CIO50 2021 #22 Dominic Hatfield, Sydney Water
When Sydney Water’s chief information officer and GM for digital, Dominic Hatfield joined the organisation a year ago as it was still adjusting to the challenges of work-from-home as it sought to ensure the essential services of water and waste management continued to be delivered in Australia’s largest city.
This was placing a “huge demand on digital services and the digital team” he tells CIO. Yet they managed to move forward in deploying a large organisation-wide digital agenda that has totally transformed the utility.
Already in train before the pandemic hit, the Business Experience Platform (BxP) was a major Sydney Water transformation initiative that saw the implementation of SAP to transform finance, supply chain, procurement and cost management processes to drive enterprise-wide process excellence and intelligent decision making within the organisation.
“The core of the program lined up almost perfectly with the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and had to deal with the challenges of operating across offshore and on shore teams across multiple locations,” Hatfield says.
“Early on we adopted virtual technologies and creative approaches keep the program moving at the required pace, building confidence to experiment and regularly adjust the delivery approach.”
The final cutover and business implementation occurred through Sydney lockdown and pivoted to support a remote project team and remote workforce with only one days’ notice.
Hatfield used the COVID-19 experience to advocate that Sydney Water strive for the highest standards in building digital solutions that would improve customer experiences and service delivery.
To this end, a new digital customer platform (DCP) was built, which puts the customer first, transforming how they and stakeholders interact with the utility. Showcasing Sydney Water’s new agile delivery model, the program offers a powerful example of human-centred design.
Lab in a box
COVID-19 has shone a light on major water utilities like Sydney Water, which provide a critical role in conducting accurate testing of sewer samples to track the spread of the virus, while also pressuring them to acquire and share results faster, for instance with NSW Health and Local Government Areas (LGA).
The traditional method of analysis used membrane filtration, colony count and often required retesting that could take two to three days.
“Historically, testing has been a central laboratory bound process and we set out to identify a way to mobilise digital capability.”
Setting out to digitise and mobilise the process, Hatfield and his team created the TectaB mobile ‘lab-in-a-box’ which analyses samples in real-time and interfaces directly with Labware systems.
Delivery of Sydney Water’s BxP project was a great example of transformation under extreme pressure. And it demanded considerable innovation from Hatfield and the team to have it stand up effectively, efforts which are continuing to resonate.
For example, he cites post go-live support as critical to ensuring early adoption and improving user proficiency in its use ongoing.
“Using digital solutions such as employee facing chatbots and group chat rooms played a critical role in adapting first level support to over 5000 end-users and replacing original plans for onsite support staff,” Hatfield says.
Among the achievements he the team are most proud include:
- Touchless transactions for 200+ suppliers transacting through SAPARIBA with thousands of POs processed since go live, realising efficiencies in manual transaction processing
- New inventory management system has identified obsolete inventory, providing significant savings
- Full finance system replacement and introduction of cost models. More than 1700 projects setup allowing tracking of $500 million+ to-date financial spend on projects across the organisation
- Self-serve reporting supported by a centralised analytics function for finance and procurement providing a single source of truth, eliminating ‘cottage industries’
- Centralised time reporting enabling resource utilisation and effectiveness to be measured across Sydney Water
Sydney Water has reaped a number of significant benefits from the various digital innovations deployed by Hatfield and his team.
Data analytics capabilities are now much richer, helping to drive tailored customer experiences and personalised content, providing significantly enhanced insight into customer behaviour on all channels, while also enabling a consolidated single view of customer.
Flexible self-service ‘my account’ functionality has been integrated into the Sydney Water CRM, providing native omni-channel support, and a common digital identity management tool to ensure a secure, trusted and enriched experience for customers. Meanwhile, a website portal has been built providing better content management, device responsiveness and the ability for users to create tailored personal journeys.
Hatfield stresses that the digital transformation now evident and active within Sydney Water was effectively built from the ground up without much in the way of any existing plan.
“From a starting base where there was no defined digital strategy, we have developed digital blueprints and roadmaps that describe the pathways we plan to take, the strategies that will shape them and principles we will follow to achieve the digital maturity uplift required to meet and future proof the horizons of our business strategy,” he says.
And the obvious success of these blueprints and roadmaps is in no small part due to Hatfield and his team’s ability to bring the rest of the organisation along with them on the journey.
“I have established an operating model that is focused on partnering and strategic alignment, which has been endorsed by the executive team, while ensuring that the digital team has a seat at the table across each business group, augmented into executive leadership teams and strategic planning groups," Hatfield notes.
“This has resulted in digital thought leadership being able to seed transformation opportunities within strategy discussions and driving confidence across my peers that digital has a business leadership role to play and that their challenges and priorities are being considered.”