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How Vattenfall InCharge successfully transitioned to a pan-European invoicing system

Vattenfall wished to gain more control of its pricing model and create a sound invoicing system for InCharge, its division focused on e-mobility. To achieve this, it sought the help of Blueberry ICT and, together, they implemented SAP BRIM: a scalable solution via which Vattenfall can now handle millions of records per month without difficulty.

Vattenfall is the largest energy supplier in the Netherlands and views the increasing use of electric vehicles in Europe as a promising market. That is why Vattenfall developed its own charging infrastructure called InCharge. With over 100,000 charging stations in the Netherlands, Germany, Norway and Sweden, it has become one of the main charging networks in Europe.

The roll out of a European charging network meant that Vattenfall faced a number of significant challenges, including the creation of a sound invoicing system.

Partly for this reason, the energy supplier sought out a partner to manage this transition in an orderly fashion—and finally landed on Blueberry ICT. Harm Schuil, project manager of Customer & Solutions at Vattenfall, explains how he and Blueberry ICT jointly approached this process and what the most important results are.

SAP BRIM for a pan-European solution

The biggest challenge for Vattenfall in starting the project was creating synergy. The energy supplier still arranged e-mobility per country, which led to invoicing problems, according to Schuil. “Each country had its own working method, for example, and things were still often being processed manually. This meant that not only was the invoicing process slow, but checking for accuracy and completeness was also very lengthy.”

It was also important to design the pricing model in the right way, so that Vattenfall could offer multiple propositions with a shorter time to market.

In addition, the energy supplier is active in Norway and Sweden, among other countries. As these countries have their own currencies, the energy supplier has to deal with exchange rates, and solid banking and treasury interfaces are required.

Furthermore, the solution had to be able to be integrated well within existing Vattenfall processes and to be linked to Microsoft Dynamics 365, the platform from where information on the charging sessions stems, and the MyInCharge client environment, among other programs.

Schuil: “Partly for this reason, we wanted to unite the various working methods used for each country into one pan-European system with standardised processes that could be linked to our corporate finance systems.”

In the search for a suitable solution, SAP BRIM soon came to the fore, partly because Vattenfall had already been happily using SAP for other matters for years. “What most attracted us to SAP BRIM was the reliability and scalability of the flexible framework. In addition, the pricing and invoicing functionality offered us plenty of opportunities.”

SAP BRIM makes it possible to set up various flexible usage models, among other things. It is a modular solution that was designed to optimise the lifecycle process of design, sales, delivery and invoicing.

Phased implementation with an experienced partner

Since setting up price models in SAP BRIM was new for Vattenfall, they searched for a party with the right expertise in this. According to Schuil, the most important conditions were a reliable partner with proven experience in implementing SAP BRIM.

“We spoke to various parties and eventually chose Blueberry ICT, partly because they are the market leader in this segment. In the first few conversations, it immediately became obvious that they had knowledge on these matters and their no-nonsense approach appealed to us. Blueberry ICT has proven that it can convert complicated business issues into good IT solutions and has previously implemented SAP BRIM for various companies, including NS and Royal FloraHolland. Together with other projects that Blueberry ICT had already carried out for Vattenfall, this was the decisive factor for us to join forces with them.”

On the basis of a number of raw requirements, a compact agile team was set up, comprising four developers from Vattenfall and Blueberry ICT. One of the requirements stipulated by Vattenfall was to take into account the high security standards that the energy supplier has committed to due to its vital infrastructure.

The developers then started work on the complete SAP ERC installation, extended through BRIM modules. Due to the organisation’s international character, it was decided to add a completely separate SAP module to support all of the countries in which InCharge is active. Around eight months after the start of the project, the first invoice was sent. The components were subsequently rolled out phase by phase. First, one-time invoicing was rolled out for all countries, and then usage invoices.

During this process, FI-CA (Finance and Contract Accounting) was implemented alongside BRIM. FI-CA is a subledger accounting system within SAP that is deployed for various industry-specific solutions and offers a great amount of flexibility.

During the process, various new solutions for Vattenfall were also envisioned. For instance, Adobe forms were integrated into SAP to provide the energy supplier with greater flexibility in drafting invoices. In addition, an archival system was set up to archive all documents, as well as an email client to inform clients as soon as an invoice was ready.

In total, it took one-and-a-half years for the complete implementation of SAP BRIM and the roll out to the various countries.

Tenacity and taking a step further

Thanks to this implementation, Vattenfall now has more control over its pricing model and opportunities to put price propositions on the market. Schuil is therefore delighted with the solution that has been achieved. “The new landscape provides a lot of insight for business control, through which we can better manage profitability. We can also respond to market developments much faster.”

Moreover, he points to the improved speed and reliability of the application. “Whereas it used to take six weeks before we knew whether invoicing had been completed fully, it now takes half a day. In this way, the new system can now handle millions of records per month without difficulty.”

Schuil is very pleased with the collaboration with Blueberry ICT. “They are a very pleasant, skilled and driven partner. In addition to thorough IT knowledge, they also bring knowledge of business processes and financial expertise to the table. Take the processing of VAT in different countries as an example. The value of in-depth knowledge and experience in this is often underestimated by organisations, in my opinion. This is something that distinguishes Blueberry ICT from other IT companies and increases the quality of their products.”

Schuil also praises Blueberry ICT’s determination to make the project a success. “In the beginning, we didn’t exactly know what we were looking for. It is great when you hire someone who can help you with this. Based on keen discussions about how we wanted to arrange certain matters, the scope of the project quickly became clear. In this way, with their financial knowledge, Blueberry ICT often goes one step further than the average developer to really tailor the product. They always kept their promises—on time—throughout the entire project.”

Partly for this reason, Blueberry ICT will continue to be involved in e-mobility with Vattenfall by partially taking care of functional management as well as by working on the future development of the platform.

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