CIO50 2020 #26-50 Jennifer Rebeiro, City West Water
Over the past two years, City West Water (CWW) has been moving to a ‘best of breed’ technology architecture. A key foundation has been the deployment of a strategic integration and automation capability (SIA), consisting of an integration platform, business process management, robotic process automation, and data and analytics technologies.
CWW’s chief information officer, Jennifer Rebeiro, says although these tools by themselves are not unique, it’s the combination, creating a connected capability across the organisation that is unique.
She notes the organisation has taken a "mesh app and service architecture" view for technology to enable "many-to-many" relationships. The key objective in introducing SIA was to achieve operational efficiencies through cost reduction and improved business processes/compliance and improved customer-centricity.
The innovation came about as CWW had a desire to become a digital utility with a focus on improved services to its customers, evidence-based decision making through timely data and improved interoperability across the organisation to achieve operational efficiencies.
“We started thinking more holistically, taking an internal ‘process-as-a-service' approach, enabling the organisation to put the customer and employee experience at the heart of everything that we do,” Rebeiro outlines.
New capabilities include: online self-service options for customers to maintain their details, check bills, and make direct debit requests; introduce customer, place and asset insights such as outage mapping which helps customers see current and planned outages in their area.
They include real-time collection of data and metrics to support organisational and evidence-based approaches and decision-making; optimised business processes that support a mobile workforce and direct customer service engagement in the field. Automated business processes also enable staff to focus on more high value tasks.
The SIA capability was used to improve City West Water's customer refund process, which was completely manual, prone to errors and delays, and would take up to 14 days to complete.
“This became heightened during COVID,” says Rebeiro. “We needed to ensure regulatory compliance across the business and understand customer requirements and circumstances in detail to ensure the integrity and accuracy of payments through to finance.
“Feedback from both these initiatives is that without the collaborative approach, the desire to understand the business problem and the commitment from leadership, these projects would not have been successful".
Rebeiro says technology is acknowledged by the executive team as a key enabler in achieveing the organisation’s goals.
“We work across the business to build the base plan and then I work with my peers to align the plan with the priorities of the organisation. The competition for funding is minimised through this approach as the outcomes are owned by the individual business groups and by the organisation,” she notes.
“Finally, the ability to influence comes with trust. I have demonstrated and proved to the board and the executive my ability to deliver the planning program and more within the same budget parameters and with a high-performing team.”
Culture and engagement is especially important to the organisation, she adds. In 2018 and 2019, the IT group did not meet the cultural and engagement targets and had the lowest score in the organisation. Those poor scores were reflected in practice.
“When I arrived two years ago, deadlines were being missed, the program was not being delivered fully and there were overall poor customer satisfaction and poor employee experience.
“I needed to do something different. I asked the IT group for their feedback and implemented their suggestions so they could see that we were committed. For example, the IT group said they wanted to hear from me more so I meet with them for 10 minutes at 10:00am every Monday with an agenda that addresses safety, what’s on, our people, and successes.”
Rebeiro also encouraged cross-team opportunities for people to learn new skills.
“For example, we have service desk people working on projects, we have DBAs learning about security, and we have application support individuals creating new career paths for themselves. We have also put in a ‘buddy system’ or an informal mentoring processs which enables individuals to approach another individual in IT to ask for coaching. This is also coupled with a formal mentoring process for our upcoming female leaders with Vic IT for women, where we also provide mentors for the program.”