See also:National Grid CIO David Lister on keeping the lights on\nNational GridCIO David Lister is head of IT for a company that is feelig the impact of a sea-change in how we manufacture energy. It's a basic requirement of civilisation but also one of the most modern technological developments that requires a flexible approach to integrate traditional fossil fuel energy with renewable sources.\nLister describes the role of IT as using data in a more creative way to guarantee supply.\n\u201cThe parallel of the new energy supplies, and how we use technology to predict events so that we can maintain assets and avoid failure, is the real challenge of the next 20 years.\u201d\nHe relishes the challenge. \u201cWe have 215,000 miles of linear assets and all that needs to be connected through to the control centres.\u201d\nMany of the people in Lister\u2019s team are from an engineering background rather than pure IT.\nTo meet this challenge Lister has been transforming IT at National Grid since he joined, beginning, he says, by looking at the technology according what the organisation had that was different, what could be re-used and what could create operational excellence.\n\u201cWe\u2019ve always been good at operational excellence, and now it is a question of how we take it to the next level,\u201d he says.\nThe pylons of the National Grid IT network are an SAP back office systems and GSM for the important field work.\nTo improve operational effectiveness Lister has modernised the telepresence systems to improve collaboration between the US and UK operations, email, collaboration, intranet and document management has moved to software-as-a-service.\nFurther cloud adoption is following as National Grid puts its infrastructure onto a common private cloud operated by CSC.\n\u201cWe\u2019ve looked at our applications and categorised them from critical to national infrastructure, right through to what could sit on a public cloud. We\u2019ll put critical system assets in our datacentre and then we will have a smaller, more focused, datacentre infrastructure. Applications not in that critical set have been placed on the hosted CSC infrastructure,\u201d he says.\nThis has led to a cull of between 500 and 600 applications from the National Grid portfolio and reduced the overall application count from 1500.\n\u201cIt takes a lot of time in business and data rationalisation to look at it holistically,\u201d he says of the transformation project that started when he joined National Grid from RBS in February 2009.\nThe transformation programme has a five-year tenure and Lister says it\u2019s very focused on the long term of the organisation.\n\u201cI think we have done the easy things, we are now on the harder projects,\u201d he says.\n\n\u201cIn the US we have six different works management systems due to M&A activity, and one of our business tasks is to move from multiple works management systems to one.\n\u201cGrasping the opportunity to make life easier for the workers is equally as important as rationalising. So we are investing in new tools and new approaches,\u201d he says.\n\u201cWith maintenance scheduling, when there is a call we need to know where engineers are, what skills they have and if they have the right materials with them, and then follow up on any repairs. We need to do all of that in a way that helps the engineer be safe, as safety is ingrained in our culture and it is something you are never good enough at.\n\u201cOur transformation programme is driving down our opex while our capex is going up and we are reaping the benefits while preparing for the demands of the future model of our sector. The organisation has a capex of \u00a33.5bn. IS is not the major part of that, but it is an important part.\u201d\nCovering the fieldThroughout the interview Lister talks of the network\u2019s assets. The National Grid\u2019s assets stretch across (or under) the land and so does its workforce.\nLike many CIOs in the utilities space, Lister is very focused on the technology needs and opportunities for field workers.\n\u201cIn the past we have been conservative, but technology can help our colleagues in the field be more effective and I am interested in creating information flows for safety stories, to use consumer devices to do their jobs better. Rugged device versus iPhone? Yammer and Huddle are part of our engagement and it\u2019s good to listed to the heartbeat of the company and being connected to all that is only a good thing.\u201d\nDespite its financial and geographical size, National Grid\u2019s IT team of just 500 is lean, which makes partnership a powerful element of the technology strategy.\n\u201cWe have an interesting eco-system of partners that includes HP for service integration \u2013 they work to drive the rest of the services cluster \u2013 and IBM and Wipro for application development and management. IBM also provides collaboration and the infrastructure is managed by CSC. Verizon and Cable & Wireless are our key network partners.\u201d\n\u201cI am excited by new content, new industries and I have been amazed by how interesting this energy infrastructure business is. Ten years ago I would have laughed at the idea of being here,\u201d\nLister says of his career which has seen him as IT leader at Reuters and the Royal Bank of Scotland. He says he\u2019s not struggled to move from sector to sector and believes many of the challenges are identical.\nLister is adamant that one of the keys to success is to have a good work\/life balance and makes a point of getting the odd round of golf in.\nInterview over, and although Lister is dressed in a relaxed Friday dress code, he\u2019s soon off to the next meeting to continue the highly charged atmosphere of transformation clearly present at National Grid.