Metropolitan Utilities District Mark Doyle on improving utilities customer service

At the recent SAP for Utilities event in Huntington Beach the Metropolitan Utilities District (MUD), a gas and water utility in Omaham Nebraska won a prize for the best mid-size utility in terms of SAP implementations. I caught up with MUD CIO Mark Doyle after the prize giving ceremony and asked him to tell me a little about how his project improved his customer’s service.

See below for a transcript of our conversation:

Tom Raftery: Hey everyone! Welcome to GreenMonk TV, we’re at the SAP for Utilities event in Huntington Beach and I’m here with —

Mark Doyle: Mark Doyle.

Tom Raftery: And Mark you are?

Mark Doyle: I am the Chief Information Officer at the Metropolitan Utilities District in Omaha, Nebraska.

Tom Raftery: Okay, and what do the Metropolitan Utilities District do?

Mark Doyle: We’re a public utility in the Mid-West and we serve about 225,000 households in around the Omaha area. We provide natural gas and safe, reliable, economical, drinking water.

Tom Raftery: Very good.

Mark Doyle: I always have to put that in there.

Tom Raftery: Excellent. So you received a prize yesterday. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Mark Doyle: Yeah, we were recognized for the best mid-size utility in terms of SAP implementations. We are very honored to receive that recognition and appreciate being here and networking with that tag on our back, it’s been a very nice thing to have here in this large group of utilities.

Tom Raftery: And what was the prize for?

Mark Doyle: We recently upgraded our SAP systems to be fully integrated with the full ERP, CRM, CRB suite of products. There was a multi-year project that culminated and went live on June 3rd of this year.

Tom Raftery: Okay and how will that benefit your organization and your customers?

Mark Doyle: Well in Omaha, Nebraska the public utilities might not be viewed as state-of-the-art but we want to dispel that myth. We are now in a position with these tools to be as good as anyone in terms of customer service and effective delivery of these public services which are so essential to the lives of the folks living in our area.

Tom Raftery: And what kind of things will it help your customers do?

Mark Doyle: Well, number one a mobile work force that’s real time enabled to the back office can effectively serve our customers, make it a safer environment; we have locators, make it a more genuine environment, we have collectors out unfortunately shutting people off, so we think we can more genuinely serve our customer base, that’s on the mobility side.

Our customer service center will be moving toward all of the things that any customer service center does. I’ll use Amazon as an example. We should be able to be as good as any customer service center. Everybody wants things quickly, effectively and accurately and even more than that, they want things in many different ways.

So we think it’s all about serving our customers and running as effectively and as effectively as possible.

Tom Raftery: And are you interacting with customers now using social media?

Mark Doyle: Yes, we are. We have a website that rolled out right along with our implementation in June, a new website, we now have a Facebook presence and a Twitter presence and that’s been a very good experience for us and for our customers that choose to use that channel.

Tom Raftery: Super. Mark thanks a million for talking to us.

Mark Doyle: Thank you, very much.

Metropolitan Utilities District Mark Doyle on improving utilities customer service

PSE&G’s Tracy Kirk talks SAP HANA and Twitter for Utilities

At the recent SAP for Utilities event in Huntington Beach, Tracy Kirk, New Jersey gas and electricity utility company PSE&G‘s Manager of Customer Technology gave two talks. The first presentation was about the successful implementation of their SAP HANA project, and the second detailed how PSE&G stepped up customer communications via Twitter in the wake of to Superstorm Sandy.

I caught up with Tracy after her talks and asked her to give a brief synopsis of her learnings.

Tom Raftery: Hey everyone! Welcome to GreenMonk TV, we’re at the SAP for Utilities event in Huntington Beach and I’m here with —

Tracy Kirk: Tracy Kirk from PSE&G.

Tom Raftery: Tracy what do you do for PSE&G?

Tracy Kirk: I am the manager of customer technology there, so we try and bring innovative technology solutions to bear for our customers.

Tom Raftery: Okay, roughly what size is PSE&G?

Tracy Kirk: We are about two and half million homes in New Jersey, homes and business in New Jersey.

Tom Raftery: Now, you participated in a number of talks at the event here. One of them was about SAP HANA. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Tracy Kirk: Sure. HANA is in memory processing and utilities collect a lot data very high volume, high velocity data and we need to be able to get at it and use it in new ways. HANA is a tool that will allow us to do it and we’ve begun a use case to bring that to bear, to really help the company finances which in turn help all the rate payers and all our customers by helping — make sure that revenue gets billed.

Tom Raftery: So the used case that you were talking about this morning, it was something of the order of a procedure that you were doing. You used to take 26 hours and now it’s taking 60 seconds.

Tracy Kirk: Right. In order to indentify the information necessary to go after this segment of usage, that the company currently isn’t billing. In order to find that, right now, it takes that long to run those queries and sometimes frankly they time out. So we’re not really using the system to its full capabilities. What HANA will do is take all of that data extraction and all of that processing, all of the engine under the hood and turn around and deliver that in 93 seconds instead of 26 hours.

Tom Raftery: That’s an impressive speed bump.

Tracy Kirk: It really is, it’s a beautiful thing to see it come to life after hearing about its promise.

Tom Raftery: And the other talk you gave was around social media, you’ve been using social media?

Tracy Kirk: We have, we started long before Hurricane, Sandy, but during that storm, we found really a whole new level of conversation with the customers and stakeholders in our service territory. People who wanted to find a new way to connect with us during a very unusual event.

Tom Raftery: And the advent of social media for utilities is only starting to kick off now I think, so you are really at the leading edge of this.

Tracy Kirk: Yeah, there are peers of ours who are doing really fine work in different areas. Some of them who are doing a lot of wonderful work with videos, with blogging, with Facebook apps. We started with Twitter and that’s where, where a lot of our effort is gone. We are on Facebook now and we are going into some new areas, so we have a lot of sharing and learning we can do from each other.

Tom Raftery: That’s been fantastic Tracy thanks a million.

Tracy Kirk: Thanks.

PSE&G’s Tracy Kirk talks SAP HANA and Twitter for Utilities

Uses of SAP HANA for Utility companies

At the recent SAP for Utilities event in Huntington Beach, SAP’s Stefan Wolf gave a presentation about SAP’s HANA in-memory database. I caught up with Stefan afterwards and talked to him about some of the ways HANA can be used by utility companies.

Here’s a transcription of our conversation:

Tom Raftery: Hey everyone! We’re here at the SAP for Utilities event and I have with me Stefan Wolf from SAP. Stefan you gave a talk yesterday, where you were talking about the use of HANA for utilities. Can you give me a little synopsis of that talk?

Stefan Wolf: Absolutely!. Thank you Tom for giving me this opportunity. I think utilities these days are challenged by a lot of different requirements. There is lots of data coming through new channels like smart metering, smart grid, social networks. It’s pressure from the regulators, pressure from the public to get more information in real time, whether it’s a storm situation or just about my current bill, it’s mounting.

So they need the possibility to answer these in real time and manage the data and we have customers who are actually doing this today, with SAP tools. For example, one utility is using an SAP HANA solution to improve business process for energy settlement and they have achieved an improvement of a hundred times faster by moving certain steps of that process outside to a HANA box including the replication of the data.

So by just using HANA, they are now able to manage even when all their customers have smart meters and still running to a settlement process in the allowable timeframe. Other customers, for example have used HANA to optimize a collection process, by building a data mod in HANA to collect the information about the customers, the financial information, the surrounding information about the customers to now be much more, on time and on top of the information, and do the correction way more efficiently than before with manual error prone process.

Tom Raftery: Is there any customer facing technology using HANA?

Stefan Wolf: Yeah absolutely, so one example is a utility is using HANA to support their online portal, basically allow the customers to do bill simulations, and they draw their smart meter data from the back end system, from the legacy system into HANA and then run into HANA say, as a billing algorithm and within less than 4 seconds of overall process of getting the data and billing the data the customer sees a stimulated bill on the online portal. So it’s literally in real time.

Tom Raftery: Stefan I’ve heard that, there are data compression technologies in HANA as well, which reduce the size of the database how does this work?

Stefan Wolf: Absolutely, so we have one example, where a customer was using their business warehouse as a test case basically for moving into HANA and it had over 20 terabytes of data in their actual business warehouse and they moved it into HANA and it ended up with less than 700 GB. That was possible but not needing quite a bit of the data which business warehouse typically needs because of the time it takes to load the data from the source system, or they’ve staging areas and so forth. And you have the segregation areas in business warehouse because it takes times to build those cubes. All of that is not necessary in HANA.

So you start with much less data to begin with and then in addition you have the compression factor HANA allows was which is typically between 4.0 and 5.0 to 1, so that reduced it so significantly from over 20 TB down to 700 GB.

Tom Raftery: So of course that makes it even faster again to analyze the data.

Stefan Wolf: Exactly, so now we have less data to store which you can analyze faster and you have an in memory which again improved the time. So between our previous in memory technology, business warehouse accelerator, which was although based on in-memory, but specifically only for BW available. And now HANA, we see even there an improvement of over five times of the reporting time and we see even 50 — effect of 50 increase of the performance compared to conventional business warehouse means.

Tom Raftery: Well, impressive. Stephan, that’s been great. Thanks very much.

Uses of SAP HANA for Utility companies