Referring to Trustpower as a technology company that happens to generate and sell electricity and telecommunications may be meant as a joke, but the company\u2019s general manager for technology and delivery, Matt van Deventer, has a serious point to make: \u201cIT aren't the kids in the corner who you yell at when the printer doesn\u2019t work \u2014they are the people who are leading and enabling the business through technology,\u201d he says.\n Trustpower\n\nMatt van Deventer, general manager for technology and delivery, Trustpower\n\n\nHe describes IT transformation strategy as a tech version of Maslow\u2019s hierarchy of needs (basic needs such as food and clothing as the foundation of a pyramid on which higher-level needs are layered, such as fulfilling your creative potential at the top). In IT, the bottom of the pyramid is providing a solid IT platform, in the middle is the enabling tech such as collaboration tools, and at the top is leading through new technology. \u201cWe want to be able to go to the business and say, \u2018Do you know we could save $X million if we automated this process?\u2019 That\u2019s the way we think about applying technology in the business.\u201d\n\n[ Stay on budget with these 6 cloud cost management tips, learn the 5 fundamentals of effective cloud management, and beware hidden cloud migration gotchas. | Get the latest cloud computing insights by signing up for our newsletter. ]\n\nVan Deventer was appointed to the general manager role in late 2020, following six years with the business. Before that, he spent 10 years at Trade Me, one of New Zealand\u2019s great tech start-up stories that he watched it grow from 30 employees to more than 500.\nTaking on an IT role in a corporate was a major shift, but he\u2019s been focussed on working with the business on driving tech-led transformation. Trustpower now has a 50\/50 split between on-premises data centre and public cloud, about a third of the 100-strong IT team are developers, and collaborative tools such a Slack, Dropbox, and Zoom have been introduced. CIO New Zealand has described Trustpower\u2019s adoption of the Workday finance solution.\nTransforming the contact centre by going cloud-native\nAmazon Web Services\u2019 contact centre system Amazon Connect is the latest technology to join the mix at Trustpower, with the deployment prompted in part by the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020. Trustpower had been exploring cloud-native platforms before the pandemic, but the need to enable 300 contact centre agents to work remotely became urgent once it was obvious the New Zealand government would bring in the lockdown.\nIn ten days, the IT team created a no-frills solution whereby calls were routed through its traditional on-premises Enghouse (formerly Zeacom) system and then pushed to Amazon Connect. Van Deventer says Amazon\u2019s approach of providing the building blocks and enabling in-house teams to extend on it themselves, meant they could move fast. \u201cWe didn\u2019t have to go through lengthy processes around getting environments set up, we could do all that ourselves,\u201d he says.\n\u201cMost critically, as with most AWS stuff in my experience, it\u2019s all purely consumption-based. It didn\u2019t matter if we put 300 agents in the systems or 3,000 agents in the system; we were only paying for what we used, which meant it was a very low-cost, low-risk thing for us to stand up. If it didn\u2019t work out, we would have burnt a little time and a little bit of money, but not very much.\u201d\nAfter lockdown, the team undertook an eight-week discovery process to ensure the Amazon Connect system was the right one for the business, before working on decommissioning the Enghouse system. New capabilities that came with Amazon Connect include being able to dynamically change the interactive voice response menu, as opposed to having to record new messages manually, and the ability to \u201cdata dip into the CRM\u201d to anticipate callers\u2019 needs. An example of the latter is if a customer misses a bill and phones the business, an automatic message will let them know they can pay in the next three days without having to speak to an agent. \u201cAll of that, which in the old system was very difficult or impossible, is now API-driven. It\u2019s all very simple to add that functionality and capability,\u201d van Deventer says.\nTaking a multivendor approach to public cloud\nAlthough 95% of Trustpower\u2019s public cloud deployment is with Microsoft Azure, van Deventer says the business is adopting a multicloud approach. Its chatbot is with Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and now its contact centre capability is with AWS.\n\u201cWe genuinely believe that the future is multicloud. We think it\u2019s healthy to have options with different vendors because, as we know, they all have different strengths and weaknesses, and we want to be in a position where we can select the best tool for the job,\u201d he says.\nBut having a multicloud approach requires flexible skills. Van Deventer\u2019s says his team must be able to move easily between different environments and be able to quickly \u201clearn and unlearn things. \u2026The hyperscalers [the major cloud platforms] know that the business will follow the developers, so the training and tutorials and all of the material for people to learn and upskill is all pretty readily available, either from the vendors themselves or free on the internet,\u201d he says.\n\u201cThe great thing about the rise of modern devops practices is that most of those languages are portable across the different environments. So, if you are developing something in .NET you can push that into Azure or AWS or GCP. It\u2019s more setting up the automation and the infrastructure around that which can be a bit different.\u201d\nTrustpower\u2019s possible sale won\u2019t stop the transformation\nThe announcement that Trustpower is considering a sale of its retail business\u2014which has 231,000 customers and provides services that include electricity, gas, and telco services\u2014will have less impact on the technology roadmap than it would a decade ago.\nThis is because most IT projects today are completed in small bites, as opposed to large deployments that would need to be put on ice during a sale process. \u201cThe fantastic thing about the world we live in now is that 10 years ago we would have had to stop doing stuff because we\u2019d be in year-long projects with big commitments and long payback times,\u201d van Deventer says.\nAbout 80% of IT projects at Trustpower are incremental pieces of work that have to deliver value immediately, he says. \u201cThe Amazon Connect team are still deploying changes every week, and they\u2019re going to keep doing that because the cost of that is very minimal and the returns are immediate. It\u2019s great that we can going and keep delivering on those things.\u201d\nSo the transformation continues. Next on the roadmap is growing Trustpower\u2019s data and analytics capacity with van Deventer\u2019s team \u201creasonably far down the path\u201d of implementing Snowflake as its data warehouse.