CIO50 2021 #26-50 Kiran Kewalramani, Gladstone Area Water Board
Since the COVID pandemic hit in early 2020, Queensland government-owned water authority, Gladstone Area Water Board (GAWB), like many utilities, has ramped up its digitisation activities.
A key project is the digitisation of workflows across the water authority which owns and operates Awoonga Dam on the Boyne River along with a network of delivery pipelines, water treatment plants and other bulk water distribution infrastructure.
Digital workflow implementation at GAWB provides an efficient way to assign, manage, track, and collaborate on daily tasks, processes, and service requests.
“As a government-owned and highly regulated statutory authority, we are governed by the requirements of the Water Act, Queensland Competition Authority, Queensland Audit Office, and our internal processes,” says Kiran Kewalramani, head of technology at GAWB.
Kewalramani and his team deployed a cloud-based ERP system that provides digital task approval processes. This was complemented with workflows using Microsoft Power Automate and Adobe technologies, which provides seamless collaboration between teams and supported an end-to-end process.
“In other words, core processes, billing, procurement and document/financial approvals all have digital workflows associated with them, as part of this deployment,” he says.
“In our new normal, these digital workflows are critical drivers of productivity, allowing work to flow smoothly across the enterprise while providing GAWB’s functional leaders and the c-suite with visibility into current status of tasks and associated work progression.”
Kewalramani says the pre-COVID paper-based, ‘wet signatures’, hand delivered from desk to desk processes are now a thing of the past. “For a small water entity based in regional Queensland, this digital transformation is not just a buzzword, it’s delivering value at a grass roots level".
GAWB is now in a position where it can connect systems and make data re-usable and visible across the organisation.
“Everyone knows the quote, ‘Data is the new oil,’” Kewalramani says. “Much like oil, data can only extracted, refined and turned into a usable asset.”
GAWB now understands that much of its data has been siloed.
“We understand that having it separated and disconnected is a monumentally manual effort and requires at least some pre-existing understanding of the data available. This is acknowledged as a risk to the business,” Kewalramani adds. “We are getting ready to ride a tidal wave of data and lead into the next phase of our transformation, which includes using industrial internet-of-things and data analytics technologies to make better decisions.”
Despite the challenges that have arisen due to COVID-19, Kewalramani and his team were able to keep the business, the c-suite and board focused on using technology to transform the organisation.
In addition to the implementation of digital workflows, the team, under Kewalramani’s leadership, upgraded infrastructure to improve the scalability of core technical apps and services; implemented a CRM solution to manage customer interactions more effectively; continued a managed services arrangement; and rolled out wi-fi internet connectivity at Lake Awoonga Recreational Area and Boynedale Bush Camp.
“Digitally-enabled functions and my awareness of cybersecurity risks, especially on critical infrastructure and upcoming changes to government legislation, has helped elevate my authority inside the organisation,” says Kewalramani.
“I have implemented a multi-pronged approach to educating business leaders, the c-suite and board on technology matters. I’ve got buy-in from all stakeholders and building consensus has been the key to success; provided fit for purpose governance through a technology governance group and partnered with vendors that support the delivery of these technology initiatives.”
As a result, Kewalramani has been successful in shifting the perception of the technology function from a ‘blue cable and PC fixer’ to an ‘enabler'.
During one of his early management roles, Kewalramani recalls making the catastrophic mistake of promoting an internal person who did not have the skill level or attitude for a higher grade position.
“This created a disaster on multiple fronts. First, the individual could not cope but took that personally, causing potential mental health issues. Second, the business did not get the services it expected in a timely manner. This caused projects to go beyond the agreed tolerances, and overall team morale was negatively impacted.”
To correct the situation, Kewalramani took responsibility for the issue and worked with HR to put in place a replacement resource to support the ongoing delivery of inflight projects to minimise further impact.
“My learning from this experience was that it’s critical to always hire the right resource for the right job. It’s pivotal to identify the right candidate and all recruitment needs to be merit based.”