Gladstone Area Water Board: A story of technology transformation
Water – it’s one of the world’s oldest resources, it’s not the kind of thing you’d usually associate of being at the cutting edge of technology.
But Gladstone Area Water Board (GAWB), which supplies raw and potable water to major resource-sector industries, power-generating organisations, and the Regional Council in the central Queensland region, is going through a digital transformation.
Leading it is Chief Information Officer Kiran Kewalramani, who has been kicking goals since he joined GAWB in June 2017.
A results-oriented executive, Kewalramani has previously assisted companies to define, develop and deliver their information and communications technology (ICT) strategic and operational initiatives, including at the NSW Rural Fire Service, Telstra and the NSW Police Force, delivering benefits the organisations can reap time and again.
His latest challenge is to transition GAWB from its Traditional ICT Delivery model to a Cloud Delivery model – sounds easy for self-declared digital transformation champion, right?
“Not quite,” he laughs. “Part of the ICT Strategy is to transform GAWB into a digital company, replacing all appropriate manual processes with digital processes and digital workflows.
“Up until a few years ago, we were very traditional ICT, where most of our infrastructure was housed internally. There were minimal automated workflow or centralised repository around that, and the processes were predominantly manual.
“Now we’ve started replacing them with digital processes and workflows. So, rather than manually processing things and keeping records in their personal diaries, from a governance perspective, we are starting to leverage the benefits of an overarching compliance system that generates automated reminders.
“The processes are very transparent and are allowing us to remove any duplication. I like to think I'm reasonably well process-oriented, and have that nous to pick up areas that may not have process optimisation.”
About a year or so ago, GAWB embarked on implementing an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution and chose to partner with the enterprise software TechnologyOne. This has been a successful implementation for GAWB.
“Whilst we are still in transition, the organisation is starting to see some of its benefits of moving into the cloud already – high availability, scalability, agility and flexibility – just to name a few.”
GAWB is the first water service provider in Australia – and the second in the world – to achieve ISO 55001 certification for its Asset Management System.
Leveraging off some of the cutting-edge technology that GAWB vendors offer such as Technology One and SharePoint, Kewalramani recently implemented Microsoft Dynamics as its CRM Proof of Concept solution. The solution integrates well with GAWB’s corporate application (Office 365) suite.
“That's been another huge success for us,” Kewalramani reveals. “I would like to think we're leading the way in the Central Queensland area. I'm cognizant of the fact we’re not based in a metro, which brings its own challenges, but I see our organisation becoming digital at a very envious rate.
When it comes to challenges over the next 18 months, Kewalramani says the main ones are implementing ICT service effectiveness and closer integration of ICT and Business Strategy.
ICT at GAWB, is also well placed to transition from a traditional model to a more value-added model.
“As part of our transition plan, we are implementing a fit for purpose service delivery management framework. We are investigating automation in our operational technology network. We are investigating facets of Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence and analytics and how it can better support GAWB in its decision making. Cost optimisation and running ICT like a business is another focus area for me. So, that whole transition is one of my major focus areas.”
He claims another challenge is better managing GAWB’s information as an Asset. “Effective electronic content management is pain point for GAWB at the moment, and ICT is working with its partners to deliver an effective solution for GAWB.”
“Whilst we do have some confronting challenges in front I can’t be prouder of GAWB and its successes. For an organisation of the size of GAWB, we have kicked some really good goals, in a very short span of time,” says Kewalramani.
“Gladstone is in a cyclone prone region, on the east shores of Australia. Since ICT and Operational Technology are pivotal parts of water delivery, keeping them operational during emergencies is crucial.”
In partnership with Nexon, a cloud and managed service provider operating throughout Australia and the Asia Pacific region, GAWB has recently implemented a multi-vendor, fully redundant internet network link between its primary and secondary sites. This allows GAWB network to automatically switch to a secondary internet link, should the primary internet link fail. It also automatically reverts once the issue has been resolved.
“From the user’s perspective, they don’t know about it at all. The whole experience is transparent to them,” Kewalramani boasts.
GAWB has transitioned some of its key applications in the cloud, such as TechnologyOne, Office365 and is looking at transitioning its Risk management solution – Cura, into the cloud as well. To augment that, GAWB has also developed a clear, structured strategic roadmap to transition to an enterprise wide, fit for purpose cloud transformation.
“I want to take it to a level where we can leverage off all the benefits of being in the cloud,” he explains. “And if something needs to be kept in a hybrid model, sure we do that, but we make that as an informed decision.”
Kewalramani says the technology within GAWB is “two-pronged”. There is the corporate network, ICT, and operational technology, which is predominantly around the telemetric network and the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) network. We have partnered with Schnieder Electric and Nexon to assist us with the Delivery.
Enterprises have a huge appetite for mobility solutions and GAWB is no different.
“We have on-field staff, and we have now made them digitally enabled,” Kewalramani explains. “They now have a capability to get their regular maintenance schedule, and associated business instructions on a mobile device.” The solution is fully integrated with TechnologyOne, which means once the on-field staff updates their schedule, its updated in real-time on the ERP system.
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Over the next 18 to 24 months, Kewalramani says he sees GAWB becoming more digital and him leading that change process.
“I also see us managing our information as an asset,” he adds, “where our content management is structured, our record management is structured, and we continue to maintain our compliance with the Queensland government requirements. The information is a streamlined, and getting any requested information is a smoother journey. There is less reliance on people and more reliance on the systems.”
He claims the whole utility-based industry is starting to embrace technology a lot more. Those utilities that are not doing it proactively, will be left behind in the game. “Not embarking on a technological transformation for any utilities based organisation will be fatal,” Kewalramani says.
“Nowadays, it's an unsaid expectation from the business, whatever business you're in, that you'll provide a digital service to the customer. Because if you don’t, someone else will, and they'll take your market share.
“It's a do or die situation, pretty much for all the industry. But the good thing is that GAWB has acknowledged that and it’s already started. We're well on the journey.”
Kewalramani says educating the workforce in the new digital capabilities is something he enjoys, and compares himself to once-in-a-lifetime Australian cricket coach John Buchanan, who led the Australian cricket team to win the World Cup three times in a row. He coached the likes of Ricky Ponting, Glen McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, and Shane Warne.
“I was not a very good soccer or cricket player, but I am a good manager/assistant coach,” says Kewalramani. “I help bring the best out of people.”
As well as managing his nine-year-old son’s football team, Kewalramani has been a business coach for many people. He has motivated them to drive their business and their lives forward.
“The classic example,” he adds, “As a business coach, when I approached my new clients, my first question usually was ‘How do you think the business is doing?’ They would say either ‘good, bad, ugly’, and I’d ask, ‘By the way, did you know that your accountant said you made a profit of $20,000 this month?’
“They would look me in the eye going, ‘What? I don't even have $2,000 in my bank account. My accountant's smoking some really good stuff’. They didn't know the difference between a profit on your profit and loss statement, versus what cash-flow means. He coached these business owners, allowing them to gain financial mastery in their business. “A number of my clients won small business category, in their annual council awards ceremony. A few even got nominated for the prestigious, Champion of Champion Award,” braggs Kewalramani.
“My proudest moments are where I've helped bring the best out of people, both professionally and on a personal front.”
With GAWB fully cemented on the digital path, and Kewalramani very much in the driving seat, it’s now extremely well placed as a successful water service provider in Central Queensland region.
“I strongly believe GAWB is a leader in our region, and I will do whatever it takes, from the technology and digital perspective, to take GAWB in the new digital era,” he claims.