CIO profile: WWU's Pike is a power player

Imagine that you are set a challenge in your first CIO-level role. You have to take a substantial chunk of an existing nationwide organisation, along with all its staff, systems and processes, and you have to migrate all of them to your own internally developed or outsourced alternatives.

You have to do all this in 18 months, in parallel with moving to a new head office and all the time being open to public scrutiny­ through a regulatory body set up to monitor the new business.

You might think this is a pretty tall order­ and it almost certainly is, but it is the one Phil Pike, director of IT and procurement, faced when he joined the newly created Wales & West Utilities (WWU) company in 2005 as its first permanent IT director.

Pike’s background was not a technical one. He did a BSc in Economics with Computing and Statistics at Bath before going on to work for South Western Electricity (SWEB) in various non-IT roles. He then moved into pricing and product development management roles and was involved with SWEB’s first dual-fuel pricing model.

In 1999 Pike moved to MMT Energy, a software company in the global utilities pricing area. Here he got more involved with IT, consultancy and project management and after the company was bought out by Microgen he became programme director for energy trading software.

Rapid rise
In 2005 Pike was hired by WWU, first reporting to the financial director and then to the chief executive. He got a place on the executive committee after a couple of years at the company, and he is now also responsible for procurement, logistics and a fleet of new “nice white vans” across the firm.

WWU was set up on June 1st 2005 to take over gas distribution in the Wales and West region previously managed by the formerly state-owned National Grid Transco. Transco disposed of four of the more geographically dispersed regions and retained another four.

WWU was bought and is now owned by a consortium of long-term investors led by the Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund that is managed by a member of Macquarie Group.

WWU’s HQ occupies an imposing office­ complex at Celtic Springs near Newport in Gwent which houses around 400 admin­ and management staff. The location puts it fairly centrally in the huge geographic area it covers as a supplier of gas services.

It is a sparsely populated area, covering a sixth of the UK’s geography, serving over seven million customers via 34,000 miles of pipes and taking about nine hours to travel from one end of the area to the other. The company is also currently replacing 400km of metallic mains gas pipes each year.

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