Quebec gas company boosts customer service

Gaz Metropolitain Inc. has finished its implementation of two solutions from SAP AG’s mySAP Utilities suite, which was put in place to help the Montreal-based gas company keep better track of its customers.

The energy data management (EDM) and customer care and service (CCS) capabilities from SAP’s Utilities offering – an industry-specific solution designed for gas, water and electric companies – have been up and running at Gaz Metropolitain for the last two months, three years after the gas company looked to SAP to solve some of the company’s systems problems.

“After the year 2000 we looked at our legacy systems which were, on average, 15 years old…and there was a lack of integration in there especially for our customer profiles. So we [looked] at solutions that could help us get an integrated system as far as the [customer] information is concerned,” said Hughes Beaudoin, IT director at Gaz Metropolitain.

He added that the natural gas distributor was looking for end-to-end solutions including customer care and customer relationship management (CRM) applications.

“We wanted the integration with all the back office and front office [applications] and the only product that had integrated everything [we wanted] was SAP,” Beaudoin said.

The EDM component of the solution – which handles meter-reading data – was necessary for Gaz Metropolitain because the company measures the gas consumption of its 2,000 commercial and industrial customers on a daily basis.

He noted that one of the most useful customer service additions for the company’s industrial users has been Cyberaccount, an extranet that was set up for customers to check their gas consumption in real-time.

Beaudoin said that although he has been hearing a lot of positive feedback from customers who are happy about new features such as the extranet, implementation hasn’t been seamless for Gaz Metropolitain employees.

He said for the workers responsible for operating the range of applications in the new system, “it’s been a burden.”

“We did bring in ten people within the project that look at change management, we did a lot of training and we did a lot of on-site coaching after implementation to…try to bring down the learning curve. But it still takes a long time [and] the learning curve is long,” Beaudoin said.

He added that the implementation process – which has taken over two-and-a-half years – started with the back office including human resources, payroll and all the procurement applications. The implementation of the preventative maintenance modules (PMs), which Beaudoin said is the core of the gas company’s business, was completed next followed by the CCS and EDM applications.

According to a report entitled Energy Utility Work Management Systems: Market Overviewreleased in January 2003 by Stamford, Conn.-based Meta Group, an IT research and consulting firm – North American energy utilities consider work management systems to be non-discretionary or core investments. Spending on these systems is currently US$350 million to US$450 million, and this will grow 15 per cent to 20 per cent annually from 2003 to 2005.

Walldorf, Germany-based SAP can be found online at www.sap.com. More information about Gaz Metropolitan can be found online at www.gazmetro.com.