Utilities Getting The Best From Software


By Quentin Grady

Utilities, however, are not ordinary businesses. They had in the past – and continue to have – unique business processes and relationships with customers that generic business enterprise resource planning (ERP) suites cannot address. Some ERP vendors tried to tailor their generic applications to create a utility model. But it has become increasingly common, well into the 21st century, for utility companies to meet their unique business obligations through the use of utility-specific best-of-breed applications.

Two factors have changed this picture. The first factor is the high cost of integrating all the applications that exchange information. Over time, the inhouse development and maintenance of integration for both ERP and best-of-breed applications has consumed, by some estimates, 20 to 50 percent of the utility application budget.

To help, ERP vendors have begun to offer lower priced integration approaches, and best-of-breed vendors have banded together to deliver pre-integrated mission-critical suites. Neither approach, however, has delivered maximal savings.

The second factor changing business priorities for utility companies is the need to address both market restructuring and critical environmental issues like global warming. Today, utilities must bring market benefits to customers while also helping them to reduce their carbon and water footprints. No single business process or department can adequately address these complex tasks alone. These tasks require a cross-enterprise focus and business approach. And that means even more integration.

Oracle, cognisant of the challenges facing utilities, has addressed these new realities by incorporating its worldrenowned technology and ERP suite with best-of-breed applications that address utilities’ specific needs.

Today, Oracle’s complete suite for utilities combines:

  • Oracle’s ERP, database and infrastructure software
  • SPL WorldGroup’s utility-specific revenue and operations management applications
  • Siebel’s CRM for larger competitive utilities’ call centres and specialised contacts and sales
  • LODESTAR’s load forecasting and planning, nominations, scheduling and dispatching, market simulation, portfolio management, and meter data management.

Stand alone, each of these solutions meets utilities’ unique customer and service needs. Together, they enable the multi-departmental processes and broader business focus that utilities now require. And, coupled with the array of products and technologies available through the Smart Energy Alliance and similar organisations, they provide comprehensive, cost effective solutions to such complex issues as Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) and distribution monitoring and control.

Oracle’s applications for cross-organisational business processes and best practices help utilities solve today’s complex challenges. Oracle provides the path via which utilities may:

  • Address emerging markets and environmental issues with:
    • Real-time 360O views of customer information
    • Tools that help customers save time and money while reducing fuel and water use
    • Supply-chain strategies that accommodate new sources of energy, e.g. renewables, and new business models, e.g. outsourcing
    • The ability to introduce and retire products and services quickly, in response to emerging customer needs
  • Enhance revenue and operations management by:
    • Avoiding revenue leakage across end-to-end transactions
    • Increasing the visibility and auditability of key business processes
    • Managing assets strategically Increasing field crew and network efficiency
    • Capturing the knowledge of retiring workers and accelerating the training for their replacements
    • Monitoring and improving performance against goals, both for individual staff and for entire organisations
  • Achieve competitive advantage with a leading-edge infrastructure that helps utilities respond quickly to change
  • Reduce total cost of ownership through access to a single global vendor with:
    • Proven best-in-class utility management solutions
    • Comprehensive, world-class capabilities in applications and technology infrastructure
    • A global 24/7 distribution and support network with 7,000 service personnel, 14,000 software developers, 17,700 partners.

Today’s utility company in all geographies worldwide faces urgent issues – environmental concerns, costs, ageing workforces, changing markets, regulatory demands, and rising stakeholder expectations. Tomorrow, those issues will continue to change and even intensify.

Oracle’s flexible, standards-based architecture and industry-specific applications for utilities enable utility companies to continue to innovate and stay ahead. They lead to coherent technology solutions. With Oracle, utility companies can keep pace with change without losing their focus on the energy, water, and waste services that are fundamental to local and global human and economic welfare. And now, they can also confidently partner for the mission-critical operational applications they need, with the company that has long been utilities’ technology vendor of choice.