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Switched on CIO: Simon Clarke of Trustpower

Divina Paredes | March 6, 2015
Clarke treaded quite an unusual career path – corporate lawyer, CEO, and now general manager business solutions and technology for Trustpower.

He says having the commercial business experience while acting as the interface for technology into the executive team and the board is critical.

"It is difficult for some CIOs who have grown up in a technology world to show up at the management and board tables and talk more broadly on other areas," says Clarke.

"I came in from the other way and I can talk more broadly about other things than technology," he states. "I have more experience in understanding how boards and executives think and what issues they need to be across and what is important to them. That means I can present the right information, have the right conversations and make sure they have a fuller understanding around a particular issue."

His work in corporate law provided him very strong commercial and contractual experience. "When I was a lawyer, I was always doing deals, doing transactions, focusing on outcomes and making sure stakeholder relationships have been built.

Building a digital business
The technology team needs to always be thinking about how what they are doing is creating value for Trustpower, explains Clarke. "That might be de-risking a particular issue, improving a business process or creating new margin through a new product."

This focus was important when they were working on moving the company to become a digital business.

Trustpower's main digital channel was the new website, which was launched in 2013. Clarke says the new platform enables Trustpower to appeal to more digital focused consumers and hopefully make life easier for them.

"We've been a bit slow to move in the digital area but now that we've made the first step, we're delighted with the new platform and how it's going," he says. "While there is still plenty to do, for us it's about making sure that our customers can engage with us in the way that they want to. For an increasing number that means online, and the experience has to be simple and enjoyable."

Clarke originally thought Trustpower could do the new website development using the waterfall strategy: "Give it to someone, finance it and come back to us with the delivered outcome."

It's an ongoing, evolving platform. The ultimate goal is to provide end-to-end service capability for customers who wish to engage exclusively online.

But then he realised the Trustpower team were innately not good at "being hands off" in major projects, and doing it this way would be "high risk".

So they decided to work in tandem with their external partners, Tauranga-based Cucumber, DNA in Wellington and Datacom.

The process included "deep dive" profiling of the customer base, and what they would want from a digital channel. "We were very careful upfront," he states. "We spent a lot of time on the design phase."


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