EHA Energie-Handels-Gesellschaft mbH & Co. KG
Central energy master data application
The EHA Energie-Handels-Gesellschaft mbH & Co. KG is an energy service provider and the specialist for chain stores in Germany and Austria. Customers receive a comprehensive package of energy services “from one source”. These include the procurement and supply of green electricity and gas, energy controlling and energy consulting. The results are sustainable reductions in consumption and costs as well as practiced climate protection.
The “existing” central master data system created by the EHA itself, which included the mapping of contracts, business partners, technical infrastructure and cost calculation, no longer met the changing requirements of the market. In order to replace or redesign this system, a project was set up in cooperation with PTA GmbH for implementation, which had to take the following general conditions into account:
- The target date was already fixed before the project began.
- The leading central system was to be replaced by a new one without affecting the operational business operations. (Big Bang introduction)
- New data structures had to be established that were sustainable even in a business field characterised by rapid change and could be adapted to new business models at any time.
- The existing systems for billing, controlling and energy management had to be seamlessly integrated.
- An increase in efficiency had to be achieved through extensive automation of work processes.
Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003
Microsoft .Net Framework 1.1
Microsoft SQL-Server 2005
Microsoft BizTalk Server
Sybase PowerDesigner 10
In the beginning there was an analysis of the business processes. The resulting quantity structure spoke for the necessity of an iterative approach. A waterfall model was out of the question, neither in terms of time nor in terms of risk. In order to be able to transfer the data from the inventory system into the structures of the new model, they all had to be compared and verified for correctness and completeness. This was the only way to create the conditions for data migration. PTA GmbH was able to contribute its project experience to this task. Their approach was oriented towards the methods of modern project management and included elements such as “Extreme Programming” and “Agile Project Management”. The basis was a cyclical working method in which a development phase is followed by a refactoring phase. While a new technical functionality is created in the development phase, the focus in the refactoring phase is on technological aspects. For each cycle, the data of the old system is migrated to the new data structures. The joint teams of EHA and PTA employees were trained in this procedure. In each team, an analyst defined the requirements in cooperation with the technical experts and then implemented them promptly together with up to four developers. Accompanying the analytical and technological tasks, the project management controlled the technical contents with regard to their priorities and deadlines. The involvement of key users in the test team reduced the risk during the smooth transition to productive operation.
Key success factors were the uniform user guidance through the consistent application of GUI guidelines and the categorisation of sufficiently complex dialogue types. So-called domain dialogues were defined for navigation and information search. These allow a wide variety of search functions, detailed information on the respective technical domain and the surrounding logical data context to be combined and structurally displayed in a common data environment. In the solution newly created for the EHA, all transactions are accompanied by “wizards”. They guide the user in a predefined sequence of steps through the complete data context to be processed within the scope of a transaction. In this way, uniform and validated workflows are established and largely automated. The basis of the system architecture is a service-oriented approach that makes use of remote and web services (Communication Layer). The Data Access Layer consists of the components developed by PTA. Largely standardised XML structures enable integration with other systems. The distribution of information takes place promptly via the Microsoft BizTalk Server. A sophisticated monitoring system allows the continuous and complete monitoring of all interface transactions. In addition to the configuration of data accesses, the information stored in the design tools for the GUI control and standardised service definitions are the result of the model-driven approach.
“With the ‘Zesa’ project we have made an investment in the future for increasing growth and internationalisation of our business, which is already paying off today.”
Dirk Mithöfer, Managing Director EHA
Olaf Büttner, Head of Information Technology EHA