Over the past couple of years, the electric utility industry has changed in terms of the different software solutions available. The old approach to addressing this industry’s needs was the “best-of-breed” approach, meaning that software vendors were creating solutions addressed to only one group or business unit within the company doing one specific task. Generation, Transmission, and Distribution all had their own specific software packages that were almost never fully integrated with each other. Or, the interfaces were poorly designed, thus creating a lot of data issues and discrepancies.
Since an integrated solution didn’t exist yet for this industry, a best-of-breed approach meant having to open different software applications in order to do your day-to-day job, and in most cases, the types of interfaces, including graphical user interfaces (GUIs), didn’t look anything like each other. User training was intense, and therefore the users’ interest in making the system work was lost. There were a lot of data entry redundancies and more often than not, data corruption was an everyday thing.
It didn’t take long before the big software companies realized this problem and decided to try and address it. The quickest and easiest solution was acquisitions, and all those small best-of-breed systems became something else overnight. IBM purchased MRO Software, Oracle purchased SPL, Indus merged with MDSI…all in hope of reaching a bigger audience and solving most, if not all, the current issues.
As a clear leader and innovator according to the latest AMR research, IBM is standing comfortably on top with the old MRO solution, now called Maximo, as its offering. It has all the tools and technology that make the IT people say “Wow!”—and it offers the functionality that responds to the needs of the Generation, Transmission, and Distribution units. But because IBM is on top and is often referred to as the “Cadillac” solution, we can just conclude that it doesn’t come at a cheap price.
An emerging force that also realized the potential of the industry is SAP. Recently, this vendor started adding functionality and tools to its enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to try and meet the industry’s needs; but it still has a learning curve before it fully understands the electric utilities. Even if SAP’s solution is not as sophisticated as IBM’s Maximo in terms of functionality specific to the electric utilities, over the next few years SAP will clearly be a top contender for first place by investing heavily into understanding and developing this industry’s requirements into an integrated environment.
Oracle is making a big push into this market as well, with the PeopleSoft solution. This vendor does not have a complete solution for all the different business units and is lacking some key functionality for the Generation and Transmission, but it is the only one of all the software vendors that does offer a fully integrated solution. PeopleSoft is by far the best solution for Financials, which is easily demonstrated by their dominance of the market share, as well as a very complete solution for the electric supply chain and assets management. They have not made any big acquisitions in this industry to buy a piece of the market share, but surely over the next years a clear move will be made.
I think it is safe to say that this industry is in dear need of a fully integrated solution that offers top-in-its-class functionality that will bridge the gaps between Financials, Generation, Transmission, and Distribution. By now, everyone involved in this industry would agree that best of breed is just not the way to go. Communication between the different business units is the key to success and growth and having a fully integrated solution will make this possible. The only question that remains is “Who will be the first software vendor to make this solution?”
I work with Electricity utility company since 1984. Since Late 1990s my are focussing on research on adoption of Technologies for Utilities companies. More information on the trend of this development will be very helpful in the near future.
Msc - Information Technology-Joensuu University
Bsc - Computing and Information Systems London Metropolitan Universitu.
This information is not new to us (Independent Utilities Billing & Accounting Software developing Company based in Abuja, Nigeria), but the problem I feel we need to address is the issue of ownership of leadership.
I would advise an independent agency e.g. ofcom to own compliance & accreditation of billing systems related functionalities, whilst the accounting system a customer chooses should be left to the discretion of the customer, since there are a lot of factors at play when a customer chooses to buy any accounting system.
I think it makes much sense that TEC is shown to be provide an independent view/opinion on governance related issues rather than seem to favour a particular line of software providers.
We have done integrated solution for electricity company for all there activities it is one integrated solution built on oracle technology
I have been working and attached with one very large Electic Utility Company and provide IT Consultancy to them. I also feel that there is really a huge gap in all ERP Systems to fulfil the needs of Generation, Distribution and Transmission. Am interested to know about your product for which I can market the product for you on a professional term.
If the product is getting developed I can provide some inputs on the same also to make it a fruitful ERP solution.
Local Government in South Africa are responsible for Electricity, Water and rates billing. It was only after the ERP bubble pricked that the big software companies started looking at government.
In Cape town they are using SAP as their CIS, but integrated of course with financials.
Durban (Ethekwini) decided to build their own CIS and good luck to them it will take years and they will probably get overtaken by political or technology changes.
Oracle has a billing tool but it needed customisation. For those on Oracle that will provide a better ROI than building one and a lot less headaches.
A lot more needs to be done for government systems, another area requiring more specific attention is infrastructural assets.
The development of on-line interactive electronic LOGBOOKS has gone a long way to creating an effective INTERFACE between Operators requirements and high-end solutions (even Legacy systems). Imagine a simple solution (like writing a blog on an intranet page) that seamlessly collects RELEVANT data from your DCS, posts a maintenance REQUEST to your Maximo and defines DOWNTIME DATA for your productivity report - and heaps more!!
Worth considering , don’t you think??
Active BI, right?
Fast forward to 2010, creeping towards 2011. Anybody have updates on this topic? Is there a fully integrated suite now from vendors? Which approach would prove more beneficial in the long run? A best of breed approach or a fully integrated suite that will require some serious customizations to meet business requirements?