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Water NSW Hero

Clouds shower transformation opportunity for WaterNSW

Microsoft Azure, Dynamics 365 and Office 365 unify operations, support workers and spur data-driven efficiencies

WaterNSW has unified operations, delivered deep data insights across the organisation, and positioned itself for ongoing innovation with a three clouds strategy, deploying Microsoft Azure, Dynamics 365 and Office 365.

It has also enhanced its security posture by selecting Azure AU Central, the Canberra hosted Azure cloud that has been designed specifically to support national critical computing infrastructure and received certification from the Australia Signals Directorate under the Certified Cloud Services List.

WaterNSW is the State-owned corporation that oversees NSW’s rivers and water supply systems, supplies two thirds of water used in NSW, owns and operates the largest surface and groundwater monitoring network in the southern hemisphere, and builds, maintains and operates essential infrastructure.

Chief information officer Ian Robinson said that Azure, Dynamics 365 and Office 365 deliver the organisation and employees with productivity applications, procurement, enterprise asset management, finance, payroll, HR systems, and a flexible invoicing and billing system.

These present as a single system using integrated data across multiple processes which significantly simplifies business processes and management of corporate data for WaterNSW.

The agility, operational consistency and security that Microsoft confers across an enterprise’s entire digital estate through these three clouds is unparalleled in the industry and now driving deep digital transformations worldwide.

According to Robinson; “Microsoft was a perfect fit given our size did not justify a complex alternative system. It was a modern system that allowed us to leapfrog a pure upgrade of systems to a whole new cloud-based ERP. It also offered a very significant investment over time towards a comprehensive and ever evolving solution that will grow with our business aspiration.”

The three clouds approach is also transforming the way WaterNSW personnel operate providing in-the-field support and productivity tools that ensure workers are fully informed, appraised of safety issues, and equipped to collect data in real time.

WaterNSW worked with Microsoft partner Business Aspect, a Data#3 company, and a consortium of partners to develop the solution. It is also working with Dynaway to complete the integration with Dynamics 365 Field Service to support workers on the job.

David Lennon, managing partner of Business Aspect, said, “Working with WaterNSW, our team, led by program manager, James Creighton, took a best practice approach to matching business requirements with the technology solution allowing us to deploy a platform that not only meets the organisation’s needs today – but has a clear runway to the future.”

Business Aspect and WaterNSW used the APQC (American Productivity and Quality Centre) framework to steer the transformation. According to Lennon; “The APQC framework allowed us to analyse each process in great detail and then use that insight to translate those processes into system functions and data requirements. This along with our deep understanding of, and experience with, Dynamics 365 allowed us to help craft a solution that dovetailed with WaterNSW’s operational requirements.”

Security, safety, efficiency

Lee Hickin, national technology officer, Microsoft Australia said that the three-cloud approach to transformation was ideally suited to the needs of WaterNSW – a complex organisation with assets and personnel widely dispersed across the State.

“The security, safety and efficient operation of NSW’s water assets is critical to the success of every industry, every community. Microsoft Azure AU Central has been designed specifically to deliver this sort of national critical computing service. It is resilient, highly secure, but with the reach, scalability and elasticity that organisations need.

“WaterNSW has deployed winning solutions to drive efficiency across the network – but also ensure workers are properly informed and kept safe. At the same time it has established the foundations for continued innovation to preserve and protect one of the nation’s most important natural assets.”

Worker safety and training is enhanced through Dynamics 365’s unified intelligent HR system. Robinson said; “For the first time we have an integrated solution that allows a work order to be planned for work on our assets, to be issued to the correct worker (meaning the worker is defined as being suitable in our HR system with up to date competencies and job/safety tickets), for the worker to be able to buy material for the job, log his time against the job and then compare his performance against everyone else doing a similar job.

“We get visibility in our reporting of rolled up views of costs by asset, worker, region and can compare performance against key targets. All this in one system.”

At the same time the transformation means email is now in the cloud freeing up WaterNSW’s infrastructure team to focus on more value-adding work; Skype for Business supports inter-office communications including meetings with remote teams; SharePoint has been used to set up an internal procurement portal and manage content on the intranet in a much more personalised and meaningful way.

Teams meanwhile is being widely embraced to support friction-free collaboration. Instead of having to use the records management system to access and then work on documents, Teams allows people to work on the same document concurrently.

OneDrive too is changing the way people store and access information, reducing the need for internal storage while boosting information accessibility regardless of where an employee is working.

With Azure hosting a now unified data collection and Power BI deployed for analytics WaterNSW is also able to optimise the management and maintenance of assets.

WaterNSW is also transforming its day to day operations. One task is to take daily measurements at dams which in many cases are then linked to telemetry readings. Using Azure machine learning tools WaterNSW has been able to apply algorithms to the data collection to analyse and interpret what is going on at a dam to support engineers manage assets.

“We use Dynamics 365 to drive the work for the field worker, we have telemetry systems that capture data and then we use Azure analytics tools to calculate what is the likely health of that dam and then project forward the potential scenarios and risk that we’ve got on that dam. And that, I think, is the first time that has been done in Australia.”

Consequently, work that took six weeks is now taking a day.

With the cloud foundations now in place Robinson is moving to an Agile delivery model, making use of micro services particularly in analytics in order to speed innovation and business value.

The organisation is currently adding analytics capability to budgeting and finance area to allow it to model various scenarios – how it could reduce cost, apply new business models, grow revenues. It is also modelling procurement strategy and performance and workforce planning.