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Going against the flow at Severn Trent Water

Mark Chillingworth | July 30, 2013
A wide-ranging transformation plan under CIO Myron Hrycyk has turned Severn Trent Water from an ailing utility into a forward-thinking supplier

"We have learnt through the transformation that you can't do enough in terms of communicating to people, speaking their language and finding out what change means to them. So these are not technology changes, they are business changes," he says.

This isn't to say that Hrycyk hasn't had to carry out some major technology integrations, though that also involves building relationships — with suppliers.

"Throughout the transformation journey as a CIO you have to place bets on companies that you believe fit your strategy and will be there for the long game. Azzurri was a bet," he says of Severn Trent's relationship with the managed communications services provider that is also used by his fellow CIO James Thomas at the University College London Hospitals.

"We liked the business relationship you can build with them and we have a very good dialogue with them. So a new telephony infrastructure was commissioned, which was critical to our call centre people.

"Also as an organisation we have a high reliance on mobile and Azzurri bring together the networks for us. We have Avaya in the call centre following a false start with Cisco and it has turned out to be a good move with a quick implementation," he adds.

Fixed income
Severn Trent Water is also a major user of Blackberry devices and applications for its mobile workforce. It has removed desk phones from all but a few members of staff in the Coventry office, and instead all workers use their mobile devices for voice communications.

"I expect to see further demand for and investment in mobility for the work crews," says Hrycyk.

"I removed the fixed lines following a survey my department carried out into their usage. It showed they were never used, and that there was an instant return on investment from removing them.

"I look for suppliers that can bring extra skills to the organisation," Hrycyk says of his technology choices.

"I'm now planning for 2015 to 2020 and I expect a big increase in mobility and to see more use of video and collaboration software," he says of the network demands coming downstream.

"As a water utility, we already run big infrastructure and we can collect a lot of data and use that data to manage our infrastructure in a much better way. If you look at other sectors, there will be a demand for a significant amount of data capture over the next five years."

Hrycyk expects machine-to-machine sensors to revolutionise the water supply industry as the machines, pipes, buildings and plants that utilities operate become networked to their core systems. With maintenance, leakage prevention, health and safety and cost control critical to the operation of a water utility, the early warnings that could be extracted from these Big Data sets could provide a key business strength to companies like Severn Trent Water.

"Data halls and cloud computing will help with these challenges going forwards," he says.

 

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