South West Water Information Services are applying IT best practice in terms of strong governance control, structure, planning, stakeholder engagement and leadership to achieve successful roll-out of the first integrated telemetry and process control platform in the UK.
Delivering integrated SCADA in the water industry presents significant challenges for implementing an IT applications system in an operational and engineering environment.
South West Water’s IT function has been stepping up the pace of its delivery of SCOPE-X as an integrated SCADA platform solution to provide visibility of regional telemetry and remote process control on a single application.
The solution provides comprehensive and early visibility of site issues and operational incidents, supports resource rationalisation as part of a long-term strategy for de-manning, and contributes to the realisation of cost benefits through greater efficiency.
The introduction of enhanced data standards, IT governance and information security measures helps mitigate cyber risks and increases confidence in data for compliance reporting, management of operational activity and integration with Business Intelligence solutions. IT best practices are being followed to design, build and manage the implementation of the SCOPE-X software suite, with a new datamart for SCADA data developed in-house.
Comprehensive integration with corporate applications estate is being achieved by interfaces to the data historian archive, the implementation of new Microsoft Business Intelligence architecture, and end-point systems such as the BeachLive app, also developed in-house. New hardware has been purchased and installed, including central servers, networks, client PCs, and dedicated servers and clients for works sites.
Operational technology is a pervasive discipline that crosses many business and operational functions. In order to achieve successful implementation, it is also imperative to consider the associated business and process change. In the IT function, this has been effected through the establishment of revised support models, and increased ownership of infrastructure support and delivery activity, rather than by technical operational teams, as well as a revised model for contractual engagement managed by corporate IT service delivery. Further changes are in progress with the incorporation of some operational technology teams and responsibilities into the IT function.
Best Practice principles
Key elements of IT best practice to secure successful outcomes in delivering the iSCADA implementation are programme and project management governance, careful planning, clear organisational structure, stakeholder engagement and leadership. By applying recognised governance practice to the software development lifecycle, we have identified distinct and achievable projects with product outputs. Applying project management, with scheduled delivery agreed and managed at programme level, ensures we control time, budget and resources.
Best practice has also included the establishment of clear strategies and detailed plans for communications, stakeholder engagement, testing, training, implementation, support transition, and management of business as usual. Standard governance mechanisms for project change control, risks and issues escalation, and release management, further contribute positively to the successful achievement of projects and programme delivery.
Careful planning allows us to control and drive delivery while minimising business impacts. This has been especially valuable in supporting collaboration with the engineering function, and their implementation of capital schemes, to avoid contentious activity at works sites.
A clear organisational structure was established early on with agreed roles and responsibilities and clear distinctions between IT delivery, IT Operations, business operations and engineering activities. A dedicated programme manager leads the delivery in its entirety, with dedicated project managers to identify and deliver defined products.
Engaging resources and stakeholders
Successful delivery is intrinsically linked to the dedication of resource to the programme. Delivery and support activities were defined and separated, to achieve greater focus on the delivery programme goals and outputs. Over several months, the support burden was radically cut by analysing activity and revising the approach from historic reliance on the project team for operational work. This objective was supported by collaboration from front-line operational Service Centre colleagues, IT Operations support, and by contractual changes to push more systems support to the supplier. Dedicated business change agents were embedded into the programme for training, communications, and change support, based on the experience of previously successful IT and business delivery models. Similar structures have been encouraged in supplier teams, and with IT Operations colleagues for infrastructure delivery management and transition to business as usual support.
Clear recognition and understanding of the key stakeholders has also been a major factor in success.
Stakeholders include not just those involved in delivery and receiving the implemented system in operational business functions, but also those in the wider organisation such as regulatory compliance for external reporting, asset management for investment planning, senior managers and executives for support and decision making in strategy and change. IT standard governance structures and mechanisms for communication, consultation, reporting and change management have provided reassurance to stakeholders on progress. On the implementation of works SCADA in particular, it proved instructive to recognise the scale of the change faced by functions and the associated climate that presents to the organisation in terms of appetite for risk. A positive relationship with the supplier as stakeholder is paramount. They are equally invested in concluding implementation and delivering success, and increasing collaboration at an early stage in the programme derived a productive response.
Clear leadership and a strong vision of the direction and target state objectives have proved significant factors in keeping the programme on course to derive the benefits that the implementation of iSCADA will accrue to the organisation. South West Water IT have embraced the opportunity to lead the business with an exciting and innovative technology delivery, and demonstrated commitment to the vision, especially in the face of technical complexity and the challenges of change.
To address the key challenges that emerged during the life of the programme (above), the ownership by IT of the delivery, with adherence to IT governance and best practice have provided structure, method, and pace. This was coupled with a commitment to change, not just in terms of technology, but also in the broader organisational context.
Ultimately South West Water can look forward to the possibility of realising operational benefits of centralised control and visibility of asset information and activity, and maximising return on investment in current and future technology programmes with the full and seamless integration of SCADA into the enterprise IT estate.