A firm hold on smart meters at Alliander

The grid operator Alliander takes its role in the energy transition to sustainability very seriously. The roll-out of smart meters to three million customers is a major part of this. To realize this huge operation, the network manager wants to manage the operational, tactical, and strategic plans better. SAP BW and BPC offer a joint platform for this.

Alliander has various planning departments that focus on the operational plans of today, the tactical plans for the coming two years, and the strategic plans for the coming five years. “All these plans must be connected to each other; the output of one plan has got to be the input for the next one,” explains Rob Wissink, Program Manager at Alliander.

Flow of plans

“However, each team had its own planning application and method,” Rob continues. A few years ago, the network company started a number of new projects to support the entire flow of plans in a single, integrated SAP BPC platform. “IT focuses on making our business run as efficiently as possible. A planner must be able to plan as accurate as possible without having to collect data from everywhere.”

The tactical plan was the first in a series of plans to be transferred to SAP BPC. “The users were extremely satisfied,” says Rob. “It used to take weeks to run a tactical plan; now we can do it within a day. Thanks to the huge performance benefits, the users are able to calculate more plan scenarios and give better advice.” This first success was infectious: other departments also want to transfer their plans to SAP BPC. The strategic plan will therefore follow soon.

Flow of plans

Naida Sadžak, Rob Wissink and Daniël Sanders

“However, each team had its own planning application and method,” Rob continues. A few years ago, the network company started a number of new projects to support the entire flow of plans in a single, integrated SAP BPC platform. “IT focuses on making our business run as efficiently as possible. A planner must be able to plan as accurate as possible without having to collect data from everywhere.”

The tactical plan was the first in a series of plans to be transferred to SAP BPC. “The users were extremely satisfied,” says Rob. “It used to take weeks to run a tactical plan; now we can do it within a day. Thanks to the huge performance benefits, the users are able to calculate more plan scenarios and give better advice.” This first success was infectious: other departments also want to transfer their plans to SAP BPC. The strategic plan will therefore follow soon.

Linking BI applications and sources

Transferring all the different plans into a single shared SAP BPC is quite a change for the systems. “We are linking and presenting data from various sources to make sure it becomes useful information for planning,” says Daniël Sanders from Plainwater. “Take the tactical plan: we now load the realization and work-in-progress data from the source system, so that we can continually improve the plan using the latest insights.”

The data is collected and linked together from various sources, particularly from operational SAP applications that Alliander already uses. SAP BW (Business Warehouse) is used for structuring data and making it available in SAP BPC. “Connecting the existing applications lets you put the specific functionalities of each tool to better use,” says Naida Sadẑak, also from Plainwater. “SAP BPC is part of the overall SAP suite and not a standalone component.”

Plainwater has been involved with the Business Intelligence landscape at Alliander for several years. “What I value in Plainwater’s approach is that they are pragmatic,” says Rob. “They know both the technology and the business well.”

Smart meters

After the tactical and strategic plans, it is time for the operational plans, such as the integral meter activities plan and the logistical meter planning. Smart meters play a crucial role in the energy transition. On top of that, there are statutory targets too. “All of our customers must have been offered a smart meter by 2020 and at least 80% must actually be installed,” says Marc van den Bos from Alliander.

This huge operation comes with a large, diverse requirement for information. “We’re no longer able to just look at the number of meters that have been installed and say we’ve achieved our objective,” says Marc. “There are many more aspects to it now. For example, take questions like ‘at what point in the process do I make an offer?’ and ‘how often does that lead to a meter being installed?’. At the same time, the internal funding flows are changing, which demands good insight into the costs of the entire process.”

The integral meter activities plan, which Marc is responsible for, had to be changed drastically. “I get input from different sides and from various levels, which we translate into usable information based on a number of guiding principles. For example, we get a number of activities from asset management that we first have to translate into addresses; after all, multiple activities can take place at the same address. Next, we translate this into the associated number of meters.” These translations are made automatically based on transparent logic.

From data to insights

The plans involve large amounts of data that has to come from different source systems. “One version of the integral meter activity plan consists of three million records,” says Daniel. “And a new version is made every month.”

Templates for SAP BPC, developed by Plainwater, are used to keep performance up. “These templates have been especially developed to make it easy to add new functionalities,” Daniël continues. “They can be used, for instance, to perform complex calculations faster, even with large amounts of data.”

Finally, the reports are made accessible through SAP Business Objects. “SAP BO combines well with SAP BPC to make nice reports with tables, charts, and dashboards,” says Naida, “the information can be tailored to suit all the target groups.”

More insights into other areas

Rob Wissink and René Segers

Both users and management are positive about the results of the new planning processes. “It offers more insights into other areas,” says Marc. “For example, I can open multiple versions in a chart more easily, or take my own subsets for each month, workflow, or contractor.”

“Previously, the users were happy if they could deliver only one scenario. Now that’s child’s play and it only takes a few minutes,” says Rob. “We can now experiment with additional what-if scenarios,” says Rob in conclusion. This can be done on the spot during a meeting, for example when drafting the strategic plan for different scenarios for wind energy. That previously took a week, but now we can change an item during a meeting and see the effects immediately. That means you are really in control of your planning,” Rob concludes.