by Divina Paredes

CIO 100: Contact Energy

Mar 24, 2016
Technology Industry

CONTACT ENERGY IS one of New Zealand’s leading energy generators and retailers. It supplies electricity, natural gas and LPG to 562,000 customers across the country. It has just completed a rethink of its systems after Origin Australia sold its shares in Contact Energy.

Mark Corbitt, general manager ICT, says key business projects this year for his team are the migration of the SAP systems from Origin, as well as strengthening the company’s digital capabilities.

The team will also work on extending the company’s data and analytics capability and systems around product and prices.

The company will continue to have major investments in mobile, cloud services, customer experience technologies, digital and infrastructure consolidation.

He says Contact Energy will be working further on marketing technologies, in particular those around customer experience.

“Data is playing a much greater role in our future, unsurprisingly,” says Corbitt.

Thus, the company is creating two core roles in this space: The head of data analytics, innovation and performance planning, which will be part of the customer services team, and head of data which will be part of the information technology team.

He says investments in customer experience technologies are driven by meeting the demand for customers who are increasingly looking for experience more akin to the banks, telcos and others such as retail.

He leads a team of 70 full-time staff, and this number grows to 150 when they hire contractors for major projects.

One of the challenges he says the team will face in upcoming months is the move to two-speed IT.

“We are looking at the different types of work we need to do and assessing if Agile is more appropriate or waterfall.”

“The two-speed is very much driven by what is the speed of change needed in core systems, the systems of record, versus systems of engagement.”

It’s about developing an ICT team that can cope with both the agile development (systems of engagement, customer issues like apps) and the more formal and ordered development and management of systems which are critical to a business (customer service, billing and pricing systems, generation plant systems), he states.

This approach is also prompting him to assess the new skills inside the ICT team.”We are progressively changing our capability” in this space, he says.

Contact Energy is continuing the shift to cloud services, with the projected commoditisation of ICT infrastructure. It plans to shift roughly 25 per cent of ICT infrastructure to the cloud by 2016, and by 2018, aims to have half of their systems delivered as a service.

He says this allows the team to spend more time on innovation, applications and products and services and less on operations. The shift is also expected to deliver 25 per cent reduction in overall ICT spending by middle of 2018.