The Dutch national railway company (NS) aims to operate as a complete mobility provider. As a result of this ambition, the transport company faced the complex challenge of processing millions of transactions correctly and remitting them to their partners. Blueberry ICT helped to replace the old legacy applications used by NS with SAP BRIM and, in doing so, got the transport company back on track.
The Dutch national railway company (NS) operates one of the most heavily used railway networks in the world. In addition, the company has also developed many other services to help passengers get from A to B as best as possible. For instance, by hiring a public transport bike (OV-fiets), travelling by bus, tram or metro, renting a shared car or electric scooter or reserving a parking space at a P+R.
By doing so, NS taps into the increasing demand for ‘Mobility as a Service’, also known as ‘MaaS’. According to the Dutch government and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), MaaS is necessary to orderly manage the pressure on public transport during peak hours and to respond to the need of passengers to choose the most favourable transport option at any moment.
NS had embedded these mobility solutions in various legacy applications. With the introduction of NS Flex, whereby passengers pay for their journeys retroactively, the number of invoices rose drastically and the transport company faced a major challenge. Namely, NS estimated that the legacy applications were likely to be insufficient in the long term to support the company’s growth and, in addition, the robustness of the invoicing process was in doubt.
For this reason, NS started searching for a new, future-proof solution. Erik van den Brink, product owner of Postpaid at NS, tells us about the journey he made together with Blueberry ICT and how the transport company reached its destination.
Complexity is the main challenge
In pursuing its clear-cut ambitions, NS faced one of the most complex technological challenges that it had ever had to deal with, explains Van den Brink.
“One-and-a-half million people travel with NS in different ways every single day. To be a complete mobility provider, we must also offer the services of third parties, in addition to our own services, and include these in our calculations. As those payment streams come from other parties, they often have to be handled differently. Our legacy applications couldn’t absorb these sufficiently.”
The departure point for the NS in this journey involved a long blueprint phase for designing the new application. The transport company had an extensive landscape with various processing streams and wanted to prevent an application from being added that did not fit into the landscape.
In this phase, it quickly became clear that SAP could be a potential solution. “We mainly used SAP as a traditional ERP system. From this point, we decided to carry out a proof of concept for SAP BRIM and sought out a partner who could support us in this. By jumping from link to link, we landed on Blueberry ICT”, says Van den Brink.
The first things that were jointly addressed by the parties were the separate sales process and NS Flex, to test whether the design would also work in practice. After a successful test, this formed a good basis to also redesign the other sales streams.
Payments run smoothly thanks to SAP BRIM
As NS wanted to channel its revenues and remittances, SAP BRIM appeared to be the ideal solution thanks to its convergent charging, among other aspects. Convergent charging can be used in both real-time and batch mode and offers hybrid prepaid and postpaid services to handle complex situations easily.
Via the SAP BRIM remittance framework, within the millions of transactions processed everyday by NS, a distinction can easily be made between the revenues owed to the transport company itself and remittances to be paid to its partners.
Convergent charging not only involves complicated price calculations in this process but also makes it possible to collate complex business regulations and to generate a result from these. In this way, convergent charging ensures that the right invoice ends up with the customer.
Imagine that a passenger checks in correctly when entering the train, but forgets to check out upon departure. On the basis of journey pattern recognition, their departure location can be determined. This prevents the passenger from having to pay a correction fee, thanks to convergent charging.
One of the greatest advantages of convergent charging, in terms of an old-fashioned ECC environment, is that its set-up is very visual. Development occurs through drag-and-drop functions, which allow costs can be added up quickly and accurately. As convergent charging uses standard functions in this way, the chance of error is significantly reduced.
According to Van den Brink, SAP BRIM has already delivered NS the necessary savings and has enabled the organisation to roll out new products. “Whereas it took us a day to roll out new products in our previous legacy applications, we can now do so in just a few hours overnight. In addition, it is much easier to fix mistakes.”
Proactive and sense of responsibility
Van den Brink is highly satisfied with the collaboration with Blueberry ICT and, in particular, with the quality of the consultants. “We started with two consultants and we now have five in our team. What strikes me the most is that they are proactive and feel a sense of responsibility. In that way, the consultants not only address the matters we ask of them but also take initiative to make things even better.”
It is partly for this reason that NS is continuing to work with Blueberry ICT for the further phasing out of its legacy applications. “One of the aspects involved in this is that we are transitioning to S4/HANA. This means that organisational matters will change in the governance, among other things, in addition to new technologies being added. That is one of the decisive points in our roadmap.”