A key challenge for Zafar and his team was overcoming bureaucratic inertia and opening business processes to examination and optimization. “We weren’t afraid of asking questions of very senior people,” says Zafar. “In fact, our managing director encouraged his managers to answer every question we had on our business processes. He sent the message that one way or another, we were all responsible for the company’s profitability.”
He also sent the message that change was going to happen even in the face of resistance. “It was also made very clear as a commitment from management that if people were not willing to work with the new system, or if individual departments were not willing to move forward, there were competent, qualified people in the IT department that would take over,” says Zafar.
When a key department delayed its go-live date with the new system, Zafar and his team stepped in and made it clear they had the responsibility and resources to take over the department if that’s what it took to make the change. “Once people saw that, they got behind it and we were very successful,” says Zafar.
Getting Executive Buy-In Unfortunately, before the project started, it was hard to get executive support. “Our executives weren’t seeing the benefits but just an outflow of cash,” says Zafar. “Their lack of trust in what we were going to deliver was a really big obstacle. They were asking for quantifiable results, and yet we were working with a situation where the financials coming out of the legacy systems were not credible.” To help identify specific business value opportunities and objectives, SSGC worked closely with Oracle via the Oracle Insight program.
“We had to demonstrate the value from our systems and our choice of platform to our management and stakeholders. We turned to Oracle’s Insight program to help us develop the framework of citizen centricity, and a means to develop the road map. The Oracle Insight program is a great example of the investment in our ongoing relationship between SSGC and Oracle,” says Zafar.
But once the SSGC team started deploying the new solution, it was able to demonstrate some quick wins—such as taking only one day to close the month, rather than the three days it used to. Or drastically reducing the amount of time it takes to create a purchase order.
“It used to take us nine months to generate a purchase order, as the processes were very bureaucratic with too many approval points, and now it takes only two,” says Zafar. With proof points like that, it was easier to sell the entire project.
In the past, SSGC’s systems were based on batch processes, with many systems being updated only at the end of the month. The result was an information vacuum about critical business processes, such as which customers had been billed, which had not, and why not. The Oracle Utilities customer care and billing system is an online real-time system, so inefficiencies of the previous batch processes and any lack of information are now immediately apparent.
“With the new system, everyone knows where the billing errors are, which departments are responsible, and why the errors occur. There’s a high level of accountability,” says Zafar.
That means both internal and external accountability, which makes it possible for SSGC to achieve a level of customer compliance that would have been impossible under the older, nonintegrated solution. “Better control of our overall unaccounted-for gas means that now we can actually profile customers. We can look at their consumption patterns and estimate what their consumption should be,” says Zafar. “We can monitor gas theft and see whether customers with high consumption have meters that aren’t recording the correct consumption. We have much better control now.”
An Integrated Platform for Growth Over the last five years, SSGC has become the leading utility in Pakistan and a benchmark for utility companies in similar geographic locales that are looking at ways to increase efficiency and effectiveness.
“Oracle technology is obviously very powerful. It’s a good product from a good company. We’re working with a very good set of people,” says Zafar. “We’re very, very demanding people to work with, and we’ve stretched Oracle as much as we can. Oracle has lived up to our expectations.”