Thursday, 23 June 2011

Taming the data avalanche

Avanade had some recent press supporting Ferranti in building out a Microsoft Dynamics AX solution. My colleague, Daryn Edgar explains why Avanade and AX were the perfect solution for Ferranti. This article was first published in the Sunday Telegraph in the UK on Sunday 19th June, 2011.

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Ferranti and Avanade are working in partnership to bring a pioneering software system to the UK that will empower smart utilities as they address the challenges of a rapidly transforming market.

Utilities used to be regarded as dull but safe local monopolies. Not anymore. The suppliers of the water and energy without which modern life would be impossible are now exposed to the winds of competition and waves of criticism from fickle customers and angry shareholders.

On top of that, the industry is in the front line of the global response to climate change, having to adapt to complex charging structures to encourage people to use less energy, switch to green energy and even generate their own and sell it back on to the grid.

And it is going to get worse. A wave of new entrants and mergers is putting strains on IT departments presented with the need to re-engineer their software systems on a regular basis.

So it is a critical moment for the reappearance in Britain of one of industry’s great names: Ferranti. Back in the 19th century, Ferranti virtually invented the system of central power stations distributing AC power. Working In partnership with leading systems integrator Avanade, Ferranti is bringing to the UK its product suite for the utilities – MECOMS.

Ian Campbell, Ferranti’s business development director in Britain, explains: “The MECOMS product makes optimal use of
Microsoft Dynamics AX and covers a wide range of utility business areas such as customer information systems, CRM, Complex Billing, Meter Data Management, Load Forecasting and Enterprise Asset Management with a strong focus on lowering cost to serve.”

Avanade – a joint venture between consultancy Accenture and Microsoft – is the perfect partner. “The strong relationship with Microsoft combined with the in depth experience of Avanade and the strength of a product that has been proven in liberalised markets across Europe makes this a very appealing proposition for any utility,” Campbell says.

“MECOMS streamlines business processes such as meter-to-cash to combine high efficiency with first-class customer service. This flexibility to adapt to changing business needs is also reflected in local blueprints which enable MECOMS to handle complex aspects of the UK market such as market interaction, which deals with meter readings, changes of supplier, changes of tenancy and so on by exchanging messages across an industry network of consisting of many hundreds of participants.”

MECOMS is particularly suited to meeting the challenge of the Government’s smart metering programme which mandates the roll out of 53m smart meters to 27m premises, each producing an avalanche of data.

Daryn Edgar, senior director, Dynamics AX at Avanade believes the combination of MECOMS and Dynamics AX offers something new to the utilities market. “Avanade has a deep technical expertise across the entire range of Microsoft technologies combined with a services approach, harnessing expertise from consultants round the globe,” she says. “MECOMS and Dynamics AX form a platform that ties the front and back offices together and streamlines operations.”

One of the strengths of MECOMS is its close integration with the world’s most widely used and best-understood software, Edgar adds.
“It sits on the Microsoft technology stack so it is relatively low cost and easy to use. Case studies show that staff in call centres can be on stream in a couple of days instead of weeks Don’t get buried in data or months.”

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