Anglian Water serves over 6 million customers and this size relies heavily on a telemetry system which is the largest of its kind in Europe. Brian Lumb, Telemetry Systems Manager at Anglian, states how Sostenuto has played a major supporting role.
Chessington 7th October 2005
- Sostenuto helps support largest telemetry system in Europe
- From spreadsheets to web-based efficiency in five years
- Project aligns processes with ITIL without need for formal project
- System integration and quality processes enable four staff to support 1,500 staff, 11,500 outstations and all mobile equipment
Anglian Water serves over six million customers across the largest geographical catchment area in the UK. This size puts immense pressure on a telemetry system which is the largest in Europe and used by more than 1,500 staff. Here, Brian Lumb, Telemetry Systems Manager, explains how his team have overcome many challenges and become a model for the rest of the organisation.
Brian Lumb joined Anglian Water over 15 years ago and in that time has moved from a traditional IT helpdesk management role to helping create a service desk which supports all aspects of the organisation’s vital telemetry system. The service desk is staffed by four support engineers and one manager. This small group manages almost 12,000 outstations and the associated field-based equipment such as laptops, PDAs and data capture devices. It also deals with internal calls relating to the system and still has time left over to support the department’s 80 PCs.
“The reason we support our own PCs as well as the telemetry system is that the work we do is so specialised that it doesn’t make sense for our outsourced IT supplier to manage them, says Brian. What makes this story even more striking is that not long ago there was nothing formal to manage these functions at all, as Brian details.
We recognised about five years ago that we needed to create a service desk which concentrated solely on the telemetry system. The size of the region meant that it was divided into four areas and each area manager supported equipment as best as they could. To make this task harder there was no specialist software other than spreadsheets to support such a transformation.
It goes without saying that ad hoc support and the absence of a single call management system meant that problems were frequent. Most issues were written on a piece of paper and lots of calls were being missed. We identified therefore that the most important goals were to log the calls and provide SLAs (Service Level Agreements) for customers. I had worked with Sunrise previously so after consulting with them we decided to buy Enterprise to handle these tasks, explains Brian.
Once these simple but vital functions were in place, the team began to work on expanding its capabilities. We started looking at introducing performance measures to give us long term targets and find areas where we could improve efficiency, says Brian.
The system has evolved ever since, culminating in the creation of the joint scheduling, field service and call handling system detailed on the case study overleaf. Flexibility has improved in recent years with the introduction of Sunrise’s web-based product Sostenuto. This has helped join-up many processes to improve both efficiency and level of service. Brian Lumb gives an example of what the unified system offers in real terms. If we decide to create a new outstation, all of the relevant parties – engineers, configuration and support engineers are triggered with jobs from Sostenuto to ensure that the project runs smoothly.
The most recent development is the introduction of a street level mapping function. This helps to plan routes and also gives the service desk a visual representation as to the whereabouts of mobile workers. As Brian says, before this was introduced, the system would try to send people across an estuary without a boat, but the mapping system irons out such kinks.
Although not a conscious decision in the beginning, when Brian and his team investigated the best practice offered by ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library), they got a pleasant surprise. It was an aim of ours to work towards ITIL, but we discovered when we looked into it that many of our working practices already matched up to ITIL guidelines. Also, the processes built into Sostenuto are consistent with ITIL best practice, so by default these processes brought us closer to our goal.
Brian explains that his team view quality as the first consideration. We took a joint decision to not concentrate on measures such as calls per hour; instead our driver is answering calls first time. This approach has helped us to almost double the number of outstations that we support, but without increasing headcount.
To address efficiency on a business-wide basis, Anglian Water has created a central operational management centre which will weave together internal functions.
The idea according to Brian is that if an event occurs that impacts a range of departments, the trigger will come from one location and the relevant instructions will be fired off to each department. Brian says that his department has in this example proven to be a microcosm of what is being attempted on a grand scale.
At present, the technologies we have introduced and are still evolving are essentially piloting technologies and processes which may be introduced into the operational centre at a later date. For example, our scheduling project is being replicated in the operational centre, but whereas the telemetry project was priced in the thousands, the operational centre’s project will be costed in millions.
The journey is by no means complete although Brian admits that at least for the short term, the main technology issues have been solved. The biggest challenge for us now is the cultural change required. Many of our guys have been with us for 20 years and it is a big leap for them to stop scheduling their own jobs.
To try to overcome these concerns, Brian and his team are emphasising how the centralisation will mean that instead of having to carry multiple devices, the field engineers will only have to carry one laptop. Less paperwork and travelling time are also being pushed as selling points to tackle cultural resistance. On the service desk itself, Nigel Moat has been appointed as Service and Performance Manager to oversee the support engineers. Nigel is tasked with ensuring that the new systems are used to their full potential whilst driving the new working practices out to the mobile and internal engineers.