Sydney Water\u2019s chief information officer George Hunt has called on fellow CIOs to \u201cbe courageous\u201d within their organisations in order to \u201cdo the right thing\u201d.\nLast week Hunt was named CIO Australia\u2019s CIO of the year, taking top spot in our annual CIO50 list.\n \nHaving landed in Australia in early 2016 to take a role at the utility, Hunt \u201chit reset\u201d at the New South Wales owned statutory corporation, leading a major digital transformation towards becoming \u201cthe hyper-connected utility\u201d.\n \nTo that end, over the last year Hunt and his team created Spatial Hub, a tool that enables Sydney Water crews to visualise customer issues in real time.\n \nThe utility is also moving from a reactive or preventative approach to service resilience and asset maintenance to a predictive and responsive model.\n \nKey to the successful development and roll out of the technologies, Hunt says, was letting the right people get on with the task.\n \n\u201cWe realised quickly the simple ingredient really is to select a group of smart people, put them in the room and get out of their way and lock the door to protect them from the wider organisation,\u201d Hunt told an audience of leading CIOs at the CIO50 event in Sydney last week.\n \n\u201cThe magic of it is; we sought forgiveness rather than permission for doing the right thing. I think a lot of organisations these days lack a bit of courage. We all live in a world where it\u2019s difficult to be courageous, but it\u2019s been a special journey for us,\u201d he added.\n \nHunt said the utility is focused on becoming more customer-centric, and matching the service of banks and retailers.\n \nIt has rolled out a \u2018Customer Hub\u2019 which addresses issues before they impact consumers, including detecting sewer chokes, providing alerts on waste water flows, and proactive identification of leaks, bursts and water loss. Digital metering is used to pinpoint water leakage and pressure loss \u2013 providing near real time access to consumption information.\n \nSome5,000 customers have been proactively notified of issues, many before they noticed any disruption themselves.\n \n\u201cThe vast majority of water companies are largely engineering and asset-centric organisations, that\u2019s how they\u2019ve grown up. They\u2019re also very CapEx basedhellip;but actually we\u2019re all striving to become customer-centric. And that\u2019s a challenge for an asset-centric organisation,\u201d he said.\n \n\u201cThe reason we need to become customer-centric is because the expectations of our customers are being set by the retail sector, the banking sector \u2013 and there\u2019s no tolerance for the utility sector not to be up there with them,\u201d Hunt added.\n \nYou got a friend in risk\n \nHunt explained that risk can be used to a CIOs advantage when it comes to securing budget and convincing companies of the need to change.\n \n\u201cRisk is my best friend. Risk is the most powerful lever I think I\u2019ve got. [At the board level] I don\u2019t mind agreeing not to spend money on important things but translate that back and say are you comfortable with the level of risk we\u2019re carrying?\u201d Hunt said.\n \nIn the \u201cbun fight\u201d for funds and the technology function\u2019s time and attention, Hunt says he \u201cimparts a bit of accountability\u201d on those in the business that are asking \u201cto do something for them\u201d.\n \n\u201cI often say we\u2019re trying to upgrade an aircraft whilst it\u2019s in flight. And if we\u2019re trying to upgrade the aircraft \u2013 the customer travel experience at the same time we\u2019re changing the engines to up efficiency \u2013 then I basically say \u2018are you ok being a glider for a while?\u2019\u201d he said.\n \n\u201cI do play it back in that way so we can go into any process of prioritising where we spend money with our eyes wide open, rather than our eyes wide shut,\u201d Hunt explained.\n \nTo find out more about George Hunt\u2019s work at Sydney Water including the innovations his function has rolled out, how he builds teams and his management style,see here.