Courtesy of IBM
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced Argentinian energy company Ecogas to suspend in-person services for its 1.4 million natural gas customers spread across a distribution network of almost 30,000 kilometers, the company had to act fast to prepare for a surge in demand for its digital channels.
Before the pandemic, in-person transactions were the primary touchpoints for energy customers in Argentina. Customers would visit local branches operated by Ecogas to sign up for new services, update a new address, or visit their local bank or third-party collections office to pay their bills.
However, Ecogas knew that digital channels could transform the customer experience, so they began a transformation to deliver seamless online and mobile service channels that allow customers to manage their accounts and pay bills.
Ecogas’ timing couldn’t have been better. In 2020, Argentina introduced lockdowns and social distancing measures to help contain the spread of COVID-19. With in-person services suddenly inaccessible, digital channels became the primary customer touchpoint almost overnight.
“We knew that there would be a big uptick in our online transaction volumes, as customers who previously relied on banks and collection networks to pay their bills turned to our digital channels instead,” Oscar Sobrero, information technology leader at Ecogas, said. “As well as supporting the surge in demand for online and mobile services, we also aimed to allow customers to sign up for new contracts without coming into a branch — a capability we’d not yet rolled out.”
Courtesy of IBM
Digital transformation projects reduce IT costs and increase performance
As its transformation began, Ecogas realized that its existing business systems and infrastructure would be unable to accommodate the projected increase of 20% in annual digital transaction volumes. To meet the new requirements, the company decided to move to SAP HANA 2.0, running on IBM Power10 – specifically, a single IBM Power E1080 server connected to IBM FlashSystem 5200 storage, virtualized with IBM PowerVM and running the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) for SAP Applications operating system.
“In addition to helping us tackle the near-term challenges of the pandemic, we saw that moving to SAP HANA 2.0 running on IBM Power servers would accelerate decision-making and free employees from time-consuming tasks. Moving to the next-generation data platform also promised to streamline important compliance activities, such as generating monthly reports for our regulator,” Sobrero added. “With their global expertise in SAP solutions, IBM, and our local partner, The Computer, were able to accelerate our deployment, completing in 60 days what might have taken other vendors four months to complete.”
As a result, the new solution has allowed Ecogas to reduce its IT operational costs by 20% while boosting compute performance by 35%, empowering the business to accommodate a massive increase in demand for digital services.
Customer satisfaction improves with new digital services
“Almost all our 1.4 million customers now receive their bills digitally rather than on paper, which is more convenient for the customer, more cost-effective for Ecogas, and more sustainable for the environment,” Sobrero said. “In just a few months, adoption of digital billing shot through the roof, which is a testament to the excellent collaboration between IBM, The Computer, and Ecogas during the pandemic. In fact, around 80% of our customers find the online and mobile channels so convenient that they prefer them to the in-branch experience.”
Ecogas also needed to develop robust disaster recovery capabilities to help minimize the risk of data loss or service disruption. As a result, the company created a hybrid environment that leverages IBM Cloud and IBM Spectrum Protect to replicate data to an IBM Power Virtual Server instance in near-real time.
This post was created by IBM with Insider Studios.