Interview: Myron Hrycyk, CIO of Severn Trent Water
Setting up a new office is never easy but Severn Trent Water has found a way to take the sting out of moving day using desktop virtualisation technology.
Last month, the water company, which serves eight million customers over an area stretching from the Humber estuary to the Severn estuary, began the process of transferring 1,800 staff from 14 offices into a new central office in Coventry called Severn Trent Centre.
Each desk in Severn Trent Centre is fitted with a thin client machine that enables staff to work anywhere in the new building. Each machine can access any Severn Trent employee's desktop and applications by streaming them from a central server.
Severn Trent CIO Myron Hrycyk told silicon.com that rolling out the virtual desktops to staff before the move eliminated many of the logistical challenges experienced by IT teams in previous office transfers.
"It was a way of de-risking the move. We are deploying the thin clients to people in their existing working environment, so they leave their old office on a Friday and turn up at their new office on the Monday and just log onto their existing desktop.
"We all remember traditional IT moves - the van turning up on Friday night and the technicians taking all the PCs and rushing them over to the new office at the weekend, and possibly you turning up on a Monday morning with the IT guys still cabling the system up.
"All the impact that process has on an office move has been removed by this approach."
Across the company, about 3,500 of Severn Trent's 5,500 staff are moving to use the virtualised desktops - with 800 people migrated so far.
Another benefit of virtual desktops, which also allow staff to access their work over the internet from outside the office, is that employees can choose where they want to get work done.
"This was about... pulling teams together dynamically, allowing people to work in one office one day and another office another day, working from home if they needed to - virtual teams doing virtual problem solving giving us that 21st century flexibility of working," Hrycyk said.
The ability for staff to work anywhere will allow Severn Trent to move 1,800 staff to Severn Trent Centre, despite its only being designed to hold 1,500 workers.
Away from Severn Trent's offices, another major technology change introduced under the company's business transformation programme is...
...intended to help work crews looking after its water supply and sewerage network get more done each day.
Severn Trent's crews have begun using a system that automatically matches them to jobs across the vast area in which the company operates.
The automated scheduling system uses information about the location, skills and availability of crews to assign jobs to the nearest staff with the right expertise.
Information on jobs - including the right maps, diagrams and forms - is delivered to the work crews' new semi-ruggedised touchscreen laptops by the scheduling system via a 3G connection.
The scheduling system, known as Click, is able to pull information on jobs from a new £70m SAP ERP system that has replaced Severn Trent's ageing Oracle financial technology, as well as more than 100 other legacy systems.
"We have been able to route our work crews around our region to repair and install new infrastructure in a far more efficient manner - so we can increase the productivity of the jobs done by work crews," said Hrycyk.
"In some work crews more jobs are being completed per day than prior to the introduction of the SAP system.
"Before it was a process of the work crews just manually being given the jobs and the work crews deciding in which order we were going to do them. We didn't really know how long they would take, or when one job was finished where the work crew was."
Fuel costs for work crews have also decreased in the areas where the scheduling system has started being used, Hrycyk said, due to its ability to route crews to the nearest job.
One of the biggest challenges in using the new scheduling system, Hrycyk said, was that work crews needed to be in an area with 3G coverage to update Severn Trent's back-end system with the details of the job being closed and for the scheduling system to assign the crew to a new task.
According to Hrycyk, Severn Trent's business and technology transformation programme is making a difference to the service the company is able to provide.
"It's about cutting out inefficiency and improving productivity, so that it drives towards delivering a better service and better cost to our customers," he said.