\u201cBeing clear on what the organisation is looking for\u201d from your role is a key lesson Ewen Powell has learned from his experience as a technology leader.\n\u201cFrom my perspective, the Board and organisation are looking for two key things from the CIO or the CTO,\u201d says Powell, the chief technology officer at Chorus. \u201cThese are to manage risk and identify opportunities to develop and innovate for the organisation.\u201d\n\u201cThe CIO needs to understand where the technology risk lies and what and how to mitigate it,\u201d he says.\n\u201cGetting the basics right builds the foundation to innovate to support the business, whether through product development, process optimisation or organisational transformation,\u201d he adds.\n\u201cCIOs can often provide a neutral voice to identify and evaluate these opportunities \u2013 the framing of which is key.\u201d\nPowell continues to apply this perspective at Chorus.\nAs Chorus CEO Kate McKenzie notes, the CTO is not only accountable for the provision of the IT systems that enable Chorus to conduct its business, but also the shared systems that underpin most of the telecommunications sector in New Zealand, along with the technology that enables Chorus\u2019 nationwide broadband infrastructure that is used by most homes, businesses, schools and hospitals across the country.\nShe says Powell also leads the company\u2019s innovation programme, which identifies new and creative ways to leverage Chorus\u2019 extensive nationwide assets to provide high quality connectivity as efficiently, reliably and effectively as possible.\n\u201cHe has built a a high quality team around him who he leads with skill and passion to deliver excellent outcomes for Chorus, the telecommunications industry, and the country,\u201d says McKenzie.\nAmong the projects delivered by his team, Powell cites the Copper Fulfilment and Inventory programme, or CFI, as having the most impact, not only to Chorus but also to their customers.\nCFI is a large IT and business change programme to replace and modernise how Chorus manages service inventory and activation for more than one million copper broadband connections. \nThe project spans two-and-a-half years, and involved the lifecycle replacement of a fulfilment platform that had served Telecom and then Chorus since 2003.\nThe project had accumulated more than 300,000 development \u2018man hours\u2019 and 17.4 million orders over that time. \n\u201cWith products that drive most of Chorus\u2019 revenue flowing through this system, my primary objective was ensuring business continuity,\u201d says Powell.\nThus, he and the team implemented a proactive risk management framework for the project.\n\u201cSeparate executive governance was established to oversee all costs and risks associated with the programme, with 202 risks actively managed and only six open at launch \u2013 all of which were classed as moderate\/amber,\u201d says Powell.\nPowell says transformational projects delivered prior to CFI suffered issues with business transition, which he traced to poor quality engagements with the rest of the Chorus Business.\nKey to their success with the CFi was executive sponsorship from the Customer Services function, and the appointment of a capable business owner who is dedicated 100 per cent to the delivery of the project.\n\u201cWe formed a leadership triangle with the business owner, programme manager and chief architect accountable to manage the delivery and outcomes desired,\u201d says Powell.\n\u201cWe challenged this leadership group to drive the project culture and each other, ensuring the appropriate tension existed to avoid any possible \u2018group think\u2019.\u201d \nSupporting this model was an entire project stream dedicated to \u201cbusiness integration\u201d which worked in concert with technical delivery. \nHe explains this stream had its own project manager and was responsible for change management, training, migration and data cleansing, knowledge, BI, business testing and transition.\nHe says the project involved eight major suppliers and two consulting companies.\n\u201cIn order to drive effective collaboration we contracted and implemented the physical co-location of key supplier teams and resources, with people from Nokia, Comptel, Circini, Deloitte and TTC all seated and working together in Chorus offices,\u201d he says.\nThis had a positive impact on time, quality and culture. Wider collaboration was augmented through the use of the Chorus virtual desktop environment, and tools like Sharepoint, Confluence, Enterprise Architect and Jira.\n\u201cOverall, the model was so successful we are now employing it on all large IT projects,\u201d says Powell.\nOn the innovation front\nTalking about his other remit, Powell says a focus for the team over the past year is applying technology innovation to areas which help deliver the best possible broadband to New Zealanders.\nFor example, we have improved the connection experience for around 76 per cent of the copper based customers through the introduction of some smart technology in our copper broadband network, says Powell. \nIn the background, copper broadband services are being regularly tested, the results of which drive automatic adjustments to network and service configurations to optimize the performance, improving broadband speeds.\nThis automated performance tuning has resulted in speed improvements of up to 13 per cent downstream and 50 per cent upstream for broadband customers.\nIn addition, Chorus is making greater use of testing and network generated data to provide more accurate, automated predictions for broadband performance that customers could expect.\nThis uses a combination of the customer\u2019s location and Chorus\u2019 available network in that area, says Powell.\nThe information is available to both the retail service provider customers and for users of broadband services (through the website).\nSince making this information available we have experienced up to x100,000 visits per month, and have seen an increased uptake of higher speed VDSL services where available \u2013 continuing to demonstrate not only the demand for broadband performance information, but also for higher speed broadband itself, says Powell.\nPowell says that as a member of the executive team, he has the opportunity to help lead and drive the organisation\u2019s strategy.\n\u201cA key part of the role is ensuring we understand global technology trends and what and how we could apply them in the context of Chorus,\u201dhe says.\n\u201cIn this light, we run education sessions for both the board and executive teams on emerging technologies,then link these through annual strategy and business planning cycles to the investment choices we have as an organisation,\u201d he says.\n\u201cGiven the rapid pace of change and innovation, we now need to look much wider than the traditional global players, to some of the exciting innovation occurring around the globe and importantly in our own backyard.\u201d\nBBQ conversations and inclusive culture\nPowell highlights Chorus\u2019 support of programmes to promote diversity and inclusion, like the Global Woman Programme.\n\u201cThis is a great initiative that develops high achieving and potential women from different industries,\u201d says Powell. He says two members of the technology organisation are participating in this.\nHe says the women in the technology team also get mentoring, support and access to development programmes.\n\u201cAs a male dominated industry, we want to ensure we create and support an environment to encourage and retain more women,\u201d says Powell. \u201cThe benefits of a diverse workplace are well documented.\u201d\nIn addition to this, we have become more conscious that it is important for all our people to connect with the company, says Powell.\n\u201cRather than just focusing on financial performance and share price, seeing how we connect with our local communities resonates with staff and gives a sense of pride \u2013 and supports \u2018BBQ conversations\u2019.\u201d\nFor instance, Chorus sponsors local artists to paint their telecommunications cabinets, making them both more attractive and a talking point, says Powell.\nChorus is also working with Network for Learning on options to help students who do not have high-quality broadband in the home.\nThe proposed solution will use Chorus\u2019 existing street and network infrastructure. The company trialled the concept with the Haeata Community Campus, providing wi-fi access into homes of the school community, free of charge.