News has recently been dominated by the development of the value of Bitcoins. The price of the digital currency has risen from 250 USD from beginning November to a record high 1065 USD on December 8th only to drop half of its value in 24 hours again. Chinese government has prohibited national banks to trade in the currency as it indicated the Bitcoin has a high risk of being used by criminals and for money laundering. This has led to Chinese leading social network Baidu, which used Bitcoins as a trading currency, to stop excepting them. China's high powers evidently felt that the cryptocoin was getting too hot to ignore. So is Bitcoin here to stay or is it just another digital hype?
So for those who are not aware of the currency, what are bitcoins and what's it's use? Bitcoins were invented by a developer under pseudo-name Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009. Bitcoins are not tangible but only exist as a piece of code in a peer-to-peer payment network that is powered by its users with no central authority or middlemen. How are Bitcoins created? New bitcoins are generated by a decentralized process called "mining". This process involves individuals who are rewarded by the network for their services. Bitcoin miners are processing transactions and securing the network using specialized hardware and are collecting new bitcoins in exchange for their services. You can compare the function of this network of miners similar to a central bank, authorized to print and distribute the currency. How are Bitcoins used? From a user perspective, Bitcoin is nothing more than a mobile app or computer program that provides a personal Bitcoin wallet and allows a user to send and receive bitcoins with them. Behind the scenes, the Bitcoin network is sharing a public ledger called the "block chain". This ledger contains every transaction ever processed, allowing a user's computer to verify the validity of each transaction. As Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency; for each transaction, the bitcoin receiver shares a public address where the amount can be send to. With a private key, the receiver can then digitally sign the receipt. How do we know it's secure? The Bitcoin specification starts with the concept of a distributed timestamp server. A timestamp server works by taking a hash function of some data and widely publishing the hash. For Bitcoin, each timestamp includes the previous timestamp hash as input for its own hash. This dependency of one hash on another is what forms a chain, with each additional timestamp providing evidence that each of the previous timestamp hashes existed. To form a distributed timestamp server as a peer-to-peer network, Bitcoin uses a proof-of-work system often referred to as Bitcoin mining. Anybody can become a Bitcoin miner by running software with specialized hardware. Mining software captures transactions broadcast through the peer-to-peer network and performs appropriate tasks to process and confirm these transactions. For new transactions to be confirmed, they need to be included in a block along with a mathematical proof of work.
Bitcoins are created at a decreasing and predictable rate. The number of new bitcoins created each year is automatically halved over time until bitcoin issuance halts completely with a total of 21 million bitcoins in existence. When taking todays Bitcoin value (15 dec 2013) of 872USD, this means that the ultimate value in circulation is approximately 18 billion USD. One would consider this is as just a small amount compared to currencies such as Euros and USD's in circulation. But 2 important things should be considered. First the currency is only worth, when it's being used. When money is deposited on a savings bank and not spend, it's useless. Bitcoin payments are easy to make and can be used for small payments against minimum fees. If a bitcoin is being rotated from owner every day, the trading value per year can ultimately develop to 6 trillion USD, more than the Indian yearly GDP. Obviously, the circulation rate will not be once in 24 hours, but the advantages to do so are known. We will come back to that later. Second, a digital currency is a good replacement for national currencies that are non-tradeable or problem plagued. It's best example is the Chinese Renminbi which is only allowed to be exported or used in international transactions on a limit base, ultimately making it less advantageous for consumers to hold on to, unless they travel to China often and have the opportunity to spend it. For this reason Bitcoin is seen as a perfect substitution for Chinese consumers making payments outside of China. One third of all Bitcoin transactions are performed by Chinese. Also when a currency is plagued by volatility, the Bitcoin can be used to circumvent inflation, capital controls, and international sanctions. Bitcoins are used by some Argentinians as an alternative to the official currency, which is stymied by inflation and strict capital controls. In addition, some Iranians use bitcoins to evade currency sanctions.
Another major advantage of Bitcoin payments are that there are either no fees or extremely small fees. Users may include fees with transactions to receive priority processing, which results in faster confirmation of transactions by the network. Additionally, merchant processors exist to assist merchants in processing transactions, converting bitcoins to a currency of choice and depositing funds directly into merchants' bank accounts daily. As these services are based on Bitcoin, they can be offered for much lower fees (a payment of 0.0005 BTC for a 1,000 BTC transfer) than with PayPal or credit card networks (which usually request a 1 or 2% fee over the transaction amount)
Moreover, Bitcoin payments can be considered as secure, controllable and transparent - Bitcoin users are in full control of their transactions; The recipient holds a private key which is kept secret. Only the private key can decode information encrypted with the public key; therefore the keys' owner can distribute the public key openly without fear that anyone will be able to use it to gain access to the encrypted information. All information concerning the Bitcoin money supply itself is readily available on the block chain for anybody to verify and use in real-time. No individual or organization can control or manipulate the Bitcoin protocol because it is cryptographically secure. This allows the core of Bitcoin to be trusted for being completely neutral, transparent and predictable.
Even with the Chinese government banning the speculation of the currency by its banks or act as a middleperson for bitcoin payments, it seems like the Bitcoin use is unstoppable. Just todays issue of Business insider published that a Swedish company has sold 28 million USD worth of bitcoinminers, which has the processing capacity to mine around 4000 bitcoins per day. Techies show that bitcoinmining is lucrative and will stay lucrative until the last Bitcoin has been issued. And with its transaction processing advantage, more and more retailers are allowing customers to pay with the currency, it looks like the Bitcoin is here to stay. At least until a better, cheaper and more reliable currency is on the market.
Monitor - bi-weekly
a) Monitor SAP website bi-weekly https://websmp205.sap-ag.de/patches to determine if notes available SAP Component (verify system component level in production) and download or print appropriate notes and review
b) Coordinator will schedule recurring monthly meeting to discuss if SAP notes for the same is available and the relative support pack level which needs to be attained for each component.
c) If notes are available Coordinator will schedule meeting with Basis and Testing teams and submit a Change control board Engagement form for a Project Creation for the LCP's.
d) SAP Component Leads will create a charm document for manual corrections
Typically End of life period for hardware will be 5 years and software will be 2 yrs (It may differ vendor to vendor and depends on organization policy). SAP EOL policy is different from other softwares. It spans 3 or more years for software and extend the support for hardware in coordination with hardware partenrs. SAP policy for End of Patch, End of Maintenance, and End of life (support) is available and it is well monitored with solution manager maintenance tool. For example EOL for SAP BusinessObjects XI 3.1: December 31, 2015 this is the date that patch support will end. It is scheduled to reach End of Priority-One Support on December 31, 2017. For End of Life - Support (Product) cases customers should explore the migration options with their SAP Sales Account Executives.
Mobilizing HR applications can improve, employee retention, productivity and employee engagement. As the companies workforces become more mobile, the core functions that support these workforces must become more mobile as well. In the HR space, this means that a mobile employee must be able reap the benefits of employee self service capabilities without being tied to a hardwired desktop computer, or the manager should be able to view and act on important talent retention KPI's from his or her own mobile devices. Industry standard survey's provide the info that almost 40-50% executives and employees don't have sufficient access to mobile devices and can't perform their necessary jobs while they are mobile from their mobile devices
IT departments should be motivated to Mobilize and leverage HR data : The value of mobilizing HR data extends well beyond the HR organization. In fact, IT could see the most direct returns from HR mobilization. That's because the demand for qualified professionals is perhaps highest in IT organization these days and since more companies are looking for launching more IT projects .With mobile access to key HR data- like the development of top talent within the company and employee turnover rates, for instance- even the top brass management (CXO's who are on the move can have a much more productive conversations about productive conversations about recruiting and retaining talent .
Over the last decade and the years before Indian Utilities have undergone a series of fundamental changes; right from how they operate to how they provide services to their consumers. Having tasted the benefits on unbundling as early as 2000, many utilities are aggressively following the path toward modernization and improving customer experience.
In this attempt many of the major utility players have partnered will global leaders in ERP billing packages to successfully transform their businesses, in order to respond to fast-changing customer and market dynamics. SAP for Utilities (ISU) and Oracle Customer Care and Billing (OCCB) are leading choices to fit the bill.
The Chhattisgarh State Electricity Board or CSEB was one of the first to implement SAP - ISU/CCS (Customer Care and Service) in 2005, and one of the few state boards that are now electricity surplus.
Indian utilities are now providing comprehensive services to their consumers, backed up by the robust industry specific software of the ERP packages. Some of these include:
· Quick Tariff Restructuring - Inaccuracy of tariff implementation has been a major challenge faced by Indian Utilities. The legacy systems were incapable of handling frequent changes in tariff thus leading to revenue losses for the utilities, which were not able to keep up with the ever rising cost of electricity generation and transmission. But both SAP-ISU and OCCB have strong billing modules that support detailed tariff customization for commercial and residential customers. The short turnaround time ensures that utilities can react quickly to market fluctuations and adjust their tariff accordingly to recover revenues.
Billing and Automatic Meter Reading
- CSEB consumers have the facility of on the spot billing and automatic meter
reading. Earlier there was a gap of about eight days between meter read and
bill delivery. But the ability to spot bill eliminated the delay resulting in
reduced cycle times and early revenue realization.
Gujarat Gas that
uses SAP-ISU even provides its customers an option to enter their meter
readings online. A first of its kind service, for Indian Utilities.
Metering - Indian Utilities have had to battle electricity pilferage for a
long time and it continues to be a challenge today. This can be prevented by ensuring
that every connection is metered and read. The strategy has already been
implemented by the state of Gujarat. The government of Gujarat reached an
agreement with the Asian Development Bank to fund the installation of meters at
all delivery locations. Coupled with strong policy deterrent against theft and
implementation of Oracle solution for E-Governance, the Gujarat State
Electricity Board (GSEB) was able to recover over Rs. 16 crore by curbing
pilferage and malpractice.
Customer Portals - Almost all major utilities now have online customer
portals where users can log in, view billing history, pay bills online, lodge
complaints, request new connections etc.
SAP Netweaver's seamless interoperability with J2E, .NET and SOA make it
an ideal platform for this purpose. SLA driven services and incident resolution
have truly, empowered the customer and brought in high level of visibility and
accountability that was otherwise missing.
Online bill payment facility and e-delivery of bills has significantly reduced the turnaround time of revenue collection and also cost of having to maintain manual payment collection centers. Customer complaints of late bill delivery and incorrect meter readings have come down and such steps also promote green initiatives by reducing amount of paper consumed.
Notable success stories worth mentioning include GSEB , CSEB and MPSEB (Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Board) that once struggled with electricity deficit are now electricity surplus and able to provide 24x7 electricity to their consumers.
Few other Indian Utilities that have transformed their operations by implementing ERP billing solutions include:
1. IGL - Indraprastha Gas Ltd
2. Mahanagar Gas
3. HPSEB - Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board
4. NPCL - Noida Power Company Limited
Improved decision making, better asset utilization, complete processes for meter to cash cycle etc. are few on the notable benefits that ERP billing packages have to offer. In addition they are scalable and customizable to overcome the challenges of all kind of utilities; both big and small. As more and more Indian Utilities join the ERP club, the consumer can look forward to a more rewarding experience with his energy supplier.
There has been a decisive change in procurement function in last few months. Procurement has become a strategic function in the mind of Top management. Most of the companies are now moving the key procurement people from normal function to become part of central core team across business lines and functions. Clients are focusing on sustained value driven procurement, top-line growth and product innovation instead of focusing on just cost and control. The normal cost saving of 2-4% from contracts may not be application as we now don't see much variation on the price of goods and services.