Thursday, December 7, 2017

SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer (C4C) Nearing Go-Live

Following up on our prior posts about HPC America implementing SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer (SAP C4C) at a utility company, we’re in the final stages to go-live later this month. This is the first-ever — in the world! — integration of SAP C4C with on-premises ECC - IS-U via the SAP Cloud Platform Integration (formerly known as SAP HANA Cloud Integration or HCI).

After building a fully populated PoC with all customers connected to the sandbox ERP and performing exhaustive user acceptance testing, the utility company’s C4C production tenant has been requested and created. We’ll connect it to their on-prem SAP production ECC 6.0 system, move transports from QAS into PRD, install the cloud connector, install SOAP runtime, add the communication arrangements to the middleware, set up Webservices, and start replicating business partners. We’ll then validate that the data is correct.

One of many unique aspects to this project is that the utility company will NOT transition all users off of CIC when C4C goes live. Some will continue to use the legacy CIC0 functionality. HPC configured C4C and CIC to communicate back-and-forth, such that the contact log in CIC is automatically updated with data from C4C, and vice versa. The project team chose this approach to minimize risk and moderate costs. Once C4C is running in production and the call center team has real-world hands-on experience, we’ll roll it out the the rest of the organization.

For this first phase, the following Hybris Cloud for Customer functionality will be live:
  • Utilities Financials
  • Utilities 360
  • Utilities Overview
  • Installment Plans
  • Ticketing
This feature set will enable the utility’s call center reps to search for customers, check balances due, check meter reads, create installment plans, make real-time payments, create tickets, and create service notifications. Next quarter, we’ll add even more functionality by going live with Move In/Move Out, Bill Reversal/Rebill, Service Orders, and Transfers.

Learn more about HPC America's expertise in SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer (C4C) for utility companies on SAP.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Free Webinar: FERC Reporting Options for Utilities on SAP S/4HANA

Utility companies running SAP have a number of different FERC reporting options on SAP
S/4HANA. On September, 6, 2017 at 11:00am Pacific, HPC America’s free Webinar for utility company Finance, Accounting, Rates, and IT professionals will answer the following questions:

What FERC reporting functionality is possible on S/4HANA…
  • as delivered?
  • with configuration changes alone?
  • with a partner’s software solution such as HPC DECIPHER?
Utility companies attending the Webinar will gain a clear understanding of the capabilities and limitations of these three approaches to regulatory accounting on S/4HANA, and have an opportunity to learn from HPC America’s 20+ years of experience supporting utilities on SAP. Register for the event now.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Utilities Contact Center in SAP C4C - Rich Feature Set for Utilities

The Utilities Contact Center (UCC) in SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer offers truly rich functionality for utility company Customer Service Representatives. In our current C4C implementation, we've activated the features outlined below. We'll also be demonstrating them at the SAP for Utilities conference in Huntington Beach next month, running C4C off an iPad to demonstrate its out-of-the-box mobility.

Utility Financials: displays the customer account balance, open items, invoices, payments, dunning notices, installment plans, meter reads, premise, bill reversals, and interactions on service tickets.

Utilities 360: displays a hierarchy of the Contract Account, Premise, Contract, Installation and Device for the customer in a parent/child relationship.

Utilities Overview: displays a list of the contract accounts for the customer including invoices, service orders, and meter reads.

Move-In/Move-Out: walks the CSR through move-in steps to a premise, and through move-out steps from a vacating premise.

Installment Plans: creates a payment arrangement in which the customer balance is spread out over a number of days, weeks, or months as permitted, and changes the amount due immediately after.

Service Orders: creates a new service order for field technician work. Service orders are immediately visible to planners for release and to dispatch field techs to premises. Mobile updates are provided as well.

Bill Reversal/Re-Bill: enables the CSR to reverse one or more billing documents, or the entire customer invoice. Also allows manual entry of meter reads, and re-billing  of contract accounts.

Transfers: transfers an existing contract account to a new service address for an existing customer (business partner).

When a CSR uses these features, SAP C4C provides dynamic navigation links and user prompts based on the context of the particular task at hand. This reduces clutter on the screen and makes the interface even more intuitive. See it yourself at the utilities conference.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Integration benefits from SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer

Continuing our series about SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer (C4C), today we’re thinking about how critical it is for utilities to have a CRM system that’s well-integrated with their ERP. As we implement C4C and integrate it with the IS-U this summer, we’re discovering more and more that we like about SAP’s SasS offering.
Utilities committed to excellent customer service need a CRM solution that facilities on-boarding of new customers, transfers to another house or apartment in the service territory, and set-up of payment plans. A CRM solution that integrates with the back-end ERP — or in the case of utilities, the IS-U — will not only provide Customer Service Representatives with visibility into billing, but also into service tickets. Everything discussed with the customer can be captured in those service tickets, and that, in turn, gives the utility insight into each customer’s particular situation and needs no matter who at the utility is communicating with the customer.

That transparency into the customer is incredibly valuable. For example, when performing a customer move-in, the CSR requires a lot of details about the customer class, applicable rate tariff, and move-out of the prior customer. Coordinating this with a non-integrated CRM is difficult, but with C4C and the ERP integrated it’s much easier. Similarly, if a customer is about to be disconnected for non-payment, but the CSR using SAP C4C sees that payment was just made that day, the customer’s power won’t be interrupted. Such visibility is difficult to achieve with non-integrated CRM solutions that may only be updated once a day, or provide very little information from their updates.

C4C also delivers a means to interact with customers through multiple mediums. Referred to as omni-channel, C4C allows for traditional Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) as well as email, text (SMS), and social networks (e.g., Facebook and Twitter).  For example, incoming emails can be read and classified by C4C, automatically creating service tickets and assigning them to the appropriate agent for follow-up. Agents, in turn, can get 360-degree views of their customers, assess account status, and provide pre-determined actions from scripted communication templates.

Moreover, if a service call is necessary, technicians in the field can use C4C to update their progress on service tickets. After troubleshooting service interruptions while on-site at customers’ premises, field techs can even use their mobile devices to charge their time to service orders created by CSRs. SAP C4C is delivered with an out-of-the-box Fiori UI for mobile workers, many features of which work both on- and off-line when cell coverage or WiFi is not available.

SAP also delivers embedded analytics in C4C that customer service managers will appreciate. Because C4C is built on the HANA in-memory database, both OLTP and OLAP capabilities are on the same application platform. This means that analyzing service ticket metrics and utility response times is already part of the C4C solution, complete with graphical displays for visualization of the data for management to analyze. With C4C, a utility won’t have to export its data to an external warehouse for analysis, losing valuable time moving data around just to prepare it for analysis. It’s all right there, ready to be considered carefully and acted upon promptly. And that can only help customer service initiatives.

Monday, August 7, 2017

SAP transaction CIC0 nearing EOL, replaced by Utilities Contact Center (UCC)

Utilities currently running SAP’s on-premise CRM solution, IS-U/CR&B (a.k.a. CCS), often rely on transaction CIC0 in the Customer Interaction Center (CIC). They won’t be able to use it for long, however, as support for CIC0 will end when support for ECC 6.0 ends in 2025, and CIC0 is deprecated in SAP S/4HANA. As such, CIC0 is nearing end-of-life and must be replaced with something else.

The replacement for CIC0 is the Utilities Contact Center (UCC) offered in SAP Cloud for Customer (C4C), which integrates with the IS-U. While C4C has its own ticketing system resident in Cloud for Service, utilities using that alone would miss all of the benefits of integration with the IS-U. And that integration is absolutely critical for utility company CSRs to on-board new customers, transfer customers to new locations within the service territory, and help customers pay their bills by setting up installment plans.

Given that, we see two future alternatives for utilities: run SAP’s on-premise CRM solution with S/4HANA, or run the new Hybris Cloud for Customer SaaS solution. If a utility doesn’t already have the on-prem CRM deployed, we’d recommend using C4C. It provides rapid innovation cycles for easy access to new features; a bundled Fiori client for mobile users at low subscription prices; and offloads technical work so that IT can focus on other initiatives. In the coming weeks, we’ll discuss C4C’s benefits in greater detail.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

2017 SAP for Utilities Conference topics: FERC and C4C

At next month's 2017 SAP for Utilities conference, HPC America will discuss two topics of considerable interest to utility customers:

Real-Time FERC on SAP S/4HANA. Utilities have a number of options for regulatory accounting on S/4HANA. The delivered solution still relies on the legacy FI-RRU (a.k.a., the "FERC module") which uses a derivation-based model to generate regulatory data in batches at period-end. In contrast, S/4HANA is ideally suited to a transaction-based ("real-time") FERC model with line-item granularity. It doesn't, however, deliver such a design out-of-the-box. (Request our FAQ for more info.) At the conference, you can learn from HPC America's 20+ years of subject matter expertise how your utility can realize transaction-based FERC on S/4 either through configuration and/or code block changes, or with our latest add-on solution, HPC DECIPHER, which runs natively on S/4HANA and delivers the most comprehensive functionality for real-time translation, allocations, adjustments, cost flow forensics, and more. Before the conference, you can request our FAQ about FERC on S/4HANA.

SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer. We're currently leading the first Cloud for Service deployment at a utility company in the United States, and will share our SAP C4C implementation and integration experience with conference attendees. SAP C4C is incredibly important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the replacement of transaction CIC0 Customer Interaction Center (CIC) in the legacy IS-U/CCS with the C4C Utilities Contact Center (UCC) connected to the IS-U in the ERP. See a live demo of our system at the conference, and learn from the technical challenges we've surmounted by working closely with SAP Support.

To schedule a meeting with HPC at the 2017 SAP for Utilities conference, please contact us directly.

Monday, July 31, 2017

One SAP Roadmap for Utilities: Wrap SAP Cloud Around On-Prem SAP Financials

Recently we were talking with one of our utility company clients about their SAP roadmap, and how utilities can leverage the latest SAP Cloud-based solutions while maintaining their robust and well-design SAP Financials core.

Our guidance for utilities considering such a direction is to initially wrap Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions around the SAP Financials they already have in place. Integrating third-party or SAP SaaS offerings with SAP Financials will be faster and less costly than a total overhaul, and SAP has great middleware in Hana Cloud Integration (HCI) that runs on the SAP Cloud Platform.

Under this kind of model, a SaaS billing solution, for example, would send APIs to the HCI to message SAP Financials for revenue transactions. The HCI would also be used to connect other SaaS offerings to SAP Financials, such as Fieldglass for contractors, Concur for employee expenses, and Success Factors for HR/payroll.

This strategy of integrating SaaS offerings with on-premise Financials has a number of benefits. First, it provides utilities with access to more modern, user-friendly applications that front-office staff and field operations will appreciate. Second, it safeguards regulatory accounting, overheads and allocations, and even the monthly close itself, which are too important to rip and replace without the utmost care. And third, it creates an opportunity in the future to move to a hybrid solution running SAP S/4HANA in the Cloud. Conversion will be more efficient when some front office and field tech functions have already been moved there, and the primary on-prem system remaining is Financials. Then, once S/4HANA is in place, utilities can build-out analytics on the SAP Business Objects Cloud (BOC) as their repository for all reporting from SAP and other non-SAP apps.

Learn more about HPC's implementation services for a terrific SAP SaaS offering, SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer (SAP C4C).

Friday, July 21, 2017

SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer - utility company project update

HPC America's implementation of SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer at a utility company is progressing nicely (read prior posts 1 and 2). We now have the following functionality working in SAP C4C:

Guided Move-In / Move-Out
This is one of the most important aspects of utility company customer relationship management, and in SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer the functionality steps the end-user through the move-in/move-out process. Initially, there were challenges around meter read estimation and inputs, but we’ve resolved them. We also developed some BADis to streamline the process. For example, out of the box, C4C’s move-in function was creating multiple Service Orders, instead of a single one as the customer required. By modifying the BADi, we've enabled SAP C4C to generate a single Service Order.

Payment History
Customers’ payment histories were initially not replicated fully in SAP C4C, due to the select query working only on certain ECC payment entry configurations. Our utility customer’s ECC payment input is configured to allow multiple entries, so we worked closely with SAP Technical Support to update Cloud for Customer to meet this requirement.

Editing/Creating Meter Reads
Input of meter reads by contract is now operational in SAP C4C. This update is manual, but the system can also make estimates automatically. If a customer’s account has a smart meter, uploaded readings may be edited or overridden.

Testing of Responsive U/I
We’ve now tested SAP Cloud for Customer's Responsive U/I on various mobile devices, including Apple IOS phones and iPads and Android LG phones. The results are excellent, and the user interface makes for a very rewarding experience. The responsive interface in combination with critical functions, such as manual meter reads in territories without AMI, will provide tremendous benefits. In such a case, for example, field technicians will be able to input meter reads in real-time while at a service address without using any other software by SAP C4C.

Tickets and Customer Interaction groupings
In SAP C4C, the ticket is the main record of all customer interaction. We’ve now configured tickets and work tickets to align with our customer’s “Customer Interaction” groupings, which define categories such as Outage, Disconnects, Payments, Billing, and Service Request. All phone calls and emails between a CSR and a customer will be recorded and linked to the customer account in SAP Cloud for Customer.

To learn more about SAP C4C's benefits for utility companies, please contact HPC America.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

New White Paper About FERC Reporting Options on SAP S/4HANA

HPC America’s FERC Reporting Option Matrix for SAP S/4HANA outlines three alternative regulatory accounting designs for utilities on SAP. It covers one derivation-based FERC reporting model, and two different transaction-based FERC models. Request your copy now.

This detailed white paper is based on HPC America’s 20+ years of experience developing regulatory accounting solutions for utilities on SAP. It summarizes how three different approaches to FERC accounting function on S/4HANA, including their respective technical requirements, reporting capabilities, and data granularity to support rate case preparation and regulatory inquiries. It also addresses FERC-GAAP reconciliation, financial statement drill-down, FERC adjustments, FERC budgeting, and other topics relevant to utility accounting stakeholders running SAP S/4HANA.

Utility finance, account, rates, and IT professionals may request their copy of the white paper online.

Friday, June 9, 2017

SAP C4C Implementation - Technical Accomplishments to Date

Following up on our recent post about implementing SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer—which as we understand it is the first SAP C4C implementation at a utility company in the United States—we now have several new use cases running:
  • Customer/Contract Account Search
  • Utility Financial view/360 view
  • Create a new contract account in C4C with synchronous update to ECC/CCS
  • Create an installment plan in C4C with synchronous update to ECC/CCS
We have a total of 72 “iFlows” activated in C4C. An iFlow is a set of instructions to map the ECC to C4C, and the other way around, using SOAP messaging. Here’s an illustrative example of an iFlow:

Of these 72 iFlows, 37 are IS-U-specific: they integrate the ECC-CCS billing module to C4C. The HANA Cloud Integration (HCI) middleware has to be tested for each iFlow to determine if the webservice or IDoc is able to get through from sender to receiver. We’re working closely with SAP Support on HCI, URL address assignments, port assignments, and HTTP/HTTPS and SOAMANAGER issues that arise.

We also have 33 “Communication Arrangements” activated in C4C. A Communication Arrangement is a composition of one or more iFlows that collectively complete a business process between the ERP and C4C. They also define the inbound and outbound communication protocols.

We have replicated 150 customers in C4C from ECC. Replication is used to load the master data into the C4C running on an in-memory HANA database on the SAP Cloud Platform (SCP). This enables faster searching and fewer calls to the ECC to reduce I/O traffic on the on-premises ERP.  We will ramp up the number of replications in test once the iFlows are proven to be error-free.

Beyond these technical accomplishments, we start functional testing next week with the utility company’s call center team. After presenting some of the screens for customer searches, bill/balance analysis, and call/task/notification functions, the feedback we’re hearing is that the SAP Cloud for Customer user experience is excellent! The ability to customize screens to the user’s liking is very robust. Based on our experience so far, we expect that the learning curve for C4C will be a lot shorter than it is for CIC0 in classic SAP CCS.

Check back here later this summer for further updates on our SAP C4C implementation at the utility company.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer (SAP C4C) Implementation at a Utility Company

To serve its water, gas, and electric customers, one of HPC America’s utility company clients had historically utilized decentralized call centers across its service territory. To improve customer service and operational efficiency, the utility designed a new centralized call center responsible for triaging customer inquiries, addressing billing questions, and dispatching support requests to district offices.

To achieve this transformation, HPC recommended SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer (C4C), an SAP SaaS offering that integrates with the SAP Customer Care & Billing (CR&B) utility vertical solution already in production at our client. SAP C4C leverages the SAP HANA Cloud Integration (HCI), a cloud-based middleware between the ECC and C4C running on the SAP Cloud Platform (SCP) platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering.

We're now working with the utility company to roll out SAP C4C to Customer Service Representatives and district office field planners. SAP C4C will provide a 360-degree financial picture of customer accounts, track customer interactions, and integrate with the utility’s existing telephony software for Interactive Voice Response (IVR).

By utilizing SAP’s cloud solutions, this utility company will not only be able to achieve its customer service objectives but also realize significant cost savings, faster implementation, and greater long-term security.

Monday, June 5, 2017

SAP Business Warehouse Improves Reporting at Utility Company

A regional utility company with SAP ECC and SAP Business Warehouse licenses wanted to extend its reporting capabilities beyond monthly financials for the board. One of the utility’s General Managers recognized that its homegrown network of Microsoft Access databases and Excel spreadsheets was inherently error-prone and resulted in many versions of the truth throughout the organization.

The Customer Accounts Receivable team presented the perfect business case. It relied on disparate data sources and time-consuming manual processes to collect and analyze customers’ account data, causing significant delays to complete monthly reports. A/R reporting also suffered from formula errors and missing information, due to extensive data manipulation outside of the SAP ERP.

Learn how HPC America and the utility company leveraged SAP Business Warehouse to cut A/R reporting time from three weeks to just three hours; eliminated databases and spreadsheets outside the SAP book of record; and improved data integrity and established one version of the truth for A/R reporting. Read the complete utility company case study about SAP BW reporting.

Friday, May 19, 2017

HPC CEO to judge at Mobile Appathon Challenge 2017

On May 22, 2017, San Francisco State University will host a Mobile Appathon contest sponsored by Pacific Gas & Electric and the College of Business. Participants submit a wide variety of innovative app ideas and prototypes that address practical problems of personal, business, environmental, civic, or social significance. All SF State students are invited to join the challenge.

HPC America CEO, Jerry Cavalieri, will be one of the event's judges, joined by executives from Uber and SAP. Mr. Cavalieri, an SAP for utilities expert and former PG&E accounting manager, is on the SAP Advisory Board for SFSU's SAP Recognition Award Program, and a regular guest speaker at the College of Business.

Thursday, May 11, 2017


Utilities considering SAP® S/4HANA can discuss SAP FERC reporting on S/4HANA with HPC America at the 2017 SAP SAPPHIRE NOW conference in Orlando, Florida from May 16-17, 2017. 
HPC will be available to answer questions about regulatory accounting on S/4; explain what HANA can (and can't) do as delivered with respect to FERC reporting; and, more broadly, outline S/4HANA upgrade strategies and best practices for financials, cost flows, and rate case support in an HANA-based system.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

CO-Centric FERC for Utilities on SAP

In today's stringent regulatory environment for utilities, the SAP FERC module and its traditional "FI-centric" design are no longer adequate to meet internal and external reporting requirements. That's one of the reasons why HPC America advocates a “CO-centric” model of regulatory accounting for utilities on SAP.

The “CO” refers to the SAP Controlling module, which contains valuable cost data that our customers use to support their FERC balances in SAP (both ECC 6.0 and S/4HANA). This delivers numerous benefits that, ultimately, improve a utility’s responsiveness to regulatory inquiries and strengthen its rate case position. Learn more about CO-centric FERC reporting for utilities on SAP.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

SAP FERC Clearing: Just Get Rid of It

Among a number of challenges that utilities on SAP face, the process of FERC clearing comes up in our conversations with customers from time to time.

Clearing in the FERC post program is an abbreviated form of tracing that our CEO, Jerry Cavalieri, originally created in 1994, when he was an accounting principal at Pacific Gas & Electric leading the development of the SAP FERC module with HPC America. At that time, computing power was not adequate to handle the millions of records PG&E had to process, so FERC clearing was intended to gain much-needed process efficiency.

A great deal has changed since then, and for the last decade HPC has advocated an SAP FERC configuration that does not use clearing. In fact, we urge utilities to get rid of it.

Two years ago, one Fortune 500 utility used clearing groups for Service Company cost allocations and payroll overhead distributions as a means of speeding up the FERC trace. As a result, this utility sacrificed FERC trace accuracy and data granularity—and still had to endure lengthy FERC runs each month.

To eliminate the problems associated with FERC clearing, HPC updated this customer’s regulatory accounting model to support FERC balances with primary and secondary cost data. This modern design not only removed clearing, but also mapped costs across FERC accounts more accurately, increased the transparency of costs from FERC to source objects and accounts, and cut FERC processing time by 50% or more each month.

If you're facing challenges around FERC clearing or other aspects of SAP Financials for utilities, contact HPC to discuss pragmatic, meaningful improvements to your ERP.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

SAP FERC Offset Accounts: Four Reasons for Differences

When utilities on SAP implement the SAP FERC module correctly, their FERC offset account balances for the FERC post program should be zero. Utilities that see differences in their FERC offset accounts may have such a problem for one or more reasons:

  1. FERC offset accounts on the Income Statement and Balance Sheet do not have the same account number, as they must in order to achieve a zero dollar balance. When set up correctly, the Balance Sheet and Income Statement for FERC and GAAP will be equal.
  2. Some FERC processes, such as the direct or trace posts, may not be completing properly.
  3. Users may be posting directly to FERC accounts, instead of to GAAP (natural) accounts, which disrupts the derivation model. Posting directly to the FERC accounts will give you an incomplete result in your drill down.
  4. Cross-company postings can cause differences if configured and mapped incorrectly; look carefully at non-FERC-relevant companies for possible root causes.

HPC America has 20+ years of experience configuring the FERC module the right way, and can identify the source of and eliminate FERC offset account differences very easily. Contact us to learn more.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Utility Case Study: SAP Financial Reporting Improvements

Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) provides electric, gas, water, wastewater, photovoltaic, and
telecommunication services to 50,000 customers across Arizona and New Mexico. The utility went live on the SAP ERP more than a decade ago, and recently identified an opportunity to improve the efficiency of its financial reporting processes in SAP, which typically required several days to prepare each month's board package.

NTUA engaged longtime consulting partner HPC America to automate manual steps, eliminate the need for extensive data verification and reconciliation, and enable authorized users to generate reports directly from their SAP desktops.

Read the full case study about HPC's financial reporting solution on SAP that cut NTUA's monthly process from three days down to 15 minutes, boosted staff productivity, and created more time for analysis instead of data preparation.