A new milestone has been reached. After all participants have worked hard for two years six web portals were set live by iTiZZiMO. So around 10.000 active users of the portals can submit all requests regarding power, water, gas or district heat via internet portals and in one standardized form. So far, this is iTiZZiMO’s biggest project ever and that’s why we want to give the responsible guys the chance to talk about their project. SAP-team leader Christoph Hirschmann (CH) and overall project manager Christian Kleinschroth (CK) talk about challenges, curiosities of project life and the one secret that is essential for successful implementation
Overall project manager Christian Kleinschroth (CK)
SAP team leader Christoph Hirschmann (CH)
What was the project all about?
CK: For each of the six former independent companies we implemented a web portal which is used to submit all requests in a standardized form. The conventional, paper-based way with customers printing and filling out forms and sending them to the energy providers is everything but neither modern nor comfortable. Now, all requests are web-based and data is automatically transferred into the corresponding ERP systems. Nobody needs to make phone calls to ask for missing information, nobody needs to transfer data manually. This really saves a lot of time. With this project we are in the business area of grid operation and for this area the profit only depends on the amount of customers. So when companies want to increase their profit they have two chances. Either they expand their supply areas or they increase internal efficiency.
Now the customers can submit their applications comfortably via the web portal and all data automatically are transferred into the supplier’s ERP system.
What were the major challenges during the project?
CK: Well, we implemented six uniform portals, each one in a company with historically grown IT and different process understanding. Now the web portals are the entry point for all requests and unify the application system as well as the whole external appearance of the group. But due to the different IT-landscape and process understanding we needed to model the follow-up processes differently. This sounds like a lot of hard work but in fact this wasn’t the worst part. The biggest challenge wasn’t the programming effort, instead it was finding a joint basis for discussion. Although all companies work on the same processes, they do it differently and with various understanding. It was a mammoth task to create a common understanding and a joint terminology for all participants. Furthermore we had to keep in mind the customer all the time. One really can’t apply the “one-size-fits-all-principle” here. One can say that customer loyalty begins at grid operation. When the customer can submit his request via tablet while sitting on the couch comfortably, this definitely is a decision criterion. With our integrated portal solution we thankfully were able to get best results for all participants. Even when the basis for solving problems was only an error report filmed via iPhone.
CH: Taking a look at SAP side we worked with nine different modules, from Materials Management and Master Data Management to Finance and in all six companies the processes were handled differently within these modules. So one really can say that we implemented six projects instead of one. The only identical component is the portal as the input channel for all requests. Additionally the IT-specifications of a large corporation were challenging and some hours of our time were invested in facing this challenge. We worked in four development instances: predevelopment (in own namespace), development, test and live operation. The challenge was to guarantee that new developments were transferred from one system into another in time, as we mostly couldn’t influence the transport. But in the end we always made it.
“It can be confidently said that we have implemented six projects during the term.”
– Christoph Hirschmann
What’s iTiZZiMO’s secret for successfully implement such a great project?
CK: At first we made a workshop with our customers to identify the challenges and possible solutions. This way should be a matter of course but unfortunately it’s not for all companies. Exactly at this point we became aware of the inconsistencies regarding process understanding and terminology. Of course we could benefit from our long-lasting experience with companies from the utility sector. This is why it’s not such a big deal when a process step is named differently.
CH: Despite our know-how in utility-processes and our experience with web portals the mix of web-development and SAP-expertise was relevant. It’s a great advantage for the customer that we can offer both from a single source. Especially when it comes to such a degree of complexity it would have been difficult to harmonize web-developers and SAP-experts from different companies. Our team works together since several years and the mutual understanding leads to less misunderstanding compared to other projects. Another aspect is that we enjoy great confidence within the world of utilities. Furthermore we have a lot of humor, for example when a tester complained that the attachment of his request contained empty pages or irrelevant information. When we could clear that it was the tester that uploaded empty pages or pieces of rough paper as placeholder, both sides laughed, our team and the tester.
“To sum up one can say that preparation and conception phase of a project become more important the bigger the whole project is. When all participants are on the same lever regarding knowledge and terminology and therefore meet as equals, more than half of the project success is achieved.”
– Christian Kleinschroth