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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.

Clarke says a number of online enhancements will be implemented in the upcoming months and years. "It's an ongoing, evolving platform," he says. "The ultimate goal is to provide end-to-end service capability for customers who wish to engage exclusively online."

He says it was necessary for Trustpower to develop innovative strategies to acquire and retain customers without competing solely on price.

ICT teams go on field work
Clarke advocates a strong customer focus among his technology staff, who are asked to "walk in the shoes" of other people in the business.

So the ICT team have spent time with meter readers, call centre staff, and the billing team, among others "to get an understanding about the application and the technologies those people use to do their job".

Thus, he says, the ICT team will know how to respond better and help resolve issues, particularly those from service desk people.

A formula for successful business technology projects
Clarke says an area where Trustpower has significantly improved over the last three to four years is in its approach towards business technology investments. He believes this gives Trustpower a competitive advantage.

"We make quite practical fit for purpose investment decisions," he states. "We are quite brutal upfront, we don't choose something just for technology's sake.

"We always look at all the different options to do things. Those options always need to include doing nothing."

For instance, we will ask, 'If we don't invest in technology and do it manually, what does that cost how does that sustain itself?'

This approach ensures solutions are 'fit for purpose' and not over-engineered, he states.

Trustpower took this approach when it replaced its Customer Information System two years ago. Called "Project Maunganui", the new Gentrack CIS system now provides the foundation for its retail business (including the online projects the company is implementing).

The CIS system represents the "heart and lungs" of a utility provider like Trustpower, and as a CRM and billing platform, it was their main mechanism for interacting with the electricity market says Clarke

Prior to Clarke's arrival, Trustpower had originally been working with a well-known CRM software system and implementation partner to replace its earlier version of Gentrack.

However, after a lot of hard work and some anxious moments, he says, Trustpower made the brave decision to "kill" the earlier project, take a write off on the money that had been spent and went back to their original provider Gentrack for the latest version of their software.

"That was an incredibly brave decision by our Executive and Board. It's all too easy to get 'summit fever' during a project and just keep going. I think when we look back on that experience, we can now acknowledge that we made the mistake of trying to customise a system to meet our existing business processes rather than changing our processes to meet the system. That just gets bigger than Ben Hur," he explains.


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