SAP fuels processes
The South African energy group Engen specializes in refining, trading and exporting petroleum, and in petroleum-based products. Engen also has a gas-station network in 17 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The company is made up of four business segments with widely differing requirements, but which must nonetheless all follow the same overall strategy. Engen CIO Peter du Plooy explains the ties between Engen, SAP and his IT team, which were initially forged back in 1989.
In 1989, Engen rolled out the first SAP R/2 modules and has been consistently extending its ERP base ever since. The latest additions are SAP Best Practices for Business Planning and Consolidation (SAP BPC), SAP Resource and Portfolio Management (SAP RPM) along with business intelligence products. All of which serve to fuel Engen's core business activities – the refining of crude oil, the transportation of oil and petroleum products to the central fuel depots, onward delivery to the company's own gas stations, and the associated fuel sales.
Many of the gas stations have meantime been converted into small convenience stores. Peter du Plooy explains: "Engen is essentially made up of four interdependent business segments: manufacturing, marketing, distribution and international operations. IT has to provide different products and services, depending on the current market situation. Furthermore, Engen intends to expand further in parts of Africa, with the IT department responsible for creating the conditions for acquisitions and equity investments. Checks need to be done to determine how far new IT products and technologies can help, and can also be delivered where appropriate. A business area is not always prepared for a new application.
Benefit from know-how
Companies tend to underestimate the impact of a product implementation on employees and processes. Changes must be consistent with the corporate philosophy. Engen definitely sees itself as an innovative company, but avoids risks in certain areas – something the IT department also needs to bear in mind. Engen has already acted as a ramp-up customer for SAP products on a number of occasions in the past, even though not all the applications were passed on to its internal customers. Nevertheless, when the IT team did recommend a solution, the entire company has benefited. The expertise of du Plooy's team makes a crucial difference to the success of the business. On the one hand, the team has an in-depth understanding of individual business areas necessary to meet their specific requirements – on the other, it has the ability to develop and implement standards for the company as a whole.
Financial planning drives companies
One project recently caused a stir – the prioritizing, planning and processing of capital investment. Du Plooy believes that finance drives companies. This is why he considers one of his core tasks to be to regularly assess the SAP financials setup and the business intelligence infrastructure connected to it. On the initiative of du Plooy, who was exposed to SAP Resource and Portfolio Management at the SAP SAPPHIRE trade fair, Engen’s corporate planning office asked the IT department to implement SAP’s solution to manage capital-intensive projects right across the enterprise. The team met the challenge superbly in just over twelve months.
Du Plooy also puts the achievement down to his core team consisting of 220 experienced staff. He expects them to embrace change, improve continuously and be happy in different situations and circumstances. It will take time for this kind of approach to become the norm and be embraced consistently across all the areas of activity. Meantime he believes his ideal of the IT department as an agile business partner is on track to becoming a reality, although he still thinks that he has not yet achieved his goal. He expects SAP to maintain its pace of innovation and supply its customers with products that have a direct benefit and allow a fast return on investment. That would confirm the impression he gained at SAPPHIRE – SAP wasn't just talking about the future. SAP was demonstrating its ability to deliver on the future.