With more than 2.5 million customers, Italian utility company A2A is committed to delivering electricity, gas, clean water, and waste collection every day. More recently, the company made another significant commitment: To incorporate the principles of the “circular economy” into its way of doing business — part of the UN 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable-Development Goals — all while also aiming to double its client base by 2030. Growing rapidly but sustainably requires operating as efficiently as possible at every level of the organization, from operating smart meters to generating accurate demand projections. That’s why A2A chose to deploy its SAP S/4HANA ERP and the SAP BW/4HANA data warehouse on Google Cloud.
Roadblocks to innovation
Instead of a linear consumption model that starts with raw materials and ends with use and disposal, the circular economy is a continuous cycle that emphasizes repair, recycling, and the creation of materials rather than their disposal. To take an example from A2A’s own success story: The company keeps 99.7 percent of collected waste out of landfills.1 Of the UN’s sustainability goals, A2A is committing to the three most relevant to its industries:
Ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns
Protecting, restoring, and promoting sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems
Achieving A2A’s sustainability and customer-first strategies requires high scalability, rapid data ingestion, and rich, accurate analytics. None of this could be reliably supported with the company’s legacy on-premises SAP and Data Warehouse, especially given A2A’s projected growth and the increasing complexity of the data landscape, including IoT deployments and energy market liberalization.
Provisioning data infrastructure was also slow and complex. Simply adding a new metric could require increasing capacity by an order of magnitude. And analytical and transactional data lived in siloes, which created a fragmented and out-of-date view of each customer across sales and customer support teams. A2A’s fragmented data also made it difficult to take proactive action when changing priorities or processes required shifting focus from one data source to another.
With a data warehouse that refreshed only once every 24 hours, simple processes such as responding to a customer calling because their power has been cut off due to an unpaid bill became cumbersome.
Scalability was also a concern. With the on-premises solution, A2A needed to define the budget for its data warehouse over a two-year timeframe, but the rollout of new electricity meters — each sending data every 10 minutes — across Italy made those data requirements hard to predict.
The move to the cloud: From monolith to microservices
The move has been a giant step forward in A2A’s goal of meeting its data-driven, customer-centric strategy. In deploying its SAP systems to Google Cloud, A2A can take advantage of a highly flexible hybrid environment and powerful data management and analytics. It can replicate data from Salesforce, SAP, and other systems in BigQuery, which operates as a data lake with Google Cloud SQL, connected directly to Google Analytics and Google Ads for data-driven customer service, decision-making, and marketing.
“From BigQuery we can feed relevant information directly to the people who need it. Our customer operators work on Salesforce, so we use an OData protocol to embed real-time data in that platform. Elsewhere, we present the information through a dashboard, or with a BI component delivering one-page reports.” —Vito Martino, Head of CRM, Marketing and Sales B2C & B2B, A2A
By running SAP on Google Cloud, A2A can also count on an infrastructure platform that provides:
Scalability. The robust data architecture on Google Cloud adapts to shifting and increasing demands without compromising on speed or availability, so A2A doesn’t have to worry about over- or under-provisioning as the rollout of smart meters proceeds.
Speed. The new A2A data solution refreshes every five minutes instead of 24 hours, so the company can respond to its customers’ needs without delays. Customer operators working in Salesforce now receive real-time data from Google BigQuery so that, when a customer calls, operators can see accurate information in seconds. They can now offer value-added services and sustainable options tailored to the customer’s needs, from energy consumption to their preferred method of communication.
Availability. With microservices orchestrated by Google Kubernetes Engine, the team can update the solution through continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD), eliminating the need for downtime when changes are required.
Security and control. The A2A IT team uses Google Kubernetes Engine to orchestrate clusters of instances on Google Compute Engine, with Google Cloud Load Balancing and backups on Google Cloud Persistent Disk. Google Cloud Anthos ensures operational consistency across on-premises and cloud platforms.
Ready to grow the sustainable way
By moving to Google Cloud — the industry’s cleanest cloud, with zero net emissions — A2A is ready to grow quickly while locking down the efficiency it will need to meet its ambitious sustainability goals. “To bring sustainable utilities to market, we need to be both responsive to our customers and responsive to the internal needs of A2A,” explains Davide Rizzo, Head of IT Governance and Strategy at A2A. “Understanding what customers need in detail means we can improve their services and reduce their environmental impact at the same time.”
Learn moreabout the ways Google Cloud can transform your organization’s SAP solutions with scalability, speed, and advanced analytics capabilities.
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