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Starting in December of 2007, Jon began a multi-year series of podcasts with the SAP SCN Community team. Many of these have their own transcripts, which you can view here. If you want to check out all the SAP SCN podcasts and download them, go to the SAP SCN Podcast Page.
Tracking the Trends at Utilities@BPX Community - Podcast Transcription Print E-mail
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Podcast Transcription:
Tracking the Trends with the Utilities@BPX Community: A BPX Community Podcast with James McClelland of SAP
Hosted by Jon Reed of
Podcast Interview Date: August 10, 2009

Jon Reed: Hi, welcome to this SAP BPX Community podcast. I'm your host, Jon Reed, of Joining me today is James McClelland, who is the Senior Director of Utilities Solution Marketing Worldwide with SAP. We're here to talk about the Utilities at BPX Community, the key trends that are impacting the utilities industry today, and I also want to ask James about the tie-ins between utilities and the SAP Business Objects Portfolio.

We are also hoping to get an insight into the kinds of conversations taking place right now on the Utilities at BPX Community. Let's kick off by finding out more about your role at SAP and also your involvement with Utilities at BPX.

James McClelland: My role at SAP is to head up the Utilities Solution Marketing Worldwide. That's taking a look at every piece of product and being able to craft a strategy statement as well as positioning for customers and for our sales staff. It's looking at the key solutions to address at utilities - whether they are water, gas or electricity - and whether you're focused on generation, transmission, distribution, or as a retailer.

Reed: James, when you and I talked about this podcast, we discovered a shared passion for the BPX Community and how it can impact SAP customers. Why do you feel so strongly about the BPX Community? How does Utilities at BPX fit into where BPX is headed?

McClelland: Jon, utilities are going through quite a change worldwide. There is a drive to become a smarter utility. We keep hearing references to smart meters, smart grids; utilities have to become more energy efficient and sustainable. You and I are also consumers, and we have to become smarter in the way that we consume energy to be able to balance out demand and supply.

At SAP, we have over 1,500 utilities worldwide. As we see these changes taking place in Australia, Canada and Germany, it's great to have a forum where utilities can speak and collaborate together. They are able to share experiences, to see what's working, what's not working, to be able to craft the strategies for their corporations. We cannot always have face-to-face meetings or get on the phone. The BPX Community for Utilities we are finding is a great way to share experiences, collaborate, ask questions and get responses much quicker than any other channels in the past.

Also, with the economic conditions, we keep having many forums, conferences, etc. This is another opportunity that we at SAP are looking to be able to produce on our Utilities at BPX Community. We want to put the "best of" type packages of these conferences together so everybody can share in some of the learning and experiences even if they can't attend some of the large conferences.

Reed: One aspect of the Utilities at BPX is that you're tracking some of the most important trends in the utilities industry. One of those you already referred to. Can you tell us more about smart grids and their impact?

McClelland: SAP has recently released their AMI integration solution. That's the automated metering infrastructure allowing utilities to speak, to be smart assets. It could be a meter on the side of your house or the sensors throughout the entire community of utility products, and it could be at the generation level or at transmission and distribution level. These are the smart grid type sensors.

We're quickly seeing customers purchasing into our AMI solution, and many people have questions. They're asking, "This is how things work at our utility, is it working the same at your utility?" We are really starting to see a lot of questions and answers; it's percolating a great deal of interest. People who haven't yet been mandated to go to smart grid and smart meter technologies still want to see how is this all panning out.

This is the wave of the future, and we're able to basically learn off the first wave of customers that we have: what's working, what's not working. That's one of the first key pillars we're seeing great excitement about because not all the answers are baked right now.

Reed: What is Enterprise Asset Management and why does it matter to utilities customers?

McClelland: With utilities, these are hugely asset-intensive organizations. So if you're a power plant, everything in power plant is an asset. On the transmission and distribution level, all those pipes, all those wires, those are all assets. With utilities, margins are razor thin. To better monitor your assets, to better maintain your assets, to be more predictive on how that asset is performing, to maximize the asset of time - these are the keys for a utility on how they can improve their margins. It's focused on the plant maintenance, keeping the plant up and running, optimizing its profitability and maximizing its output.

Secondly, when we take a look at the grid area, it's about being able to maintain, to keep these assets up and running. Now, many of these assets are over 50 years old, and when we parlay this back to the first point we discussed, a smart grid, this is going to mean huge changes, huge reinvestments into these assets. It will be a transition from one model of keeping 50-year-old assets up and running, to all these brand new assets we're putting together to adopt smart grid technology, but still guarantee uninterrupted service to our customer base.

That's the real "secret sauce." To have an application or a solution that allows you to keep an eye on these assets and properly schedule maintenance or any type of activity against these assets is paramount. That's the key to the SAP solution focused on Enterprise Asset Management, whether you're generation or whether you're transmission and distribution.

Reed: Utilities also have some important tie-ins to the SAP Business Objects portfolio. How does the SAP Business Objects product line relate to utilities customer issues?

McClelland: Historically, we've always been talking about the problem companies have had with data. Whether you're a utility, a retail company or a consumer product, you're getting vast amounts of data. When we're going to smart grid technology and smart meters all through AMI, this means there will be even more data coming into a utility. If we're talking about companies who say they'll be able to read your meter and keep it in 15-minute intervals throughout the day, suddenly you're looking at huge volumes of data coming through the door. That's 96 meter readings per household per day, which is vast amounts of data.

The trick has always been how we can properly report on it and make that data into information. Business Objects portfolio allows companies now to properly report that data in near real-time analysis and make it into proactive information on how the shop is running. Are we being profitable? Are we missing something? You can get into decision analysis, predictive analysis.

With the SAP Business Objects Portfolio of products that are coming out, executives can look at how their plants are running or operating; they can drill right down to the plant floor or they can see if they're optimizing their grid technologies. Are they taking a look for my profitability and collections to my customers? Where are my customer complaints?

A whole suite of products are being developed, and have been developed, to improve the way utilities operate. But most of all, the products are designed to improve the way they can interact with their customers to maintain profitability, customer loyalty and customer satisfaction. How do I monitor my cost to serve? How do I improve my service to my customers?


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