There are some important trends that are changing the utility sector, all the players involved need to understand the opportunity and evolve in order to maximize the "momentum".
Integration of energy markets, globalisation, new technology, regulation leading to free market systems and liberalisation are the main trends that are making a revolution in one of the more conservative and monolithic business based on the payment of a service, thas is gas energy or water. Wind and solar in particular are increasing their share in the fuel mix. Replacement of fossil fuels by sustainable alternatives for heating and transport will follow. The advent of renewables causes disruptions for utility companies and energy users and new corporate strategies are called for. Moreover Energy has always been a strategic resource for countries. In many regions governments are redesigning their rules and regulations, for example with the introduction of free market systems for energy with the theoretical aim to reduce costs and improve service quality for the end user. Changes in rules and regulations have a drastic impact on the competitive landscape, incumbents need to change their way of working, meeting competition, others have the opportunity to enter the energy market in a new region.
Empowered customers, IOT convergence and the research of new digital models is the new scenario that Utilities should consider in order to excel in the new market, and again moreover a big percentage of customers will be available to pay more for a guaranteed good experience. The growth’s ambition, thanks to the changes in regulation, will lead to revisiting business strategies. The trend is characterized by an evolution towards new channels (physical stores, totems and web) with, in parallel, the enhancement of the contact center (care to sale + inbound telephone acquisition). These new strategies will reinforce the current model based on selling through agencies.
The real bet is to be able to manage all these different channels and interact with customers in 1:1 conversations towards different customer journeys, with increased competition and the ease with which customers will switch providers, this is a challenge every utility company needs to address. Customers expect a level of service from their energy provider at least equal to that provided by other industries, this means portals with self service capabilities, mobile apps, online customer service with chat functions.
Actually, from an IT point of view, a big percentage of Utility Companies run SAP as backend system, usually verticalized with IS-U industry solution and frequently adding a on premise CRM implementation. Part of them started an innovation process, adopting cloud sales force automation solution in order to empower the door to door sales team, and now are asking themselves, if this is the right route to go through.
And here I go back to the title of this article, I personally believe that SAP has something to say in this area with a solution, market leader according analysts like Gartner or Forrester, called HYBRIS.
SAP Hybris is leader in the market, with a verticalized solution for the utilities sector. The suite provide several features that allow a 360 degrees view of the consumer. SAP Hybris is a platform that offers robust support for both B2B and B2C business models and has customers in a wide range of industries around the world. Relevant its ability to support complex organizations and product lines, multisite requirements, and global B2C and B2B business models, deployed both on premise or cloud. The solution is one of the more recognized and implemented applications for digital commerce. ”Accelerators” are used as starting templates for commerce sites, this can shorten and simplify implementations, available accelerators include services and preformatted commerce applications for B2B operations, for selling digital goods and for multichannel retailers.
CUSTOMER AT THE CENTRE OF DIGITAL STRATEGY
Among other features, the user has the ability to:
- Access to restricted area in order to see his profile and manage his activations
- Compare different activation schemes
- Select and add to cart Extra Commodity products,
- Open ticket requests for assistance
- Look at informative contents
Thanks to the utility verticalization, the solution presents functionalities out of the box that give the opportunity to handle extra commodity products: As an example customer will be able to request quotation for installing solar panels or access to a market place in order to find new products inside the catalog, create a specific offer bundled according to the different characteristics of his profile. This lead the way in order to sell extra commodity products and services, giving the opportunity to Energy Utilities to create and propose new advance services:
- Connected Care is an example of additional services that could be offered to the market. The use at home of Medical Device requires energy continuity, this is an opportunity for energy companies in order to setup monitoring systems on a large scale. - Energy on Demand It’s a further example of flexible innovative contracts. A customer can decide to activate the plan in their vacation home, or temporary housing solution with easy activation and closing. Through dialogue with smart appliances customers can schedule turning on and off as needed.
HYBRIS BILLING gives the possibility to create bundle of offers, invoicing different services in different way, recurrent, one shot, both of them. Business user will be able to configure new products in a friendly and simple way without programming, manage credit and costs, prepaid, subscription and so on. Some examples: - Electro Mobility Electric car charging and infrastructure revenue sharing - Prepaid Cards Prepaid utility meter cards - Home & Office Energy Services Smart meter charging and energy consulting services - Warranty Services Warranty services for energy devices and other products
ACEA is a great example of Multiutility company that embrace the opportunity given from the new digital world and decide to develop all the front office services on Hybris platform.
They just presented at the International Utility conference in Lisbon their amazing results, in summary, the ACEA 2.0 plan has been structured on two major axes of the change management and digital processing:
-Simplification of information system
-Disposal of more than 30 existing systems, with the creation of an infrastructure SAP Hana used by over 10 thousand operators, of which 2.100 operate on mobile systems
They increase in operating margins, both gross, up to 2 percent overall, or net, with Group profit of 175 million euro, up 7.7 percent. For the full year 2016, the multi-utility had achieved an EBITDA of 896 million euro (+22.4).
In few words Hybris is an amazing platform, rich in prebuild functionalities, that could be enriched in a simple and open way in order to cover all needs of a Company that will start a digital transformation. Very recently SAP is promoting YAAS, a set of Microservices that enables IT department to focus on building functionality by giving the freedom to code in any language, plus a community to support them and lots of tooling to simplify their development (https://market.yaas.io/de).
Note of the author: I'm a SAP employee and the content of this article should be considered my personal opinion based on my experience developed in more than fifteen years of IT solution's proposition.