Technology advisory firm of the year: Accenture

Energy Risk Awards 2020: Advisory firm wins new customers as it supports clients’ digital transformation

Baris Ertan
Baris Ertan

Digital transformation has been a major focus for Accenture’s energy and utilities practice over the past year, in particular the use of big data and analytics to enhance decision-making and robotic process automation (RPA) to help streamline clients’ operations, says Baris Ertan, the advisory firm’s Houston-based global trading and commercial lead.

Accenture – this year’s Energy Risk Technology advisory firm award winner – registered double-digit growth in revenues in 2019 and added more than 20 new clients. It continued its geographic expansion, moving into Japan and looking for more opportunities in Latin America, Ertan says.

With more energy firms open to using cloud-based platforms such as Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google, a multitude of new tools and applications are now available to them, vastly improving their analytics capabilities. “This is a huge game-changer for trading organisations,” Ertan says. “As they migrate into the cloud, they are able to leverage the cloud-based analytics and data reporting solutions that come with those technologies.”

“This is the exciting part, and we knew this realisation would happen over time,” adds Nickolas Underwood, managing director in the trading and commercial practice at Accenture. “Now it’s not just about cost, but about how we can optimise and enable business users to self-serve and create innovative solutions on these new platforms.”

One such innovation is the Intelligent Control Tower, which Accenture developed with an oil and gas major last year. This custom web application acts as a “single pane of glass” to help optimise decision-making within the client’s supply and trading business by providing a centralised view of inventory, supply and demand data. For example, the client can use it to assess its options when responding to supply or demand disruptions, or assessing opportunities at supply locations or distribution outlets. By adjusting the source data, the client can also use it to test alternative outcomes for scenario-planning purposes.

Accenture has also built up its experience in supporting major cloud migrations, including some that were performed under tight time constraints. For example, in order to comply with the terms of its purchase agreement, a recently acquired entity had to migrate from its legacy systems in under a year or face financial penalties. This deadline was met in May 2019.

“We helped the company implement a full suite of cloud-based trading and generation applications, including Ion Allegro,” Ertan says. “We also provided a data and analytics platform built on Azure and Power BI to consolidate trading, market and operational data from disparate sources. This enabled speed and accessibility for data mining and the kind of analytics capabilities clients typically need in the trading space,” he continues. “That was a huge win for our client – it allowed them to get off the legacy platforms and into a self-sufficient state, while also accessing the kind of cloud-based solutions that are now at the disposal of energy trading companies.”

While this was an accelerated time frame for a smaller portfolio with “all hands on deck” due to the potential for penalties, other cloud implementations – particularly large portfolios with complex needs – can take much longer. For example, Accenture completed a significant natural gas energy trading and risk management (ETRM) system implementation for an oil and gas major last summer – the culmination of three years’ work. Taking the business live on Ion Openlink’s Endur involved more than 500 users across multiple locations and happened in phases. The financial gas trading business moved first, followed by the physical gas portfolio and scheduling systems.

This is a huge game-changer for trading organisations
Baris Ertan, Accenture

Ertan says executing such a project was possible because of Accenture’s proven delivery methods and automation capabilities, as well as the January 2015 acquisition of Structure Group, of which Ertan was the ETRM practice lead. “By bringing the two companies together five years ago, we were not only in a better position to win this project, but also to deliver it successfully.”

The firm has also carried out several RPA projects over the past year, enabling it to support clients in directing human resources where they are most valuable. For example, it worked with a US power generator implementing a new RPA solution to help automate its end-of-day process. “This has increased productivity because they don’t need someone babysitting their processes,” says Ertan. “At the click of a button, a bot can do what a human normally does, allowing high-value risk management staff to focus on critical analysis activities,” he says.

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