Synergy hones agile delivery with BI, digital projects

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Synergy hones agile delivery with BI, digital projects

Utility embarks on self-service drive.

Western Australian energy provider Synergy is using business intelligence and digital projects to hone a set of agile delivery capabilities being developed under recently-appointed CIO Gary Peel.

Peel – who was named Synergy’s permanent CIO in December last year – told iTnews the utility has tried "with real intent over the past two-to-three months to really embed [agile] methodologies on the right type of program”.

The first two programs to benefit from the agile drive are a business intelligence stream of work that aims to add value to a recent SAP HANA implementation, and a “digital” stream aimed at improving the way energy customers can interact with Synergy online.

“The agile methodology’s a real journey for us,” Peel said.

“Driving out projects, products and services via the web through an agile methodology is something that we’re focused on.”

In practice, the agile drive means embedding developers with the business, getting them involved earlier when scoping work in the hopes that the resulting projects will deliver more value.

For BI, that means bringing developers in early to identify new data sources to tip into the HANA in-memory analytics platform that Synergy set live in November last year.

“Through the agile methodology we’re moving our developers upstream into the requirements phase – putting them with the business in a room doing sprints to drive out data sources for HANA to be able to build reports or analytics capabilities,” Peel said.

“The [technology] foundations have been built. Now what we’re doing is really leveraging our data to build some really insightful reporting and analytics for our business people - predominately [energy] retail - to be able to understand how our customers utilise energy and what type of products we could be offering to them.”

One of the internal data sources being presently brought into HANA is from Synergy’s Avaya telephony system.

“It’s a journey for us is to make sure we push as much data as possible into the HANA," Peel said.

Apart from identifying new internal data sources to feed HANA, the agile works are also focused on creating more self-service ways for the business to interrogate the platform.

“Through the agile methodology in scrums, we are driving out a more self-service methodology with our data for our business customers to be able to access their own data,” Peel said.

“Rather than the old days of [data] warehouses where only the IT people can access the data and give you the outputs, this is really fundamentally changing the way we operate in the IT area for Synergy.

“Through a Webi [SAP Business Objects Web Intelligence] front-end we’re able to give our business units and analytics teams more access to the data so they can go in and interrogate the data themselves.”

Synergy’s digital strategy, meanwhile, is about driving “deep engagement with customers” – energy users – via its online properties.

“Certainly for us with one million customers, our strategy is to be more contemporary, really focus on agile delivery, and then really drive our customers to a more self-service process around move-in/ move-out and being able to interact with us via the web if that’s what they choose,” Peel said.

SAP is largely underpinning that process automation and self-service capability.

Synergy runs an SAP enterprise resource planning system, including SAP’s industry-specific solution for utilities (IS-U), alongside modules such as financial accounting and controlling (FICO) and human capital management (HCM).

From June 30, Synergy will run its full operations on a single SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

Synergy merged with state-owned generation business Verve Energy back in 2014, and the two businesses have been integrating since.

Verve had been running on Ellipse, but Peel said from an architectural and integration point of view "it made sense to have our ERP systems on the one platform".

“So the generation business unit are going live on their [SAP] ERP platform and HR also at the same time,” Peel said. “After this week, we’ll all be on one ERP system.”

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