NZ’s Powerco adds finance automation to SAP S/4HANA environment

Published: 04/June/2024

Reading time: 3 mins

Key Takeaways

⇨ Powerco finance team automated and streamlined some of its processes, including the financial close

⇨ The finance team had to scale up without adding more headcount as Powerco looked to grow aggressively

⇨ BlackLine was chosen to help address pain points, plus the integration with SAP S/4HANA

New Zealand gas and electricity distributor Powerco has added automation capabilities to its SAP S/4HANA environment to boost efficiency of its finance team. 

Speaking at the recent Mastering SAP Collaborate Melbourne event, Powerco’s IT and finance leaders shared how the company made its financial processes more streamlined by implementing an automated solution. 

Powerco, which has 345,000 connections through 28,000km of cables and wires to power 900,000 Kiwis, was looking to grow aggressively while also diversifying its business. 

The appointment of James Kilty as CEO in 2021 triggered a strategic change to become more than just a power lines company to a more diverse entity, which includes electricity generation. 

“The first brief from the board was that ‘we want serious growth’, specifically doubling the company’s size within five years,” Powerco Manager of Process, Systems and Continuous Improvement Rudy Gesterkamp said. “That is a lot of growth to chase!” 

“We also want to get more diversified in both our regulated and unregulated businesses. We don’t just want to be a lines company anymore and we need to have a customer focus while also becoming more agile.” 

The unregulated business comprises off-grid solutions like standalone micro grid and uninterruptible power supply options to power customers in remote areas, as well as renewable energy sources like solar, wind and hydrogen energy storage. 

“The reason we can’t be a lines business anymore is that the world is moving, and everybody wants to do a bit of solar to feed back from their roof into the grid, use electric vehicles and maximise smart devices,” Gesterkamp said. “The old business model doesn’t handle that – we have to help customers sell their power back to the grid, because our network carries it.” 

As part of the pivot, Powerco found that SAP was “a lot faster at changing”, which Gesterkamp said was suited for the company’s growth plans. 

With all these changes, Powerco’s finance team was faced with the challenge of managing the increased workload without doubling headcount.  

“We looked at our processes, and we identified five areas where we were too slow and inefficient,” Gesterkamp said. “If we’re going to grow without headcount, we needed to be smarter, and month end close was a prime candidate for greater efficiency.” 

The process of wrapping up a monthly result was manual and laborious, heavily reliant on spreadsheets, no integration with those spreadsheets and a clunky workflow that centred on email. 

Powerco turned to SAP partner and accounting software company BlackLine to help ease these pain points. 

Powerco Delivery Specialist Amanda Forsyth said the company chose to tackle the financial close only, looking at the account reconciliation, task management and transaction matching. 

Noting that, “BlackLine stood out in its selection process and procurement cycle for being able to address what Powerco’s management was asking for, as well as the needs of the finance team. 

“The user experience, particularly the user interface, is very intuitive, easy to pick up, very adaptable to each individual user and the training has relevant and up-to-date materials,” Forsyth said. “It’s very easy for us to take our team of 12 and adopt the products.” 

She also cited BlackLine’s “modern and sophisticated” support team that provided “instant help”, as well as its capability to continue to grow and develop the solution based on Powerco needs. 

Powerco has also extended BlackLine beyond its financial close function, with the solution also covering invoice-to-cash, inter-company consolidation and more. 

Forsyth added that BlackLine had “easy” integrations via a modern connector, and that the integration specifically with SAP S/4HANA was very seamless and easy to implement. 

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