Yorkshire Water is using a business-process modelling tool from Software AG to help the business make the most of SAP.
David Burbage-Atter, Business Process Analyst at Yorkshire Water, explains that he firm is using Software AG’s Aris platform to establish enterprise-wide policies for business-process management around its SAP implementation and to automate governance processes using a model-driven approach.
Burbage-Atter says Yorkshire Water, which has five million domestic customers and 3,500 employees, first acquired the Aris system back in 2007. He says the firm came across the Aris product as a result of a programme of work it was doing called Capital Transformation.
That work was related to the five-year regulatory cycles run by Ofwat, the Water Services Regulation Authority, to track and trace governance in the utility industry. According to Burbage-Atter, Yorkshire Water believed Aris would help it to keep a tighter rein on its business processes:
One thing that we found was that we didn't have a true central repository for our business processes. So a decision was made to go out and actually find a platform where we could actually store these business processes centrally and share with everybody.
While the implementation was successful, Burbage-Atter says progress in terms of introducing better process management across the organisation was slower than might have been anticipated. His team managed to get a lot of information into the Aris platform about asset-management processes. However, they didn’t receive top-level backing from across the business and the platform ended up only being used by a few specialists in the organisation.
A significant sea change occurred in 2016 when Yorkshire Water upgraded to Aris 9.5, which is an updated version of the Software AG platform. Burbage-Atter recognised the platform could help transform how the business worked with SAP. The firm had been using SAP since 2000. It is currently running SAP R/3, but is part-way through an upgrade project to SAP S4/Hana, which commenced in 2015:
We knew SAP was on its way and we also knew that there was plenty of content we could get our hands on if we could get in there. And so we started engaging people in business-process management. At the time, the business was structured in a very rigid, horizontal manner. We were in a business situation where we couldn't separate off accounting liabilities. So this was an opportunity to actually move forward.”
Accounting for change
Accounting provided a use case to prove the value of using Aris with SAP. But while the initial focus of the business-process management project was centred on accounting, The scale of the project quickly increased to what Burbage-Atter refers to as a “big gang” initiative, where his team aimed to cover all business processes and enterprise systems, apart from customer relationship management technologies.
When it comes to this extended approach, the other business process areas that were then included in the transformation plan were sundry sales to cash, procure to pay, plan to manufacture, and asset plan to operational asset, which included project management, maintenance, and health and safety. Burbage-Atter says he could sense the opportunity to drive lasting change across the organisation:
So I was salivating at the fact that there was going to be all this opportunity for business-process management coming my way to bring in and populate Aris. That would mean we could share more information with people – and we started thinking about how Aris would enable this.”
The transformation process was centred on an attempt to create process-driven SAP. The aim of this project was to find new and improved ways to share information backwards and forwards across the organisation. Burbage-Atter says Aris was connected to the firm’s SAP environment and provided deep integration with SAP Solution Manager, a product that offers end-to-end application lifecycle management to streamline business processes.
Burbage-Atter says his team faced some organisational challenges in its attempts to make the most of this integrated approach to information management, including disparate processes structures, a lack of consistency around modelling standards, a range of complex roles within the business, and under-established governance processes. Help came in the form of external advice and hard work from his internal team:
We had some support from Software AG consultants who came in and helped us connect everything up. We have to redraw 661 process diagrams to try and understand what was happening in the business, and without actually drawing out of Aris and pulling it through, we wouldn’t have seen any of that.”
The business ended up with a set of Aris foundational processes. Burbage-Atter’s team was able to restructure the content of its database around these Aris foundational processes, using the information that had come through from SAP’s Solution Manager:
This has been a key piece to actually getting our information flowing, so that we could get the security roles, because – without that information – people in the business were really struggling to understand who needed access to what data. Being able to report out of Aris helped us to actually achieve that.”
Yorkshire Water now benefits from effective business-process management. One of the key benefits s visibility and access. Security is another plus-point. Burbage-Atter says Aris has helped the team to ensure people producing reports follow a robust process-building system:
We'd been talking to the business about getting more risk and control. Our audit team loves this new approach because we’ve actually allocated risks and controls to the processes in SAP, so that they’re able to see them and find out where they actually occur. So it has been a massive benefit actually synchronising Aris and SAP.
Despite the success of the implementation, Burbage-Atter says there are some best-practice lessons for other IT professionals. One of the key lessons is to ensure Aris and SAP are used in combination as early as possible. He also stresses the importance of documentation and getting people to understand that his team has the information they require and can update that documentation as required.