, from implementation to ongoing development.

Read on for a few key takeaways –

Necessity Is the Mother of Innovation

A pending legislation in Belgium will require smart metering for utilities. Rather than looking at the legislation as an obstacle or a challenge, FARYS chose to see it as an opportunity to innovate. They were able to prepare for the upcoming legislation while also modernizing their internal operations.

“We always had a clear vision of how to support these new business innovations, and doing it in a scalable, future proof, and integrated way,” says Inge.

Kevin highlights the ways that serving the common good also serves business goals. “This platform will eventually be able to assist in reducing non-revenue water and water loss in the network,” he says. “Ultimately, it will increase the efficiency of the infrastructure, reducing the footprint and cost of producing water. And it will also help to create more awareness around responsible consumption of drinking water as well.”

Collaboration Is a Key Component

To create the smart water platform, FARYS reached out to other water companies in the city to work together, and Pdipa and De Watergroep joined the effort. The collaboration was fruitful for everyone involved, with the companies sharing the cost and the benefits.

“Even though we are a public entity, we have a strong customer focus, and we want to invest public money in a smart, cost-effective way,” says Inge. “So, we have it in our DNA to look at collaborations and purchasing things together.”

The list of benefits that FARYS achieved through collaboration is a long one: “By combining forces and collaborating with your peers, you can accelerate innovation and development, share knowledge, leverage the strengths of each individual company, share the costs and investments, and inspire each other to innovate,” Inge says.

Change Requires Change Management

We typically think of change management as an internal process for an organization. But Kevin highlights the importance of the process for customers as well, particularly for public sector-centric organizations. “We’re working on something that impacts almost every household and impacts a broader society. You need to be able to influence the public opinion,” he says. “When you do a project with a big social impact, you need to do change management on a whole different level.” Public perception can directly affect the success of a new product or service — it’s crucial to communicate the reason for the change, how it will affect customers in all ways as well as help drive adoption.

Be a Part of the Conversation

The FARYS and Capgemini story proves that businesses can serve customers, the bottom line, and the planet at the same time. These goals aren’t at odds with each other; with the right technology and the right partners, they complement each other.

For more customer success stories benefiting citizens, communities, and the environment, check out these stories:

  • City of Zug – see how a smart mobility platform helps ease traffic and make parking easier for residents and workers
  • Steinbeis Papier – leveraging technology to help power the circular economy in paper recycling

Looking for even more inspiring stories straight from SAP Business Technology Platform customers? You can check out the whole Better Together: Customer Conversations series and more at sap.com/BTP.

Please let me know if there are topics you’d like to hear more about in the future as well as questions you’d like to explore. And, as always, please contact us if you’d like to be a guest on a future episode.

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