Monday, December 19, 2011

SAP New GL Survey - Share Your Thoughts!

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

SAP Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) Benefits

The latest water cooler talk at HPC was about Enterprise Asset Management. By combining elements of Plant Maintenance, Project Systems, Materials Management, and Warehouse Management, SAP EAM enables utilities to realize much higher productivity from PM orders compared to Internal Orders. After setting up a Functional Area hierarchy and identifying the location of all assets, utilities can create orders more efficiently via notifications (what we'd call a "pre-order"). So if the inspection of a pump, for example, identifies necessary corrective maintenance work, the order for that work can be created automatically. Tight integration with the MM module, plus records of prior labor and parts history, also mean that repair kits with all relevant parts can also be identified easily.

For utilities that are considering transitioning from their legacy CMMS to SAP EAM, we would make two particular recommendations. First, ensure that your project team includes subject matter experts from Engineering, Construction, Generation, Transmission and Distribution Maintenance—that is, the people who know what it takes to fix things that break. Their knowledge and requirements will ensure the success of the initiative beyond the needs of IT and Finance. Second, conduct a thorough review of all equipment so that nothing is inadvertently left out of Plant Maintenance. For selected assets, seriously consider bringing in a year or two of work history from the external CMMS.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Document Splitting and the Balance Sheet in SAP New GL

In all of our previous posts about the SAP New General Ledger, we've only looked at P&L accounts.  But what about the balance sheet? Using the New GL will eliminate either the accounts approach or the company code approach to IFRS compliance using SAP. A somewhat complicated feature is the use of document splitting, which we'll touch on next.

Let's suppose a vendor is paid with invoice line items charged to both generation and transmission on the same invoice, but with only one offset to the vendor account on the balance sheet. Using document splitting, the offset account charged to accounts payable is allocated or "split" between the generation and transmission lines. So, if $300 is charged to generation and $500 charged to transmission on the same invoice, the offset for the total of $800 is split to "follow" the P&L accounts that were charged originally.  By doing this split, separate balance sheets can be generated for each segment (i.e., generation and transmission) below the company code level. This will save time during document entry, as the preparer doesn't have to be affected by a process change. An employee in Accounts Payable doesn't change his SAP business process. Rather, in the background, SAP will split the transactions entered to create the separation by segment.

Document splitting can be a complicated undertaking and shouldn't be conducted without ample testing. In fact, a utility's New GL conversion scenario should consider the impact of document splitting when determining a migration data and activation date. Since most large utilities can have thousands of open items during a New GL migration, it is suggested—and we highly recommend—to set an activation date as close to the migration date as possible to limit the amount of documents (and line items) that will need to be split.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New SAP for utilities email newsletter

We've just launched an email newsletter for SAP for utilities professionals to get our latest news and insights. We'll send periodic product updates, customer case studies, white papers, and other tips and tricks on regulatory reporting and enhancing SAP for utilities. We won't share your personal information with anyone outside HPC, and you can unsubscribe at any time.  Subscribe to our email newsletter online.  If you have any requests for content that we cover, please let us know.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

SAP New GL and Cost Models

We've commented before about the increasing interest we're seeing from utilities in migrating to the SAP New General Ledger. In the context of SAP's recent announcement that ECC 6.0 will be supported until 2020, we expect to see even more interest—and action—since utilities are under no immediate pressure to upgrade. Instead, they can focus on a New GL migration independent of future upgrade plans.

That said, we also notice that some utilities are focusing almost exclusively on the migration itself, and not enough on their underlying cost model. Some aren't thinking about it at all, while others separate, uncoordinated initiatives in the works. This is a serious mistake. Not to discount the care with which a New GL migration must be undertaken, but it's essentially a technical procedure that can be handled smoothly with proper preparation and coordination with SAP. In contrast, there is far greater benefit potential from reassessing the cost model and transitioning from a cost center-centric to order-centric model—in other words, abandoning the approach adopted during 1990's deregulation, and going back to what most utilities did in the 70s and 80s (when they had no choice and regulation was the only business model). Here are a few quick reasons why this makes so much sense:

  1. Cost-centric models are ideal for what we think of as the trifecta of utility financials: budgeting, regulatory reporting, and possibly in the near future, IFRS.

  2. Using the order as the central point means evaluating activity type pricing and unbundling rates, such that the cost of labor going into each order is very close to the actual rate of pay.

  3. By documenting secondary costs in each order, they'll be fully supported and enable easier cost recovery. They will, as we like to say, provide one version of the truth.

We'll revisit this topic in November to discuss some realistic approaches to a managing a cost model project in conjunction with a New GL migration.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mapping SAP New GL for FERC

Expanding on our post last month about the New GL and FERC data, today we're going to look at mapping the New GL for FERC, a serious consideration for utilities that are evaluating an SAP New GL migration. One immediate challenge is that all CO transaction codes for secondary movements have a single general ledger account assignment in the New GL. That would seem to be a limitation at first. Rather than focus on the GL account, however, a utility could use a pass-through GL account assigned to all secondary CO transactions, and then use SAP's functional areas to map to specific, four-digit FERC chart of account values.

Here's a practical example.  Let's say an internal order has primary costs of $100 and secondary costs of $30.  Both the primary and secondary costs are assigned the functional area of "583.0 Distribution Operations-Overhead Lines Expense." This could be shown (in an abbreviated way) as functional area "583.0 DM-Lines." We would then use a BAdI to add a long description through the New GL's extensibility features. The result of this functional area assignment is the posting to the correct FERC account via the CO object mapping. What's more, should the utility want to override the assigned functional area, it could simply change it during document entry. This flexibility would give corporate accounting the option to assign any natural account to any FERC account—with appropriate authorization and controls, of course.

Utilities looking to separate the core functions of supply, generation, transmission, and distribution into segments should also consider activating profit center accounting and segmentation.  Since most utilities running FERC have already assigned regulatory indicators to CO objects such as PM and internal orders, these existing assignments could be used to load the initial functional areas using our FERC conversion BAdI described above. In some cases, there might be thousands of CO objects to be mapped to functional areas.  Leveraging the existing regulatory indicators would make the conversion effort far less daunting a task than mapping each one individually.

Since segments are derived from profit centers, and profit centers are derived from CO objects, the building blocks would already exist to determine the correct segments.  For a utility wanting to convert to IFRS, we could consider segments to be equivalent to traditional lines of business. The CO design in place may already use assessments or settlements to determine the line of business. Given that, it would be important not to start from scratch, but rather to build on the current design and leverage the links already developed in the cost flow model in CO.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mobility and SAP for Utilities

As signposted in the first day's keynotes, mobility was a recurring topic during the 2011 SAP for Utilities conference in San Antonio. Deloitte's Lee Ditmar and Mark White presented a well rehearsed message (and super slick Keynote deck) about going beyond the "veneer" of mobility to offer new operating models and services—plus including other information workers in addition to field teams alone. Again, this sounds terrific but highly aspirational; we'll be giving further thought to practical, real world examples that utilities would actually consider implementing. In fact, we'll be doing this next week at Sonoma County Water Agency, as part of our Fleet Management project.

Other notable take-aways: Mark's advocacy of single task-oriented mobile apps that deliver obvious results is another valuable best practice. And we also liked their characterization of descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analytics—a good framework in which to think about data and actionable behavior in the workplace.

Conveniently enough, Adolf Alesch from IBM closed the loop on some of this theory later on in the conference with his presentation on Mobility Moments℠. He gave a great example of a mobile app that would enable a field team to photograph a transformer, for example, and connect the image and related GIS data to the SAP Asset Master in order to get real-time maintenance records. This "augmented reality" scenario combines a utility's system of record with its system of engagement to generate greater efficiency and better customer service.

Monday, September 19, 2011

GIS and SAP for utilities - MTEMC and Aquarion Water

Building on last year's great presentation by the City of San Diego, the 2011 SAP for utilities conference included several new examples of GIS' positive impact on utilities' operations and customer service. Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Cooperative (MTEMC) spoke about their integration of GIS and SAP EAM, in which they use GIS for design and SAP for orders, accounting, Compatible Units, and materials. This configuration allows engineers to work more efficiently by staying in GIS instead of switching frequently between the two applications.

MTEMC focused on automating work orders and pick-lists for construction projects; automating fixed asset and expense accounting for GIS-generated projects; and standardizing order create, time and cost collection, and project accounting. By starting with these core elements—for example, two work order templates to cover simple jobs and complex projects‐MTEMC was able to eliminate data chasing and deliver automated, real-time views of inventory. Amidst all of the technical explanations and ambitious goals, Chip Pinion gave a little reality check by noting that, "Linemen want to be linemen, they don't want to work on computers."

Another good example of GIS and SAP was presented by Mark Fois from Aquarion Water, which uses GIS to note critical customers that can be seriously impacted by scheduled maintenance and unplanned events, such as main breaks. Aquarion uses GIS to map designated customers, such as schools, hospitals, and toxic chemical-producing businesses such as hair salons, and keeps this data fresh by contacting customers annually and updating records when move-ins and move-outs occur.

SAP for Utilities kicks off

Chris Ball's welcome message had a couple of good points about innovation, one of which we interpreted as being that the customer experience of an innovation is just as important as the innovation itself. Great to highlight this. But presenting smart grid and electric vehicles as "disruptive" tech seems a bit aspirational to us at this point. Mobility solutions for sure, though. And it was cool to see screen shots of old SAP R/2 and R/3 interfaces.

Bob Corteau went on to discuss growth, and, reiterating the mobility theme, the concept of "managing anywhere." Compiling information from individuals, new enterprise apps, and external sources will facilitate quick decisions, increased productivity, and better results. His imperative to "sweat your assets" — pursue short-cycle projects, collect data, show a return — is our typical approach to client projects.

So, the emphasis on leveraging new technology sounds great in theory, and we're hoping to hear some concrete, real world examples in the coming sessions. Utilities typically move methodically, so, beyond field teams responding to (or striving to preempt) trouble, we wonder how the ability to make rapid decisions will fit into that context.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

SAP New GL and FERC Data

We're on an SAP New General Ledger roll. Expanding on our prior posts (1, 2, and 3), we had some further thoughts about New GL migration strategy and FERC data. For utilities that have been on the Classic GL and IS-U/FERC module for many years, a New GL migration will certainly not be undertaken without careful consideration and risk management. We recently put together some top-level deployment scenarios that mitigate risk and provide a utility with different options before committing to a specific one for production.

This SAP New GL migration approach retains the existing FERC module, while concurrently developing a prototype of the New GL that shows FERC accounts posted to GL in real-time. We would show finance stakeholders how to render the FERC account assignments to actual New GL line items in the FAGLFLEXT (totals) and FAGLFLXA (transaction) tables. Based on our combined knowledge of the New GL and the existing IS-U/FERC module, we would build a model that shows the actual FERC accounts in the Functional Area field of the New GL. In addition, based on the utility's assignment of regulatory indicators to both internal and PM orders, we could use the actual CO object assignments to regulatory indicators to create a Business Add-In to populate the Functional Areas in the New GL for both primary and secondary cost element assignments. In cases where full FERC_C3 (Trace table rules) apply for assignment of A&G (e.g. account 923 Outside Services), we would deploy substitution rules to assign the correct functional area.

As a result of this prototype, the utility would see a direct integration of CO to FERC for all activity type charges, assessments, and overheads (all CO module allocations) to each FERC account. The utility would gain real-time FERC derivation at the point of document entry. We would also demonstrate how users could overwrite the FERC assignments (a feature some accountants may find useful) during document simulation prior to posting (e.g., transactions FB50N/FB50L).

But that's not all: we could also link all secondary costs to the New GL such that any transaction posted in CO would update the Functional Area postings to capture cost movements between CO objects that affect FERC account assignments in the Functional Area.

Through this migration approach, the utility would have the choice of maintaining its existing FERC module or deploying the real-time, fully integrated New GL solution by reviewing real-world test data before making a decision on which method to use in production. With our prototype, financial stakeholders would see how to present FERC account information as each source document is entered, thereby eliminating a month-end close process to run the FERC trace and drilldown. In addition, the accounting department would be able to override FERC derivation on the fly during document entry and simulation, a feature not available with the classic FERC module.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Why Migrate to the SAP New GL?

When SAP promotes a new solution, it is usually about something we haven't seen before. So when the New General Ledger solution was announced, we thought, "What could be new about something as basic as the general ledger?" Well, a lot actually. Expanding on our prior posts about the benefits of the New GL and SAP Migration Scenario 1, today we'll explore a few key reasons why a utility already running SAP would consider migrating to the New General Ledger.

First, let's be clear, if you're running the classic SAP FI-GL, you don't have to migrate to the New GL when you upgrade. SAP has made the election to migrate a separate project from an upgrade. If you're getting what you need today from Classic GL, then you can stay put. But before you jump to the conclusion that you just don't need it, here are a few observations and suggestions to consider.

If you've been running SAP for a few years, you probably already know that the Controlling module works together with the General Ledger. In some cases it doesn't. We're referring to the differences between primary and secondary cost elements. CO is used for cost accounting. In the New GL, parts of CO are resident in the New GL. For example, the functional area, profit center and segment are part of the new general ledger table now called FAGLFLEXT instead of the familiar GLT0. Why add these fields to the General Ledger? Well, with the coming of more regulation around the use of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), companies will need base financials on a segment of the business to comply with SEC requirements. A segment can be shown directly in the New General Ledger.

What we really find intriguing is the melding of the traditional Controlling module with the traditionally separated FI-GL. Rather than relegate the FI-GL to merely tracking account balances with links to the CO documents, SAP put CO objects alongside FI-GL accounts in the same table. The result: no reconciliation differences between CO and FI. This in turn speeds-up monthly closing, and makes segment reporting much more streamlined.

Utilities running the IS-U/FERC module can continue to use it with the New GL. FERC will still use CO tables to run the flow of costs trace, trace post, and direct post. The FERC drilldown will continue to store source and final objects in FERC_D1 to support the FERC balances in the new FIGLFLEXT table. But with the New GL, utilities have yet another option: to use the New GL to derive functional areas equivalent to the operations, maintenance, administration and general, and customer accounts expenses to stay in compliance—for example, with Title 18 of the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) Part 101 for electric utilities.

So what are the advantages to utilities? Well, the New GL offers a way to provide line item FERC accounting for every transaction. Rather than derive FERC at the close of each month, utilities can consider FERC derivation in real time at the point of document entry. Such real time posting to FERC is possible by linking the CO object to a functional area. When charged, the CO object (e.g., internal order, PM order, cost center, or WBS element) will assign the functional area linked to the CO object to a field on the new GL table FAGLFLEXT.

We were skeptical of this approach due to the fact that secondary costs aren't posted to the New GL. Well, indeed they can be, but not as you might expect. Since secondary cost elements result in a net zero impact to the FI-GL (with the one exception of capital orders settling externally) secondary costs can be mapped to a General Ledger account via the CO transaction code. That means that assessments, overheads, and settlement cost elements can be mapped to the New GL. This is important because the CO objects charged with a secondary cost element are assigned a functional area needed for FERC reporting. The functional area from the CO object is thus updated in the New GL.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

SAP New GL Migration via SAP Scenario 1: Merging FI Ledgers

A couple weeks ago we wrote about the benefits of migrating to the SAP New General Ledger for utilities on SAP. SAP best practices outline five different General Ledger migration scenarios that offer increasing amounts of functionality—and corresponding complexity. For utilities looking for an efficient approach, we recommend the least costly and complex, "Scenario 1: Merging of FI Ledgers."

In this scenario, the classic General Ledger (Ledger 0) is migrated. Table GLT3 of the consolidation preparation (Ledger 09) is migrated as well if it's in use. When we work with clients on SAP New General Ledger migrations, we evaluate whether to assign profit and loss accounts from the 8A ledger or to form Ledger 0.

Depending on the utility's financials, we may recommend an "accounts approach," taking all accounts from Ledger 0. In our experience, profit center accounting (PCA) will not, nor should not, drive the migration project. Rather, PCA is planned during blueprint. Configuration changes are made as required, and then PCA is re-introduced to PRD in the new year. What we mean by "re-introduced" is a new way of tagging the PCA to the CO object using the FMDERIVER.

This approach allows our customers the most flexibility to change the PC assignment to the internal order later on. This is especially helpful to utilities that also use SAP Funds Management (FM) since the fund assignment can be updated in the FMDERIVER as well. Our latest solution, HPC Utility Financials Accelerator, automates these updates with an Excel upload program to make maintenance incredibly simple, even on a very large scale.

While there are other, more complex migration scenarios that involve segment reporting and some form of document splitting to parse the balance sheet line items to enable business area financials at a line item level, we don't often recommend them to our customers who are already running HPC Utility Financials Accelerator. For those utilities, business area reporting by balance sheet can be accomplished for all company codes using UFA's expanded functionality. Once migrated, the FERC drill-down feature in UFA is updated to source the FERC account balances from the new FAGLFLEXT table in the SAP New GL.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

2011 SAP for Utilities Conference

HPC America will be attending the 2011 SAP for Utilities conference in San Antonio, Texas on September 18-20. If you'd like to meet with us to discuss implementation and enhancement of your SAP IS-U/FERC module or any other issue concerning SAP for utilities, please give us a call to set up an appointment.

We'll also have some updated information to share about our latest solution for utilities on SAP, HPC Utility Financials Accelerator, which goes beyond the capabilities of the FERC module that we originally created, which SAP acquired from us in 1996. HPC UFA is in production at four utilities across the U.S., and was certified by SAP in 2010 as powered by the NetWeaver technology platform.

Learn more about our development of the SAP IS-U/FERC module and HPC Utility Financials Accelerator.

Friday, July 29, 2011

SAP New GL Migration Benefits

HPC has implemented SAP's New General Ledger—a.k.a., the SAP New GL—at several utility companies, and we've noticed that it's under even greater consideration these days, as utilities seek to eliminate the reconciliation steps necessary under the Classic GL.

In our experience, the SAP New GL offers terrific benefits for utilities running the IS-U/FERC module and IS-Public Sector (PS-FM) in the same ECC 6.0 client—two modules common to the public power industry. Implemented properly, the SAP New GL can dramatically shorten the processing time for the month-end allocations such as distributions, assessments, and overheads

In many cases, existing SAP customers on the FERC module can migrate to the New GL with the delivered leading ledger (OL) by SAP without having to create a new parallel ledger. This process works because the FERC module is an FI-GL solution, as opposed to a special ledger solution as some other industry-specific solutions have been designed.

We also have good experience combining non-FERC company codes with FERC-relevant company codes to consolidate reporting for profit and loss (P&L) statements and balance sheets.

While some utilities are driven to migrate to the New GL because it speeds up month-end closing by reducing the number of updates required to keep FI and CO in sync, there are other reasons to undertake a New GL migration. Implementing the New GL with the FERC module is ideal, as it provides access to FERC data in real time; what you see in your orders will also appear in your FERC regulatory reports. You get "one version of the truth" as we like to say, with the same codes and no special month-end processes required.

Friday, June 10, 2011

East Coast Utility Purchases HPC Utility Financials Accelerator

We're very pleased to announce that another utility has purchased HPC America's Utility Financials Accelerator. HPC UFA integrates with SAP® solutions to help utility companies address today's more stringent regulatory reporting standards, and provides management with increased audit transparency and rate case support. In 2010, HPC UFA achieved SAP certification as powered by the SAP NetWeaver® technology platform.

Part of our team will be spending the summer in the Mid Atlantic to implement UFA for our customer. The project's goals include the following:

  • Allocate costs charged to FERC accounts to transmission and distribution lines of business and state jurisdictions

  • Create a controlled report distribution process with less reliance on Microsoft Excel

  • Increase flexibility to use accepted cost allocation models for FERC accounts in SAP

  • Provide enhanced regulatory drill-down functionality in native SAP ECC 6.0

HPC UFA is already in production at Trans Bay Cable, Arizona Electric Power Cooperative, Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, and Tacoma Power.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Phased SAP Implementation Generates Big Bang Results at Sonoma County

Last November, we announced that Sonoma County Water Agency had selected HPC America to implement SAP ECC 6.0. The project has been intense but smooth; in fact, the Water Agency completed blueprinting, realization, and go-live of its SAP license in just eight months.

This initial phase focused on enhancing critical business processes, including streamlined time card entry, cost and overhead allocation to projects and funds, and a new order management system that improves managerial visibility into business operations.

The project was successful for many reasons: the Water Agency had a truly dedicated project manager; key staff recognized the long-term benefits SAP could deliver; and our phased approach built foundational user acceptance. As a result, the implementation stayed on schedule and budget, and the Water Agency now enjoys functionality its county does not provide. It also caused stakeholders to think about their business differently and authorize the next phase of SAP implementation.

Overall, Sonoma County Water Agency is a real testament to how a smaller utility with modest resources can implement SAP successfully while still meeting the strict requirements of its municipality and contending with decades-old legacy systems. Stay tuned for a full case study later this year.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

City of Palo Alto Awards HPC America Financial Supply Chain Management Contract

HPC America will be leading the City of Palo Alto's implementation of a collections management solution in SAP. Our approach will enable the City to create and maintain customer master data records efficiently and thoroughly; to automate the collections and dunning processes; to facilitate the handling of disputes and maintain coordination with external collections agencies; and to access user-friendly reporting on account history, collections data, and advanced collections analytics.

We're looking forward to working with the City on this important, revenue-generating element of municipal operations, and will share more news in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

FERC/NERC compliance report from InsiderResearch

FERC/NERC special reportInsiderResearch recently published a special report on FERC and NERC reporting and compliance. The 42-page study is packed with survey data from utility companies, best practice advice, and a chapter from HPC America on optimizing the SAP IS-U/FERC module for today's regulatory and management requirements. The report has great potential to help you prevent regulatory fines and penalties.

When you're ready to enhance your own SAP FERC module, please contact us for some personal insights on improving the accuracy and convenience of regulatory reporting for utilities on SAP.

Update: Request our white paper on enhancing the FERC module's configuration.