As a joint venture of a number of municipal utilities in the Lake Constance/Upper Swabia region, NetzWerkStadt GmbH & Co.KG (NWS) from Überlingen supports its parent companies with the challenges created by the regulation of the energy market in Germany and the consequences of the energy transition. The company, which currently has twelve employees, covers the areas of operational management processes (asset management), energy management (regulation/energy data and processes) as well as IT services and develops sustainable and practice-oriented solutions together with its partners. NWS uses the web-based software solution ZEP - Time Recording for Projects - from provantis IT Solutions to record and invoice the working hours incurred in the diverse projects.
NWS was founded in 2010 and officially launched in October of the same year. "You honestly don't even think about the issue of time tracking at the beginning."NWS Managing Director Christoph Stiens recalls the beginnings of his company. In addition, at the beginning shareholder projects were handled for the most part, so that time recording in Microsoft Excel tables seemed sufficient.
"If ZEP didn't exist, it should have been developed for us!"
This already changed in the following year. Christoph Stiens explains: "With a continuously increasing project volume, it quickly became clear that the solution used would not be sufficient in the long run to ensure seamless and accurate time recording and accounting." The use of various tools available on the Internet for time recording as well as Excel extensions did not prove to be effective either, and so it quickly became clear to Mr Stiens and his staff: a new solution had to be found.
"Via a corresponding interface, we can now transfer the invoices into the SAP system broken down by G/L accounts rather than just as one invoice item."
"Actually, our web research was originally about finding a better Excel tool"confesses Christoph Stiens. In the end, the search led to ZEP from the company provantis IT Solutions. ZEP stands for Time Recording for Projects. The web-based solution has been on the market since 2000 and offers project-oriented companies a complete solution for time recording and verification, travel expenses, project management and controlling as well as invoicing.
After an initial online presentation by the software provider, NWS decided to take advantage of the 30-day free trial account. "This was very important for us, because it gave us the opportunity to check, without obligation and free of charge, whether the solution could meet our specific requirements. After the test phase was completed, it was clear: The solution fits! At first, NWS used ZEP exclusively for recording project times.
Until the beginning of 2012, the project times recorded in ZEP were exported via the solution's CSV interface, processed and sent to the accounting service provider, who took care of transferring the data into the NWS SAP system. The invoices were created in MS-Word, with the ZEP time recording data added as an attachment.
With the aim of also streamlining and at least partially automating this process, NWS decided to use ZEP's invoicing module as early as the beginning of 2012. "The solution simply convinced us"Christoph Stiens explains the decision.
In the summer of 2014, the invoicing module was expanded to include an accounting export. "Via a corresponding interface, we can now transfer the invoices into the SAP system broken down by G/L accounts rather than just as one invoice item." The transfer is "semi-automated" via a "translation list" and a corresponding SAP macro. Christoph Stiens confirms: "It's just a matter of pressing a button one more time."
The customer-specific fields present in the SAP instance of NWS, which are not included in the standard scope of ZEP Faktura, were added in a corresponding adjustment in ZEP and replaced the manual adjustment previously required.
In addition, further adjustments were made in ZEP to meet the specific requirements of NWS. One keyword here is "key projects". Christoph Stiens explains: "Key projects" is the NWS internal term for projects that have been jointly commissioned by several clients. Here it is of course important that the recorded working hours for billing are divided proportionally among these different customers. This function was not included in the scope of functions when ZEP was introduced and was therefore specially implemented for us by provantis."
Christoph Stiens draws this positive conclusion after using ZEP for several years: "ZEP was exactly the right solution at the right time".. As an operating model, the NWS managing director has opted for operation from the cloud, even though he admits that he had originally planned an on-premise operation for the new time recording solution. "However, ZEP's cloud computing offering is so attractive that we are also very comfortable with operating from the cloud." provantis, concludes Christoph Stiens, has also been able to prove that customisation is easily possible even with a cloud-based solution. Even more: the rapid integration of these adaptations into new versions of the solution means that ZEP is continuously developed further together with the users.