Back in March 2010 I travelled to Birmingham to interview the CIO of Severn Trent Water, Myron Hrycyk. During the interview the CIO discussed the new headquarters that the utility company was building for itself and how he as the CIO had been involved in its development.
It didn't need Hrycyk to say it, because it was clear that their Birmingham HQ building was looking more than a little tired. A year later I again met with Hrycyk to discuss how his strategy was developing at the new HQ in Coventry.
The transformation in working environment was staggering, not only because we were now meeting in a shining new building with lots of natural light, but as Hrycyk showed me around, you could see how the CIO has helped garner a collaborative and fluid working environment where workers pool together for creative thinking rather than being penned in by cubicles. There are spacious areas for large groups to use electronic whiteboards and group-think up a way to solve problems. A constant flow of walking traffic takes place as workers move about freely and perch on each other's desks to share ideas. This reservoir of open space exists on every floor, even the executives on the top floor sit in an open space that reflects their workforce.
Hrycyk joined Severn Trent Water two and half years ago. He works directly for the chief executive and is on a new board at the utility that has been transforming the organisation since it first sat round a table.
"There were three main strategic aims, a new infrastructure around the SAP implementation; accommodations, our new building and thirdly the Safer Better Faster technique that we have adopted from the automotive sector," Hrycyk explains.
Severn Trent Water has 42,000 kilometres of water services, enough to journey from Coventry to the moon and back again.
"The water industry is very heavily regulated. The regulations set some tough standards to the industry on how we spend capital and on the levels of operational expenditure and they wanted us to lower our bills to our customers," Hrycyk says of why the new Severn Trent Water board had to set out on its three way journey to renew its IT infrastructure, building and business processes.
"To do that we needed to drive out efficiencies in the way we work." One of the strategic decisions Hrycyk and his fellow board members took was to adopt workforce management technology at the same time as they implemented an SAP enterprise resource planning system as the backbone of the Midlands operation. Hrycyk went for the system offered by ClickSoftware, who also provide workforce management systems to OnStream, a part of the National Grid company, Sky the broadcaster and insurance providers Aviva.
"Click plays directly to the KPIs of Severn Trent Water in terms of customer complaint avoidance and that means we spend our operating expenditure more efficiently; and it will feed into a far more efficient use of our capital expenditure as well," he says.
"We saw a good opportunity to improve the way we repaired leaks, attended to maintenance in our infrastructure through changing our working practices and technology.
"We have some very clear aims on the benefits: a better service to our customers, to fix faults and repairs more timely and appointments to be more convenient for customers." Severn Trent Water also believes this strategy will enable it to make more efficient use of its work crews of civil engineers.
At the new HQ Hrycyk opted for a Citrix virtual desktop platform: "It has given us a great level of mobility here in the back office operations so that teams can come together and solve a problem, implement it and move onto the next problem, which significantly fulfils our Safer, Faster, Better plan.
"All communications is by mobile phone and again allows people to work in new ways. Workforce management was a way for us to drive out efficiencies and to offer our customers a better service and to enable people to do a better job and offer our customers the lowest bills," he says of the strategic basis for this new way of working.
Hrycyk chose the ClickSoftware workforce management system because he feels it integrates with SAP more accurately.
"That was key and we had good responses about the company, so it scored very highly." Hrycyk sees workforce management as a technology that provides his organisation with "customer complaint avoidance", as he describes it.
"It means we can spend our opex more efficiently and actually it will feed into a far more efficient use of our capital," he says of the software's place in the business strategy of Severn Trent Water. Although the CIO backs his "bets" on SAP and ClickSoftware, as he described them to CIO in 2010, the GMB trade union believes SAP is to blame for a the Midlands facing water shortages in the summer of 2011, despite the dry spring and winter the UK had in 2011.
With the introduction of any technology come new business processes and a change in working culture. Severn Trent Water designed new practices for its work crews. The utility set up training with the work crews to set out the context of what the benefits of this new way of working will be.
"They have had to get used to new ways of scheduling, a new way of receiving jobs and closing jobs down. Our people in the field and the back office have worked with us well as they could see the benefits this offered," he says.
Severn Trent begins phase two of SAP rollout
"The integration of SAP and ClickSoftware was critical to my technology strategy, which underpins the business plans and is all about simplifying our technology platform," he says.
Hrycyk has focused on using the software to benefit the workforce and the organisation. Severn Trent Water stores in SAP the specific skills of the workforce, which then integrates to the workforce management tool to "make sure that we have the right people on the right jobs. That leans the processes and improves speed."