The big picture
Aiming for improved visiblity, consolidation, and streamlined processes, ACWA Power International implements Oracle HFM and Oracle E-business suite
Managing a big project with multiple teams can often be an arduous affair. There are always challenges around communication and maintaining clear visibility, as well as difficulties in keeping the related paperwork accurate and up-to-date.
When you move up to large-scale operations that involve an entire group of companies though, the challenges are compounded.
What is needed is a centralised system that not only consolidates all data and operational processes, but also enables different entities and divisions to communicate directly with other, allowing everyone to keep an eye on the big picture.
It is this type of cohesive ecosystem that ACWA Power International (API), the main affiliate of ACWA Holding in Saudi Arabia, has sought to introduce across its subsidiary operating companies that today number over 60 entities.
“ACWA Power exists within 11 countries covering the Middle East, Southern Africa, and the South-East Asian regions. We have over 23 gigawatt of power generation and 2.5 million cubic metre per day of desalinated water production. These are our key KPIS,” comments Mir Dawar Ali, head of IT, ACWA Power International.
A key player within the power and desalinated water sector, API has for the last few years worked closely with the Oracle Corporation, who have been helping the Saudi Arabian firm to revamp its IT infrastructure.
The first step lay with the deployment of Oracle Hyperion Financial Management (Oracle HFM), which was undertaken by Oracle’s implementation partner, PwC, and served as the consolidation module across API’s 60 plus entities.
This was soon followed with the deployment of Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12.1.3, which was undertaken by Oracle Platinum Partner, AppsPro.
While the initial implementations focused on delivering enhancements towards ACWA Power International’s finance and supply chain processes, the US-based technology firm also deployed Oracle Taleo Enterprise Cloud Service to select API entities, introducing recruiting cloud and on boarding services to HR.
“ACWA Power has a complex ownership structure. When I say complex ownership structure, I mean that there are different parties involved as investors to ACWA Power. Plus on top of it there is a network of intercompany that work together within ACWA Power to consolidate and to come out with the results that we are wanting to achieve,” comments Ali.
“We are using the Oracle Advanced Global Intercompany System, which allows intercompany to talk to each other on a regular basis and at the end of the day, the functional coherence will be produced within all these entities.”
Adding that much of the driving force behind the recent implementations were focused towards consolidation, the head of IT explains that it became important for API to analyse how internal departments communicated with each other, particularly when it comes to financial closes.
“HR know that they have to process the payrolls and the direct and indirect cost that they would put into finance system, they have to do it by the benchmark date. They exactly know that if they do it after a certain day that this particular calendar would be kind of blocked into the system,” explains Ali.
“What we are doing is with the introduction of the system itself, we are telling them, please give all the information and sink it back into the finance … finance will sink all that information back into consolidation module of Oracle HFM. And they have to do it by fourth of next month.
“Eventually what we doing is that we are taking all the processes that are available and embedding it into the system and streamlining it to make sure things are working with the right synergy,” he adds.
Additional benefits of the implementation include increased visibility, productivity, enhanced compliance management, three areas that the team at API believe are positive indicators of a ROI on the project. ACWA Power International also benefitted greatly from a reduction in the IT cost maintenance, thanks to discounts offered by Oracle.
In fact, the head of IT believes the ‘good returns’ on the IT costs will continue to have a positive impact as ACWA Power International wraps up the rollout Oracle’s SaaS solutions across their subsidiary operating companies. He shared that API achieved almost 30 – 40% in savings in IT mainteannce costs.
Initially, only six major project entities, which included the corporate HQ, were chosen to deploy Oracle’s HFM and Oracle E-business suite.
The decision was made early on that the first sites would be those that were “ready and that can deviate at any given point in time.” The remaining 60 plus entities would then follow in the general rollout with a replication of the implementation.
Of course every new venture comes with its own set of challenges and there were plenty faced by API right off the bat. While there was an initial challenge centred on project direction and project management, the more pressing issue was centred on data preparation.
API took to the drawing board to create a wide-range of policies and procedures that would be embedded within the ERP engine and used over the course of next five to six years.
Not only did these policies need match the requirements of the first six entities to receive the deployment, but they would need to remain relevant over the rollout of the other 60 plus entities under API.
“The vision of preparation of those master policies and procedures is done in a way that it will cover and fulfil all those requirements that can come in the near future,” explains Ali.
“It was a challenge and we overcome it with a lot of time and effort spent. We met with some consultancies here and there to get the best business practices embedded into our policies and procedures.”
ACWA Power International also experienced an issue around data migration, though the head of IT is quick to share that the challenge was overcome quite easily.
Adopting the concept of “loading the opening balances”, API continued to utilise Microsoft Dynamics GP to manage the opening and month-ending balances, for the first three months after going live in early-2016. Eventually the old legacy system was phased out.
So what is the next step in API’s transformative journey? With the completion of the rollout of Oracle’s SaaS solutions, the electricity and water desalinaion specialist will reportedly shift its focus towards the cloud — Oracle Fusion to be exact.
However, Ali quick to warn that it will not be an overnight affair, but a rather elongated strategic decision. Not a fan of what he describes as the “Big Bang” approach, Ali has instead opted for a more measured deployment that will see experimentation of the Oracle Fusion on a small scale, before being introduced to the rest of the affiliated entities.
To that effect, Ali created an internal team solely dedicated to creating a porotype that will be utilised in specific sites. Once the prototype is deployed and tested, which may take up to one to two years, ACWA Power International will then look towards widespread adoption across the entirety of the company.
Outside of its collaborations with Oracle, API is also exploring other potential technologies for adoption, which includes investments towards Reporting Process Automation (RPA). RPA would enable the company to better manage their repetitive business processes, while also making their more accessible for analysis.
Pushing forward API will next explore the benefits of artificial intelligence, Internet-of-Things (IoT), but will also look to bolster its security and capabilities around managing cyber threats.
“We are looking to implement Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) on a 24/7 basis. We need some network monitoring tools to be embedded into our corporate network and the plant network,” comments Ali.
“On top of it, we are also thinking from the smart metering perspective as well but it is too early to jump into that particular angle,” he adds.
Sharing his viewpoint on the current state of the IT market in Saudi Arabia, Ali explains that the GCC nation is being driven by the Saudi Vision 2030, a core component of which is centred on digital transformation.
“Due to that particular digital transformation and digital economy, you will very soon see that digitisation will let you jump into a lot of IT trends, which number one would be cybersecurity. The second would be bitcoin technology coupled with block chain. The third one is the Internet-of-Things itself,” explains Ali.
“What I’m also seeing is the smart technologies would be introduced in transportation, e-learning, tourism and in all these areas of app development.
“Another area that I see that will very soon get into trend is the predictive analytics … there is so much from data now on the cloud environment that things like predictive analytics will sit on top of it. To know exactly when can an issue happen on a power plant and very pro-actively address it,” he concludes.