National Energy Provider Alinta Reigns in Batch Processing with JAMS

Company Background

Alinta Energy supplies natural gas and electricity to 700,000 homes and businesses throughout Australia. Originally a diverse energy company with operations, investments and power generation assets dating back to 1941, Alinta now operates nine power stations across Australia and New Zealand, managing fuel sources and transportation, and ensuring competitive prices through wholesale market operations.

The Challenges

Alinta’s three core business segments – wholesale, retail, and power generation – are geographically spread out across a number of sites in Australia and one in New Zealand. Its IT team is based in Adelaide, while the corporate offices are located in Sydney.

Having business functions spread out across the continent created two of Alinta’s greatest challenges: the consolidation of data and the provision of a single source of critical management and operational based reporting. The IT team also faced issues such as support for multiple ERP systems, support for applications for the Wholesale Trading team, and consolidation of data from multiple billing applications.

“Information is the life blood of the organization,” stated a member of Alinta’s technology team. Data is sourced from many disparate systems that are aligned both vertically and horizontally across business units. Alinta also receives data from external vendors. Upon receipt, this data is extracted and sent to business users to assist with daily operations, analysis, and reporting.

Alinta’s processes and data sources had evolved as a result of acquiring numerous companies over a decade. In most cases, batch processing remains the only way to access these entities’ data sources, extract their data, and load them into a final repository in a timely and efficient manner.

With a diverse set of scheduling tools, Alinta experienced issues with both non-centralized and non-standardized batch processing and scheduling. Varying reliability of these tools caused a lack of trust and commitment and prevented enterprise-wide adoption of any of them.

The Solution

Alinta considered initial license costs, ongoing maintenance, and usability for a number of products. Its selection process compared JAMS to other tools on the market and to toolsets currently in use throughout the company. Alinta also considered developing a scheduling tool internally.

The main reasons Alinta selected JAMS were:

  • Functionality – It delivered against all requirements for a scheduling tool, and provided additional capabilities with potential value for the future.
  • Ease of Use – No complex training or special consulting was necessary for configuration.
  • Price – Good value for the money.
  • Customer Base – Reputable customers are using JAMS.
  • Extensibility – Its API is accessible from Visual Studio .NET, which is within Alinta’s technical stack.
  • Technology Platforms – JAMS can be used across Alinta’s UNIX and Windows systems.

Alinta’s development team found the learning curve with JAMS to be minimal. The documentation provided guidance on functionality and advanced logic scenarios. Part of the learning curve was ensuring specific scenarios required could be implemented using JAMS. Prior to purchase, a trial version of JAMS was downloaded and installed on a local development machine. POC scenarios which replicated Alinta’s requirements were then implemented in a development environment.

The implementation process was seamless. JAMS just worked from Day 1.

The Benefits

Due to the reliability of JAMS, the business segments have consistently up-to-date data and have switched to running schedules that update financials throughout the day. These schedules would not have been considered with the previous tools as they would have required the assistance of multiple FTEs throughout the day.

Alinta runs a number of batch processes throughout the day in addition to a large number of periodic jobs that run at times ranging from every 5 minutes to hourly. The company relies heavily on JAMS to provide critical information to business units in a timely manner. Two “data stewards” are responsible for the JAMS schedule. Minimal administration is required.

Reliable, on-time and up-to-date data is delivered throughout the company and business users are better informed with JAMS. Due to the reliability of JAMS, Alinta has reduced the risks associated with large batch updates. It now employs a strategy of trickle feeding its data warehouse on a regular basis and making data more readily available throughout the day.

New found reliability has encouraged Alinta to look at ways JAMS can be leveraged by other parts of the business to aid in the efficiency of their scheduling. Having the right underlying tool has made a big difference. JAMS has enabled Alinta to separate environmental issues from data issues, making it easier to identify and remedy issues.

“JAMS is definitely assisting us in providing up-to-date information to our business users on a regular basis while reducing IT maintenance efforts. JAMS has become a significant part of our daily processing and is a key contributor to improvements in efficiency, automation, and data integration.”