Sydney Water uplifts data stack for real-time decisions – Strategy

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Sydney Water has uplifted its real-time insights generation and decision-making capabilities in finance-related domains under an ongoing transformation program.

Head of digital business programs Sridhar Pydipati told the Gartner Data and Analytics Summit 2022 that a key purpose of a “large backoffice transformation” that Sydney Water undertook was to enable “real-time analytics on how our systems are performing [and] how our finances are going.”

SAP Analytics Cloud was adopted as part of the transformation, with the intention to use analytics “to try and make a difference quickly”. 

Though the use cases are broad, this has led to a tightening and digitisation of purchase orders and employee expenses, and faster reconciliation of month-end finances.

Month-end processes that previously took weeks can now be delivered next-day, Pydipati said.

The faster delivery means “more time to act on intelligence” and insights contained in the report “and make a difference” to Sydney Water’s performance.

“One of the key challenges of managing our costs has been this ability to have this analytics available quickly and drive improvements and identify leakage in terms of revenue or money,” Pydipati said.

“So it has been quite powerful for us.”

SAP Analytics Cloud is integrated Sydney Water’s instance of SAP Ariba to understand how purchase orders are being generated.

“We generate about 3000 purchase orders a month, and we use SAP Analytics Cloud to find out how many were generated manually and why they were generated manually, because manual can create errors,” Pydipati said.

“We identified that [proportion] and improved that in a significant way.”

Similarly, there are linkages between SAP Analytics Cloud and SAP Concur, which Sydney Water uses for expense claims.

The use of insights has allowed the utility to improve the proportion of people submitting expense claims on time, from 55 percent up to “around 85 percent”.

It has also led to some work around fraud detection and prevention.

“Some of the things that we get out of analytics is whether these expenses [being] claimed… were spent during the weekend,” Pydipati said.

He did not elaborate on this particular measure.

Pydipati said that SAP Analytics Cloud is just one component of Sydney Water’s broader data stack.

The stack also includes an older Business Objects and data warehouse environment, BW/4 HANA, an Azure data lake, “which we started implementing only recently” and Power BI.

Pydipati said the utility had moved more towards self-service analytics models to find actionable insights.

“What you need to try and do is make data accessible easily and in a secure way,” he said.

“Once that’s available to them, based on what the art of the possible, they will start driving the analytics [themselves].”

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