Centrica, the umbrella company that owns British Gas, has decided to participate in a Ramp-Up programme to implement an enhancement package to its SAP ERP system.
SAP's Ramp-Up scheme allows companies to be the first to trial the release of new packages and products. Additional support will be provided by SAP to fix any bugs that may occur.
Participating companies then provide feedback and act as a showcase for the product when it is given full release.
Centrica's central corporate centre currently uses SAP's ERP system for back-end procurement, finance and HR.
Some 2,000 employees are currently using the system for these functions. However, the company is upgrading to SAP's latest ERP product, Enhancement Package 5, as it wants to roll out a SAP self-service HR tool, ESS MSS, to all its 45,000 employees.
"We currently have a self-service solution for HR, which we implemented about four years ago – it is outsourced to a third party, AonHewitt," said Grant Smith, SAP project manager at Centrica.
"However, we decided last year we wanted to bring this back in-house because the latest SAP ESS MSS tool has got a lot better over the past few years and we wanted to integrate this service into our SAP platform.
Smith attended the SAP User Group conference in 2010 and decided that Centrica would have to update to the latest enhancement package for its ERP system to fully take advantage of SAP's ESS MSS tool.
Centrica wanted to implement the HR tool using the latest upgrade, as it provides better features than the package the company is currently using.
"Enhancement Package 5 provided a step change in technology for ESS MSS. It made it look flasher, much more like the internet tools you can see on the market. It was largely to do with usability," said Smith.
"From a technical standpoint, the tool was also moving from Java to ABAP, the standard SAP technical programming language, and this makes it easier to integrate.
"So we decided that there was no point in going ahead with the project unless we were on Enhancement Package 5 – otherwise, the installation would be outdated six or nine months down the line."