Ian Robinson, Chief Information Officer of WaterNSW profile

Ian Robinson
Chief Information Officer of WaterNSW

Ian Robinson, Chief Information Officer of WaterNSW Certificate

“Business Development Bent in Industries that Build Critical Infrastructure”

While I love the Tolkien quote “Never laugh at live dragons” it is perhaps less relevant to my role than “the burned hand teaches best, after that advice about fire goes to the heart”.

My version of fire is the tricky matter of business rather than merely digital transformation. Stay out of my lane is the cry from the business units when those in IT step over the line. When WaterNSW is striving to provide stable, reliable and compliant processes, continuous improvement not transformation is the order of the day. Our mindset is to resolve our transaction backlog and deliver maintenance plans within the time allowed while reporting on our compliance to regulations. In this environment, change is incremental often driven by audit actions rather than reinvention.

The challenge for regulated businesses is to build the plane while flying it. For me as a CIO, putting my hand in the fire is when I push too hard on the vision or pay too little regard to the risks of breaking the business with too little understanding of the detail of the business task. The balance I need to strike is between playing contractor to focus on software development according to requirements set by the business and more aggressive transformation. Winning hearts and minds for transformation requires more than setting a compelling vision, there needs to be respect for the fact that people have genuine fear about their jobs and control over their destiny is what they seek.

At WaterNSW, we are transforming the way we deliver water to meet our customer demand. This involves a new vision for the way we engage with customers and our ecosystem who participate in the state’s water market in many different roles. Our goal is to simplify and automate our customers’ and ecosystems’ experience. A 360-degree view of interactions and visibility of how decisions are made based on the state of water availability and supply constraints has been elusive because of the incremental changes made over time. This builds up not just technical debt but spaghetti architectures, too many fragmented data management processes and a reliance on the expertise of people with deep expertise for whom the knowhow is only in their heads.

"Winning hearts and minds for transformation requires more than setting a compelling vision, there needs to be respect for the fact that people have genuine fear about their jobs and control over their destiny is what they seek."

To properly transform we are not only showing how manual work will be reduced but what happens to the people affected in the function today. We are doing more than address specific use cases, although these are important components. We are taking a root and branch approach to the business functions and reimagining them in a transformed state at the detailed level of job activities and role design. This is workforce planning that defines:

• The new business process that extends to all the activities required by staff to manage exceptions and make data driven decisions. Up to now too much of the business process in our IT projects have revolved around the use of the system and related user guidance;

• Analysis underpinning the number of staff required to operate the business function for its existing outputs;

• The new types of work that can add value to the organisation to improve customer outcomes or to deliver new products to existing or new customers;

• The skills and capabilities required to apply staff to these new products; and

• The way success will be measured and set up the new performance rhythm.

This last point about performance is really at the heart of digital transformation. Too often in my experience the impact of investment is limited to an inadequate benefits realisation process driven by a purely financial lens where budget is withdrawn from successful functions to drive the promised cash outcomes. However, transformation is as multi-dimensional as the business is. We are developing operational KPIs that show the shift in meaningful yet measurable ways.

Does all this quell the fire that flares as we step over business unit boundaries? Not necessarily, but it drives the right conversation that requires the executive to operate as a team instead of dragons hoarding treasure IE




Ian Robinson
Chief Information Officer of WaterNSW


WaterNSW is a State-Owned Corporation established under the Water NSW Act 2014 and operates under an Operating Licence issued and monitored by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART).Infrastructure planning, delivery and operation: meet customer-defined levels of service consistent with NSW Government policy and priorities to increase the security and reliability of water supplies to our customers and communities of NSW.

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