Merely putting a Severn Trent utility bill on a mobile phone misses the point of disruptive technology, says Myron Hrycyk. He's re-invented the bill as an interactive object that lets customers analyse their water usage and cut the amount of hot water they use. It's  about delivering better customer service as the best way of beating off an anticipated influx of rivals.

What the judges said

"Re-inventing the customer interactions and journey is interesting. I think the approach they have taken is different and a long term strategy." Ian Cox

"Myron is a wise old sage and that is what that business wants; and in the utilities world he's seen as being the innovator and the guy they go and listen to." Ian Cohen

"He's done a lot with the customer digital journey." Jayne Nickalls

"He draws on a lot of experience and success, and is making some headway with the Internet of Things." Richard Sykes

Job title
Group CIO Severn Trent Water.

When did you start your current role?
April 2008.

What is your reporting line?
To the CEO.

Do you meet with and discuss business strategy with the CEO every week?
I meet monthly to discuss strategy and general operational issues.

Are you a member of the board of directors?
Yes.

What other executive boards do you sit on?
None.

Does your organisation have a CDO?
No. I stepped into the role of CDO and have driven our digital strategy from nothing to a multichannel experience for our customers and our colleagues.

What non-technology responsibilities do you have in the organisation?
I ran our company procurement operation for two and a half years, recently handing a stabilised unit over to a focused commercial director.

How many employees does your organisation have?
9,000.

What number of users does your department supply services to?
9,000 direct employees and several thousand contracted users.

How do you ensure that you have a good understanding of your business and how your customers use your business's products?
I spend time out on the front line with our operational work crews getting stuck into their water and waste jobs at customer locations, roadside, etc. I listen to customers at our call centre and meet directly with call centre agents. I work alongside my peers eg finance director, HR director, to understand their operational and strategic goals/challenges.

Severn Trent Water technology strategy and agenda

Is your organisation being disrupted by the internet, mobility or technology-oriented start-ups?
Yes.

Are you empowered by your organisation to disrupt from the inside?
Yes.

Describe a disruptive measure you’ve led or played a major part in
I've driven a rethink of our processes and how we interact with our customers. For example, just taking our utility bill and putting it on a mobile phone is not good enough and misses the point of disruptive technology; I've driven the initiative to re-invent the bill and create something that is interactive with our customers, enabling them to compare usage with neighbours, branch out into water saving ideas, help them analyse their water usage and by extension their power consumption.

I've started to weave customer digital journeys with colleague digital journeys to redesign how our business works. For example, as a work crew using digital devices goes to a job, the customer is updated on their digital device; when the job is done, the customer is digitally asked to confirm all is OK and feed back their experience.

What major transformation project has been recently completed or is under way at your organisation?
We are bringing together diverse operations into one combined unit to leverage scale and drive efficiencies that will give better customer service at lower cost. This will change the way the company operates, and technology, my strategy, is driving the size and shape of the transformation. It includes lightweight digital devices for the workforce linked to powerful central systems to send out data/jobs, etc, with new processes and working practices. We're also deploying a technology platform to deliver great information about the performance of our network (100,000km of pipes), which then feeds into the operational processes to drive preventative maintenance. And finally we are deploying apps to customers and colleagues to give them a 'consumer' feel when they interact with us. 

What impact will the above transformation have on your organisation?
We'll deliver improved customer service and experience that will be critical to our success as competition enters the water sector in the next couple of years as well as operational savings.

How has your leadership style contributed to the outcomes of the transformation project?
I value the contribution that motivated people make to delivering business change. I spend time with business and IT colleagues learning from their ideas, sharing my views and building a clear future vision of the company, technology and processes. We work in a world where these changes can only be delivered through collaboration across the company and with other organisations. I pull these groups together to work effectively as a combined team to deliver the business outcome.

I create a clear vision and the path to achieve it, build a motivated team, and lead them to get to the goal.

Finally, I now strongly believe in a 'think big, start small, fail fast and scale soon' approach as it responds to my businesses demands for fast deployments and greater risk appetite in the early stages.

What key technologies do you consider enable transformation?
Cloud technologies as they become increasingly mature and sophisticated. These services have now come of age.

Mobility, mobility, mobility is what customers and colleagues demand. This technology transforms the way our businesses operate.

Digital is another way of describing how we'll all be doing business and the adoption of these technologies transform the customer and colleague experience.

Are you increasing the number of cloud applications or infrastructure in use at your organisation?
Yes.

What is your information and data analytics vision for the organisation?
I don't want to be storing racks and racks of data in my datacentre. I'm looking to cloud storage, Hadoop and Hana as part of my data analytic strategy. I had to convince the board of the business case to start investing in SAP Hana to provide predictive analytics of our water and waste infrastructure performance.

How is mobile and social networking impacting operations and customer experience?
I've already spoken about mobile. My digital strategy embraces social media and other channels to interact with customers and colleagues. 

Describe your strategic vision towards shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives and employees around choice?
You'll never get rid of shadow IT and in some ways it is a good thing as it can drive innovation. I like to allow some shadow IT to help drive innovation and then adopt it more formally. We deliver a good IT service, so the level of shadow IT is relatively low. Clearly if you deliver a poor service, shadow IT grows.

I've embraced BYOD. We have it in the company and I've just competed establishing a robust platform for offering a full BYOD service to colleagues.

What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom?
• SAP Hana for large data processes and fast computing.
• Office 365 for my US-based businesses.
• Samsung smartphones and tablets across the company.

Who are your main suppliers?
HDS, IBM, SAP, Microsoft, HP – the usual large suppliers Increasingly I'm using small niche players in the digital, customer journey and analytics areas of technologies.

Severn Trent Water IT security and budget

Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?
No.

Has cyber-security risen up your management agenda?
Yes.

Does your organisation understand the potential cyber-security threats it faces?
Yes.

Has this led to an increase in your security budget?
Yes.

What is the IT budget?
£40m opex per annum.

How much is the IT operational spend compared with the revenue as a percentage?
3%.

What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year?
Transform the customer when they are dealing with us as a company, and transform the colleague experience when they are doing their job. Deliver the always-on technology platform needed for a digital-first company.

Are you finding it difficult to recruit the talent you need to drive transformation?
Yes.

Has recruitment and retention risen up your agenda as a CIO?
Yes.

Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme?
Yes.

Severn Trent Water technology department

How would you describe your leadership style?
I have a clear vision of our strategy and how we can get to our objectives. I am team player on the board and an IT leader. I'm collaborative and communicative. I create pace and change is a good thing. I'm very commercial and business-focused.

Explain how you’ve supported and developed your senior leadership team to support your overall objectives and vision
I embarked on a 12-month development programme for my first, second and third line managers that introduced a new way of working together and delivering leadership. Key areas were coaching and people development.

How many employees are in your IT team?
400.

What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff?
75% in-house, 25% outsourced.