Andrew Quail
Andrew Quail

"SGN leads the way in our industry's Customer Satisfaction levels", 2019 CIO 100 leader Andrew Quail told CIO UK. "But we're always looking at ways to improve our customers' experience as well as our colleagues'."

Quail has just overseen a three-year customer experience transformation programme that saw SGN use lean, agile and cross-skilled functional delivery teams to better align the company's technology strategy to its customer and stakeholder goals.

"The cutting-edge industry leading digital platforms we implemented are helping us improve our customer interaction and experience daily," he said.

At utilities company SGN for nine years, Quail's lack of complacency around customer satisfaction as well as his continued efforts to drive employee happiness at SGN has played a significant part in the recognition of Quail as the latest CIO 100 leader.

As digital transformation remains a talking point for CIOs across the country, it's important to acknowledge that innovation is no longer the preserve of technology. If you fail to simultaneously upskill your workforce, you won't be able to successfully leverage any investments you make in emerging tech.

SGN Director of IT and Innovation, Andrew Quail, at the 2019 CIO 100 dinner

'Totally transformed'

For many long-established, legacy companies like SGN, overhauling an IT strategy on this scale can be daunting and Quail told us that the company strategy and corporate goals have demanded a radical transformation of what IT is and how it works. As a result, SGN have made investments in robotics, sensor-based technology, artificial intelligence and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

"Our new 'IT Totally Transformed' programme has allowed us to move away from just 'keeping the lights on' to becoming an organisation that fuels business agility, productivity and efficiency while continually improving our customers' experience."

However, it's not just SGN's customers who are happy with Quail's new IT strategy, employee satisfaction at the gas company is also increasing.

"This is mainly due to our team adopting a learning and growth mindset and understanding that maintaining the status quo simply isn't an option," he said. "Every individual now has a voice and is encouraged to actively contribute to our success through a serious of employee-led change initiatives."

Diversity and skills

This employee-led approach has also enabled SGN's IT department to improve its diversity. The energy sector posts a median gender pay gap of around 20% and in industries that are traditionally dominated by men, it's easy to become complacent. Quail has helped SGN to buck this trend, restructuring his department and creating a number of new roles over the last 12 months to help make his workforce more reflective of society at large.

"These changes have allowed us to source and recruit talent from a wide variety of industries, geographic locations and social backgrounds while allowing incumbents to take up new challenges to progress their careers," Quail said.

As a result, SGN's IT department is the most diverse team within the company.

"Some 40% of my management team are from ethnic or mixed-race origin and 40% of the department are female, which is notable within the context of a traditionally, heavily white, middle-aged and male dominated industry," he said.

Carbon reduction

Such wide-spread transformation efforts have also enabled Quail to improve SGN's metrics in one other important area – carbon reduction. The company's development of two flagship robotics projects, CISBOT and CIRRISTM, have led to safer, more cost-effective and more environmentally beneficial alternative to the inspection, repair and replacement processes currently used in the gas industry.

This highly innovative project is set to underpin the creation of decarbonised, multi-source and highly variable live gas networks of the future; a prerequisite for the UK to facilitate the decarbonisation of heat.

Although Quail has taken on a number of significant transformation projects over the last 12 months, he's showing no signs of slowing down in the coming year.

"We still have some way to go on our transformation journey," he told CIO UK. "Colleagues across the business understand and appreciate how fundamental innovation and technology are to inform and deliver our long-term business strategy, and this can't be done without the IT team changing what it is and does."

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SGN Director of IT and Innovation, Andrew Quail, at the 2019 CIO 100 dinner