by CIO New Zealand

CIO100 2018 #31-100: Simon Clarke, Trustpower

Mar 28, 2018
Cloud ComputingIT LeadershipIT Management

The most important thing I’ve learnt in my time as a CIO is that you need to focus relentlessly on “outcomes rather than technology,” says Simon Clarke of Trustpower.

As a CIO, “you need to be able to clearly articulate why making a technology investment is adding value to your organisation and you need to be able to convince stakeholders to see and understand that value.”

This value comes in many ways, he says. “It may be that it is supporting revenue growth, it may be reducing cost through automation, it may be that it is mitigating risk, it may be that it’s required to meet regulatory requirements.

“However, whatever it is, you need to be able to clearly communicate. Risk and compliance investments are not as exciting. But they are just as important to the long-term sustainability of any business and it is up to the CIO to ensure that stakeholders understand that.”

For Clarke, the key question a CIO needs to ask is, “How are our technology team and technology investments creating competitive advantage for our business?

“Most businesses these days are really just technology businesses, so if you are not adding value as a CIO and as a technology team, you are not doing your job.”

Clarke has been on the senior leadership team for over six years and presents monthly to the non-executive board and other external stakeholders. He and key leaders within his team also present more strategic thinking on a quarterly basis, and speak at Town Hall presentations.

Clarke says some of the major programmes they have worked on over the past year are:

ISP capacity and network resilience: “We have undertaken a significant investment programme in our ISP network to support significant customer growth in telecommunications. Trustpower is now the 4th biggest fixed line telco in New Zealand”

The digital programme: “These include a number of investments in improving our customers digital experience including an app, a chat bot and a virtual service agent which has resulted in increasing our digital customer engagement statistics to around 42 percent.” Data: “We’ve continued our investment programme in improving our meter data management capability and begin the transition to smart metering and we’ve improved some of our insight and analytical capability with some new tools and systems.”

Investing in CRM: “Getting to the holy grail of an all singing and dancing single view of customer without spending a fortune has been tough, but we’ve made some solid progress on the journey and made a number of small enhancements and improvements to our CRM over the last twelve months.” The workplace: “We’re continuing to roll out tools and applications that support our activity based working environment to ensure our people are engaged and delivering to their full potential. We’re also recently completed a full rollout of Windows 10.”

Security/lifecycle: “Over the last 12 months we’ve also focused on improving our networks and systems from cyber security attacks and we’ve continued to ensure that key systems are patched and upgraded. We’ve also just upgraded our generation asset management system.”

He says many of the initiatives have been delivered in a more nimble way.

“We have focused on speed to market and are building collaborative integrated business and technology teams to deliver,” says Clarke.

Dragons’ Den

He says the team at Trustpower has been running incubation/innovation type processes.

“Our software development team and business solutions team have been involved in a number of hackathons and we run a company-wide ‘Dragons’ den’ style process where a number of innovation ideas and products were pitched up to the senior leadership team as investment opportunities,” says Clarke.

He says several of these “investment opportunities” are now underway as projects.

“Being a bigger established company, the opportunity around innovation is to leverage existing knowledge and IP in the core industries that we operate, leverage our balance sheet and make investments in things that we believe matter and can create value,” he adds.

“Consistently scanning and looking for new business model or product opportunities also helps us keep our existing business sharp.

“Sometimes innovation is about doing existing things better, rather than doing new things.”