Wales & West Utilities (WWU) was set up on June 1st 2005 to take over gas distribution in the Wales and West region previously managed by the formerly state-owned National Grid Transco. IT director Phil Pike was brought in to migrate the company from it's legacy systems to a completely new infrastructure in only 18 months.\nSuch a radical change in processes and systems requires an equally radical change of culture. And bear in mind that although this is a new company, it still retained a substantial number of staff from the regional Transco it replaced.\n\u201cOur working culture has changed dramatically,\u201d confirms Pike. \u201cWe have tried to introduce a performance management culture and push autonomy out to the lower levels of the organisation.\u201d\nTo help in this process the executive board holds an industrial round table each month at different depots across the region to take the new culture out to the shop floor and involve industrial staff and\u00a0team leaders.\n\u201cWhen we first did this is was quite hard. We took a lot of flak. There was initial scepticism, blockers and so on,\u201d Pike remembers. \u201cNow it\u2019s very different; the exec round tables are about productivity and costs,\u201d he explains.\nThis change is backed up with much better performance management enabled by new IT systems. \u201cWe have a web view into the business warehouse. We get an IT granular view into someone\u2019s performance,\u201d says Pike.\nLike all gas distribution firms, WWU is monitored and reviewed by the Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM) on a regular basis.\n\u201cWe\u2019ve been through one full price control review in 2008,\u201d says Pike. \u201cThis creates cost challenges.\u201d The next review is coming in April 2013, and WWU is already working towards this deadline to make sure it can meet the cost demands made by the regulator.\nThe implementation of the change prog\u00adramme outlined by Pike took place during 2005 and 2006. \u201cWe did what we set out to and didn\u2019t de-scope anything important,\u201d he says.\n\u201cWe hit all our go-live targets between April 2006 and August 2006. We also had an unplanned move to our new office at Newport in the middle of this.\u201d\nAt the same time Pike also had to bring the previously separate new connections business in house, shoehorning a vanilla SAP system for 100 people into an already busy implementation schedule.\nPike is justifiably proud of a record that shows that he hit his deadlines and stayed within budget but admits that he \u201cthrew the rulebook out of the window\u201d to make it happen.\n\n\nFlat managementHe believes the flat organisational structure at WWU is key to his success: he reports directly to chief executive Graham Edwards and there are no more than four or five levels of hier\u00adarchy across the entire admin side of the business.\nAt the peak of this huge change prog\u00adramme around a hundred people were involved in the implementation activity. Pike recalls that there was some risk of setting user expectations too high with such a major programme of change.\nTo make sure that users got what they needed he had a task force moving round the depots, fixing real and perceived issues and problems on site and staying until users were happy \u00adbefore moving on to the next location.\nEarly on WWU chose SAP to help del\u00adiver on its strategy, and in line with the objective of reducing the overall number of systems and suppliers, Pike admits \u201cwe use as much of it as we possibly can\u201d.\nIn some cases other technologies were required to supplement this SAP core product with very specific features such as the GIS-based visualisation and pricing solution WWU uses alongside its CRM.\nNow this big period of change is behind\u00ad him, Pike\u2019s focus is on IT dev\u00adelop\u00adments that can bring clear benefits and he is foc\u00adusing on lower cost projects with higher value outcomes. He has a rolling roadmap and has a portfolio management approach to IT strategy and projects.\nWWU uses a value index system to assess the business value, IT efficiency and financial attraction of any proposed IT project, and has a bene\u00adfits register process which allows him to revisit projects to track what benefits have actually been realised.\nFinally, there are always key business stakeholders involved in every project, though Pike is uncomfortable with drawing too significant a distinction between business and technology.\n\nKeeping a lean teamFor an organisation that has done so much with IT in such a short time Pike\u2019s full-time team is commendably tight \u2014 just nine people on the staff including himself. His two key lieutenants are a head of infra\u00adstructure \u2014 the techie on the team \u2014 and a business applications manager who \u00adfocuses on outsourcing and support issues.\nTogether they help him set strategies, and provide knowledge and info about trends. He outsources WWU\u2019s support, with Serco and Wipro currently looking after infrastructure and \u00adapplications respectively.\nPike favours signing long-term deals with trusted suppliers \u2014 contracts are typically for five years \u2014 but thinks he can add some \u201cunderlying steel\u201d when needed to keep costs under control.\nThis way he \u00adbelieves he can instil some of WWU\u2019s cultural values into contracted organisations while still controlling his costs effectively.\nHe also prefers a one-team approach involving contracted support staff. \u201cIf we get a high-severity incident at the call centre I try to avoid a situation where the problem is being lobbed over the fence to the other team by having everyone look at it until a solution has been identified,\u201d he says.\nIn spite of the number and complexity of the IT projects Pike has tackled since 2005 he suggests that WWU may not be bleeding edge but is certainly leading edge.\n\u201cWe have already virtualised all our data centres, we have integrated GIS into our core systems, and we have never been afraid to be innovative,\u201d he says. Technology is the servant of business is this organisation.\nPike\u2019s key focus throughout has been on user perception and cost control. \u201cMy aim has been to change the perception of IT. I have a great team and we have been listening to people,\u201d he says.\n\u201cIt\u2019s about attitudes more than anything else. Our leadership team has pulled together and set the tone: one of continuous improvement and performance management.\u201d\nHis proudest boast is that he has stayed on top of costs throughout his tenure. \u201cI have cut IT operating costs every year since I got here,\u201d he says.\nIn raw numbers this means a cumulative 35 per cent cut, saving the business \u00a33m per year. In addition, in the last two years 21 projects budgeted at \u00a38.2m were delivered for \u00a37.9m.\n\u201cMy attitude is that you deliver on time and in budget, work with fixed-price contracts and monitor through a program\u00adme board to make sure it keeps on track.\u201d\nPike suggests that anyone in his position ask two simple questions: what are we able to \u00adaction, and what are the key deliverables?\nAnd of that huge challenge set at the start of his time with WWU? Well he has delivered and has revelled in the process. \u201cEvery\u00ad part of it I have enjoyed,\u201d he says.