Why use an integration platform between MDM and SAP IS-U?

SAP IS-U supports most of a utility’s vital business functions: from meter reading, meter data management and customer service, to scheduling, billing, invoicing and accounting. Given how integral IS-U is to how many utilities manage customer relationships, it is crucial that utilities understand the importance of seamless data flows especially as the volume of data increases.

The Meter Data Management System (MDM) is the central data source for SAP IS-U usage data. Furthermore, MDM is the gateway for SAP IS-U to communicate out to smart meters and initiate device control transactions (DCT) for example, meter disconnects or ad-hoc meter readings. As a result, the integration between MDM and SAP IS-U is one of the most critical integrations in the meter-to-cash value chain.

The following key reasons highlight why an integration platform or enterprise service bus is essential for an integration between MDM and SAP IS-U.

  1. Complexity and customization grade of SAP IS-U: SAP IS-U, as well as other SAP applications, are often highly customized to the individual utility's requirements or needs. As a result and even though the technical connectivity or integration is standardized, a standard "plug-and-play" integration is not possible per se, since all integrations need adjustments to the specific customer's variation of SAP IS-U. When such an integration is developed as a point-to-point integration, you establish a tight coupling between those two solutions. Tight coupling creates high dependency and consequently high cost for changes and upgrades made to the system. An integration platform can mitigate the risks associated with tight coupling and when done correctly, introduce loose coupling between MDM and SAP IS-U. Loose coupling offers in this case the benefit that system changes on either system side typically do not result in (costly) changes in the respective other system.

  2. Smart Meter Operations Center (SMOC): The reason utilities implement a SMOC is to enable the best possible operation of their Smart Metering Infrastructure. Important use cases include value chain checks that enable operations to see whether the data coming from the meters is actually the same data used for billing. Those use cases are increasingly difficult to implement if MDM is directly integrated to SAP IS-U because it creates the need for more and more direct integrations for each use case, leading up to an uncontrollable "spaghetti" architecture.

  3. Integration monitoring: Arguably the most important point. Data integrations in the Smart Metering value chain are typically handling extremely large amounts of data as well as critical operational processes, including connect/disconnect commands. The complexity of these integrations can lead to many potential error situations in the value chain. Intuitive monitoring of all integration points is therefore mission-critical and enable quick identification of error sources as well as avoid the so-called "finger-pointing game" (when different vendors in the value chain blame each other for failures due to the lack of good overarching monitoring).

  4. Lifecycle Management of Asset and / or Metering Points: Many utilities use their GIS (Geospatial Information System) as the "starting point" for new metering points. Some utilities use non-SAP asset management systems such as IBM Maximo as their System-of-Record (SoR) for devices, assets and / or metering points. Utilities must implement an integration architecture that synchronizes and orchestrates the creation of or updates on master data or SOR data across SAP IS-U, MDM, HES, Asset Management, GIS or utilities' data lake or data warehouse architecture. This cannot be facilitated with a direct integration between MDM and SAP IS-U.

  5. Analytics Driven Business and Grid Operations: Most future oriented utilities understand the value of data and move to entirely digitized, automated and analytics driven business and grid operations. These smart services are depending on both machine data (sensors, smart meters, AMI, etc) and enterprise data (SoR Data). With a direct integration between MDM and SAP IS-U, implementing these analytics-driven services would lead to a "Spaghetti" architecture as the utility would need create parallel data flows using different technologies and data formats instead of leveraging an unified integration platform approach.

For general information regarding the challenges of SAP integration for utilities, please read the related articles. While this article is written in relation to SAP IS-U, many aspects described can also relate to other utility billing systems.

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