Did you know that Northumbrian Water Group (NWG) is one of ten regulated water and sewerage companies in England and Wales, providing services to just under 4.5 million people?

Every day, they supply 1,104 megalitres (that’s 1.1 billion litres) of water, drawn from reservoirs, rivers and groundwater sources, where it is collected and stored. It is treated at their works before being delivered by a network of pipes to homes and businesses across the North East and South East of England. In the North East of England, the Company also collects the wastewater from homes and businesses, delivering it to treatment facilities where it is treated before being returned to the environment as either clean water or sludge which can be recycled as fertiliser or used to generate .

NWG has an ambition to be the leading provider of water and wastewater services. Working with customers and stakeholders, they have long-term plans in place to become the industry leaders in Asset Management, and in doing so, deliver an unrivalled customer experience.

Board member and Programme Sponsor, Ceri Jones, and Head of Asset Management Transformation, Mike Madine, explain more about their business-led, technology enabled programme that would take them through to 2020.

The challenge

NWG is an asset intensive business. Key to their success is how they manage their assets – they need a good understanding of what’s happening both underground and above ground with their pipes, pumps and sewage works (making sure pipes are working and there are no leaks or flooding resulting in sewerage flowing into homes or the environment). With dated systems, they were facing some issues around understanding the health of their assets and receiving high-quality, accurate data and information.

Building upon strong historical performance and in order to continue to maintain high levels of service to customers, in 2015 they embarked upon a major programme to transform their Asset Management activities. The Intelligent Asset Management Programme (‘iam Programme’) sets the foundations for ‘leading asset management’, not just in their sector, but across most utility sectors. But this was bigger than just updating the IT systems. The programme is made up of a set of individual projects around the themes of better data and information, better business processes and improved technology. This is all underpinned by people having the right mind-set and a shared vision of what NWG is trying to achieve as an organisation.

An external review had identified the importance of developing a Target Operating Model (TOM). This would help them understand the capabilities they required as an organisation and; take advantage of the investment in technology; resolve issues that exist in the business; clarify accountabilities and responsibilities; improve customer service and lower operating costs.

Project One adding value

It was clear to NWG that they needed a partner to help them develop the TOM, and in parallel bring the learning into the team, so they have the capability internally should they want to do this again in the future. The Programme Director recommended Project One to be considered for this role, following a previous experience of working together.

Project One consultant, Nick Woodward, led the NWG Executive Leadership Team, Second Line Leadership and Business Transformation Team through a disciplined process, over a three-month period, to reach a facilitated agreement across the business on the Target Operating Model to implement.

“It was really important, for myself and my team, to have the right person helping us, and after interviewing a number of different parties, we got a really good feel for working with Nick. From the initial discovery day, we were very much aligned on what we wanted to achieve. The methodology that Project One and Nick brought was the type of process we would be comfortable with and wanted to follow. He was not a consultant who knew the answer already and imposed his views – he worked through a process to help us identify where we wanted to be, not where he thought we should be. The additional governance from Project One’s Account Director added great value, providing the right amount of challenge to make sure we were following the right process.”

Mike Madine, Head of Asset Management Transformation

“It didn’t matter that Nick did not have detailed knowledge of our sector when he arrived, although he picked this up very quickly. Nick’s expertise brought a well-structured approach. He did things in the right order, to get us to the answer we wanted to get to at the end. It was a really good learning process for us.”

Said Mike

The process drew people into the conversations and made them feel part of the development of what NWG were doing. It challenged their thinking on their vision, values and the strategies that they had in place, to pinpoint what they were really trying to achieve at an organisation level, before looking at the capabilities that they need to deliver these things.

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POSTED BY: Suzy Powell

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