PC World today carries a story about another combat zone for the big two. My friend Ray Wang from Forrester comments in the article that in his view that shortly you will be able to view on line your minute by minute utility consumption. I am sure Ray is correct in that prediction. The size of the task however shouldn’t be underestimated and there is a reality here of cost vs benefit. In the UK utility bills are read by a manual meter readers and sometimes estimates are used for individual billing. The reality is that depending on the type of property and its age, there are differing challenges, so any access at all to meters, comms issues, and the physical age of the meter are challenges.
The other issue is simply the amount of data. In my experience in a much simpler world of linkage of manufacturing equipment to SAP there are challenges – in the main this is nothing to do with SAP. The first thing you would say is this is not mainstream SAP ERP activity – simply too much data and very, very particulate and also very “industrial”. SAP, of course have developed their add on solution to cope with this but in this area the key may be with your hardware strategy – and I’m not talking about IT hardware directly. I’m talking about your physical metering and networking strategy.
For example within the manufacturing world, key to the success, would be a sourcing strategy for your plcs and then the initial collation of the data may be better served by the manufacturer of these. At this level the data is incredibly detailed and very often more important locally than centrally. The trick then becomes serving both parts of the enterprise, the local engineers who want detailed data, and the central controllers who want the bigger picture. So my advice would be consolidation locally and a very careful selection of the data that needs to move away from the local source. In my experience very often the manufacturers of the actual data recorders have the knowledge of the pitfalls and that’s why I would always encourage close involvement with them.
So its no surprise that SAP have done just that themselves!