Intellectual capital

Industry-leading thinking and processes.

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As New Zealand’s largest water company, it is fair to say that we are leading the industry in technical excellence – our treatment processes are some of the most advanced in the world and our customers can rest easy knowing that they receive reliable, high-quality water at the turn of their taps.

So our efforts over the past 12 months have focused on transforming us into a utility of the future – a utility that leverages data and digital technology to do more with less and to better serve our customers and communities.

In August 2018, a group of our people came together and developed a tool that allows us to easily see our high-priority water and wastewater incidents in real-time. This allows us to identify where an incident is, what caused it, whether or not it has happened before, as well as an update on whether our crews have arrived on site and are remedying the situation.

This is the first of several such digital tools that will bring together data from discrete parts of our operations to provide real-time insights which will help us to be more responsive to our customers.

Next year will see us building the capability to predict asset failure and take action before it happens so customers will not be impacted.

Our customers want to do business with us at their convenience and, ideally, online. In 2018/19, digital interactions with customers increased by 19% compared to the year before. We will continue to enhance our offerings for self-service including introducing a digital assistant functionality that will provide real-time help to customers who are using our website.

We automated two more transactional processes through a new ‘bot’ – robotic process automation that helps to perform high-volume, repetitive and rule-based tasks, freeing up our people to take on more meaningful work.

As a company, we made a brave decision when we decided to implement our Strategic Transformation Programme using an agile approach. We could see it had the potential to deliver outputs more quickly, efficiently and closely aligned to business needs but we were also aware that other companies had struggled with it.

Over the past 12 months we have proved that agile works and it works well.

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We successfully trialled a new billing system in half the time it would have taken otherwise; we delivered an asset management system that was developed in consultation with the people that would be using it. We also delivered a new procurement, finance and project management system that streamlines processes and provides a more integrated view of our capital delivery programme. Later this year, we will be delivering a full-scale billing solution that provides a comprehensive view of our customers and their transactions.

Our mission over the next 12 months will be to save every employee one hour a week through efficient systems and processes which will improve productivity and job satisfaction and reduce operational costs. We plan to achieve this by automating processes and providing access to technology and systems that work for everyone, where and when they need it.

As we increasingly adopt digital solutions, we are also conscious of the security risks that they come with. Earlier this year, we were the target of a sustained cyber-attack with thousands of attempts to access our internal networks. Putting our incident management plan into action, we were able to respond quickly and thwart the attack – keeping company, customer and staff information safe.

Our approach to cybersecurity will continue to combine strong systems and procedures as well as the ongoing education of our people.

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Case Study

Becoming a digital utility

Watercare owns and manages more than ten billion dollars’ worth of assets. These include our water and wastewater infrastructure such as plants, pipes, pump stations and reservoirs.

A new tool developed by our people, for our people, is helping them to manage these water and wastewater facilities and assets more efficiently.

As part of our company-wide digital transformation, we have introduced an enterprise asset management tool with our people in mind so they can make informed decisions with confidence.

Using design thinking principles and an agile approach, we have brought together technology and the ‘lived’ experience of our teams to deliver a tool that schedules, executes and processes all maintenance activities and provides better analysis of the asset data captured by our teams.

We developed a prototype of this tool in 2018 which was then trialled by the team supporting and maintaining our Huia Water Treatment Plant. We made enhancements based on continuous feedback from the team and then deployed an updated version to the next group of users.

Teams that have used the tool say that they like the ease of creating jobs and the greater visibility of maintenance information and activities across the business.

100 operational staff are currently using this tool to capture asset data and carry out maintenance, with another roll-out planned for the next group of staff.