Energy utility Centrica is sharing billing and data exchange best practice with other SAP users, as the software vendor's UK user group looks to help tackle common issues using the software.

In the discussions, facilitated by the SAP UK & Ireland User Group, Centrica is also addressing best practice around the complex new data feeds from smart meters.

Centrica, which is the largest SAP utilities customer in the world, uses the SAP Vertical IS-U, version ECC 6.04. It has implemented SAP enterprise resource planning across human resources, finance, procurement, sales, plant maintenance, materials management and customer relationship management.

Wayne Johncock, Centrica UK’s head of SAP competency, told Computerworld UK that SAP was the “backbone” of the company’s operations, and as a result it was vital to share with and learn from other SAP users so that it uses the system well.

“We have solved various pain points in SAP through a combination of working with the vendor and through our own efforts,” he said.

“However, it became clear to us that if the utilities sector took a standardised approach to using SAP, we could share best practice and use our collective experience to address common problems.”

By working together, the utilities could “yield greater influence with SAP”, he said. Most of the other utilities firms are SAP customers, and the industry represent’s a large part of the vendor’s revenues.

SAP user groups have won a number of large victories with the vendor in recent years, including a backtrack on support fees and more influence in product development.

Johncock said he hoped the user group can help utilities in another key area. “I’d like to see SAP engage more of its skilled people with the industry knowledge we all have as utilities,” he said.