Noida Power Ensures Data Integrity With SAP R/3
An enterprise that has legacy systems, which does not see eye to eye, where data duplication results in enormous drainage on system’s resources, and finally, where the customer demand is ever swelling, the mantra for efficiency is to ensure data integrity, and provide capabilities for future scalability.
At the Noida Power Company Ltd (NPC), the scenario faced by the systems department was quite similar. Arijit Mitra, manager - IT, Noida Power Company spoke at length on strategies adopted to take the bull in the form of application incompatibility, by its horn.
NPC, in existence since 1993, had been using Foxpro based systems for its low tension and high-tension customers (the two types of customers that the company dealt with then). Moreover, the systems department developed applications for processing of applications for new connections.
But, as customer base increased, by 2000, Oracle Apps was procured to devise a financial information system, handle inventory and accounts payable. Said Mitra, “In addition to the above, in 2001 we had put in place Smallworld, a GIS application from GE, to capture land base information and get spatial customer data. This was required for analyzing and automation of our network design.”
Thus the company had atleast three different systems and that is precisely where the problem was identified.
Mitra explained, “The systems we had, functioned in silos and to add to that, through Foxpro it was not possible to provide linkages / interfaces to these systems. This incompatibility resulted in data duplication, which in turn ate away system resources. We also realized that we were not capable to even provide for some kind of intelligence from the data we had.”
So by 2004 the initiative for acquiring an integrated system gained momentum at NPC. According to Mitra, “The motivation for this initiative was not fault finding of the earlier system but gaining capability for data integrity, business intelligence, scalability for adding applications in future, and finally having a powerful decision support system (DSS).”
A select committee started evaluating systems from vendors like Oracle, CMC, PwC and SAP. Informing about the elimination strategy, Mitra said, “The Oracle Apps that we already had, provided accounts payable and receivables for discrete customers but lacked features for utility billing. We studied the PwC developed application on billing in use at Kerala State Electricity Board, but did not find it robust enough. The CMC application also wasn’t fulfilling our requirements.”
Added Mitra, “We finally zeroed in on the SAP offering of SAP R/3, which provided for, apart from all standard ERP modules, the billing module IS-U/CCS, which has features for application processing, billing, collection, and customer care which was very crucial. The application has allowed the flexibility of working with pre payment systems as well.”
“In addition, the SAP architecture provided for ready interface with a number of other applications (for example with Smallworld). The SAP BIW application came as a great help towards devising an effective DSS. Moreover, the R&D support assurance from SAP also assured of protection of our investment on the application,” justified Mitra.
At NPC, Mitra and his team has their work cut out for them for the next couple of years as he says, “This is the beginning of an ongoing process of enabling scalability in the system, albeit in a phased manner. At the first phase we are deploying application processing, billing, collection, and customer care features. In the second phase the SAP R/3 will be interfaced with Smallworld.”
The first phase of deployment, which started in Jan 2005 would be complete by August this year. The second phase will follow soon after. Mitra informed, “We are concurrently deploying the SAP BIW functionality in the first phase so that we can work upon the massive data (of last 10 years) that we have. Later on the GIS based spatial data will also be used for providing more analysis.”
NPC plans to bill 50,000 customers through the new system and has pumped in an investment of Rs one crore for the initiative.
Speaking on the return on investment (ROI) estimates, Mitra said, “It is difficult to monetarily quantify ROI at present. Benefits gained in terms of data integrity, scalability and effective DSS, and reduced data duplicity, together, justifies the investment.”