ETSA restructures IT for strategic gain

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ETSA restructures IT for strategic gain

Eyes multinational partner to aid project delivery.

ETSA Utilities is part of the way through a restructure of its IT operations that will see - among other measures - enterprise analysts embedded within the company's various business groups, which is intended  to help facilitate better engagement between IT and the business.

The company, which is South Australia's primary electricity distributor, is also in the process of sourcing a strategic partner to assist in project delivery.

The partner will be expected to "provide arms and legs during peaks", reducing the requirement to cover peaks in demand for IT resources. The partner will also be expected to have an input into the utility's IT strategy, according to IT operations manager Peter Snedden.

"We're talking about [having] a multinational to help us," Sneddon told an IT service management conference in Sydney today.

ETSA's IT team falls under a corporate services division that spans across its four main business groups - construction and maintenance, field services, demand and network management and customer services.

Corporate services provides IT, legal, risk management and workforce development services among other offerings.

Sneddon said despite high satisfaction and service desk ratings, IT was viewed by the business as "not being strategic enough" and of introducing a "whole heap of complexity".

"Users would come to us and say 'Here's a solution we want you to implement'. There'd be no plan or strategy, but in a previous life we'd have said, 'Yes, not a problem'," Snedden said.

"We had about 1200 apps for 1800 people. We had different areas of a group within the business using four or five different drawing packages. It was ridiculous."

Sneddon said ETSA embarked on a major overhaul five years ago to position IT "to influence the business".

"Rather than just give them everything they wanted, we wanted to say to them, 'What about this?'," he said.

In the early days of the change, the IT team found itself "in the middle of the business trying to negotiate between the groups. We became the mediator [sorting out their different requirements]."

Establishing itself as a more strategic influence involved an amount of self-examination on the part of IT.

"We came back and had to look at ourselves," Sneddon said.

"We started to look at what IT were providing. For example, there were lots of little pockets of IT providing services to the business that some of us as individuals knew of, but the team collectively wasn't aware of. We had to learn about ourselves.

"Then once we knew what we could do, we wanted to find out more about the business - what problems and issues they had. We started having all these meetings where the business told us 'You're not strategic enough. We're going down this path but you're not helping us with that'.

Mediating the requirements of the various general managers, engineers and other staff wasn't easy, Sneddon said. But it was critical to establishing IT as an effective service provider to the business.

The process was ongoing, he said.

"We restructured IT and this is still happening at the moment," Sneddon said.

He described two 'views' in IT - an architectural view defined as "having a one-to-two year window" and a strategic view, which spanned five or ten years.

"We're facilitating that [strategic view] through enterprise business analysts," Snedden said.

"Each group has an analyst whose sole job is an account management role - what is the group doing, where is it going, have you thought about this and so on.

"It's about living in [the group's] pockets all the time, so when they do have an idea, the group goes to the analyst and says 'We're thinking about this, what technology is around [to support it]?

"That's where we've got to get to. It's a long journey but we'll get there."

ETSA is also making improvements on the hardware side of its operations.

Last year the utililty refreshed the servers and storage underpinning its SAP system and made Adelaide the new home of its hardware after deciding not to renew its part of an outsourced agreement with CSC.

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