by George Nott

CIO50 2018 #26-50: Rishi Dutta, Public Transport Victoria

Nov 22, 2018
Technology Industry

In June this year, Public Transport Victoria’s new Data Analytics Platform (DAP) went live.

“It has, for the first time, given us the ability to visualise a whole of public transport view for stakeholders, ensuring decisions and their impacts are assessed across all public transport modes. The real business value comes from the fact that we are now able to model data once, share that data, and reuse it anywhere, anytime, and from any device,” says Public Transport Victoria chief information officer Rishi Dutta.

Developed in-house over two years, the benefits of the platform are already being enjoyed by both the statutory authority and the thousands of Victorians that use public transport every day: chiefly with the improvements it has given to ‘disruption management’.

The state of Victoria is investing billions into infrastructure. While travel will be made far faster and more enjoyable when the works are complete, in the meantime Victorians face the challenge of disruptions and diversions to their normal routes.

“One of the immediate benefits of DAP has been in disruption management. The Network Service Delivery teams can now get detailed insights into the root cause of disruptions from the DAP. This helps us understand the impact to passengers and the effectiveness of remedial actions,” Dutta says. “In turn, this promotes a culture of continuous improvement within disruption management.”

Major periods of work are now planned during times of low patronage, minimising the disruption.

The platform – conceived in late 2016 – will eventually enable public transport service planners, policy makers and operators to make more comprehensive evidence-based decisions about the current and future needs of the public transport network.

“The platform eliminates doubling handling, wasted effort, and inefficient manual handling of data. This means our analysts are able to spend their time focusing on adding value through insight,” Dutta adds.

“The data analytics platform is a step forward in my vision to lead public transport towards information-rich and digitally aware services for its staff, passengers and the community,” he says.

Despite the near and long term benefits, and a desire from within the authority to have an analytics capability, Dutta says the “organisation’s confidence in building this capability was low”.

So a proof of value project was established using a small team working under an agile methodology.

“A nimble governance structure was established with key business stakeholders, which helped steer the proof of value,” Dutta explains.

The approach worked, the proof of value generating significant interest and enthusiasm from stakeholders.

“The project caused shift in paradigm with the realisation that improving data maturity requires equal investment across people, process and technology,” Dutta says.

That realisation came with an executive sponsored Data Governance framework.

“This was a game changer when it came to uplifting data maturity as the organisation took ownership of data assets including developing data inventories, assigning owners and versions of truth which resulted in a prioritised investment roadmap,” Dutta says.

The CIO, who leads a function of 65 staff, is now also leading a transformation program across Public Transport Victoria’s train and tram operators to align Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) under a common strategy and investment program. Previously these investments were project driven without an underpinning asset management strategy.

This has resulted in the creation of Operational Control and Management System umbrella asset class covering both IT and OT.

“Whilst there is a long way to go, the governance framework has enabled clear alignment between investment and business risks underpinned by asset criticality, asset condition and transport network vulnerabilities,” Dutta says.

Changing culture

Public Transport Victoria recently undertook a ‘culture diagnostic’ looking at established behaviours and norms. The results “promoted an honest discussion at levels of the organisation”, Dutta says.

Although a relatively new organisation, the authority went through significant change in its leadership team, creating “change fatigue” and a “sub-optimal culture”.

“As a leader, the culture diagnostic meant I had to do some soul searching and develop a commitment for change,” he adds.

A multi-pronged cultural change programme is now underway.

“Culture improvement requires continuous effort, and typically takes four years to shift, however we are fully committed to seeing that change develop,” Dutta says.

Part of that change is the acknowledgement and appreciation of success, and these days there is plenty to celebrate.

“We now take the time to celebrate successes – big or small,” Dutta says.