Local Government Magazine
3 Waters

How Wellington Water works

There she flows: Five into one Featured Image. Moa Point Wastewater Treatment Plant, Wellington.

Wellington Water’s many previous information sources are now one.

Wellington Water combines the water operation management (water treatment and supply, stormwater and wastewater service delivery) previously undertaken by the five councils in the Wellington catchment area: Upper Hutt, Hutt City, Wellington City, Porirua and the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

Set up in 2014, Wellington Water relies on access to timely, real and current information. In forming the new entity it became apparent that the amalgamation of information from across the five councils was not only going to be complex but hampered by fragmentation.

“The first step was to create a single source of truth,” said Oliver Mander, information manager for Wellington Water. “There was simply no place to share knowledge. There were antiquated document depositories, both digital and physical, as well as people’s individual storage behaviours – none of which were conducive to our aim of becoming a knowledge-based organisation.”

Wellington Water required a fast deployment and a basic, working solution from day one. Document migration is often fraught with technical issues and this was no exception. The sheer volume of material to be moved was also significant – over 250,000 pieces of information from different repositories. Added to that was a ‘wild card’ of accommodating Wellington Water’s move from its legacy technical infrastructure.

Solution

Following an evaluation of several software options, Wellington Water identified SharePoint as the best solution because it suited its integration needs, provided essential future-proofing as the organisation continued on its journey, and offered a powerful search engine (which staff had signalled as being important).Wellington Water partnered with New Zealand information and knowledge management solution provider Information Leadership on the project. This decision was based on the company’s expertise and capabilities built through previous public sector experience, understanding of public records and an appreciation of the type of activities that councils undertake.

Informed by four months of detailed planning, the project involved two key phases. Phase one, completed in December 2015, was to create a ‘basic big bang’, allowing all staff to have access to information from day one. This ensured basic functionality was delivered while providing a building block for phase two, which involved configuring elements that were better suited to the activities Wellington Water undertakes. Planning for this phase is currently underway.

“Getting phase one right was critical,” explains Oliver. “We had to be extremely pragmatic.”

The business-led deployment focused on finding and delivering the best, fit-for-purpose solution for Wellington Water. “Critical to the project’s success was full transparency and communication between Wellington Water and Information Leadership, which ensured that the project was delivered on time and on budget,” said Oliver.

Results

Following phase one, staff at Wellington Water are reaping the benefits of effective records management processes, allowing for collaboration and sharing of knowledge. They are being encouraged to think differently about what they do and how they use information. They can recognise links to other teams; question, think and be curious about knowledge; and they have context as to how they see themselves in the activity structure. With a centralised single source of truth and a collaborative platform now in place, Wellington Water’s shared services offer will overcome many of the difficulties inherent with retrieving information from five disparate councils.

Phase two of the project will also enable knowledge to be directly accessible by each council, thereby encouraging collaboration, transparency, joint learning and sharing.

Oliver is confident that the flow-on effect will be for the councils to be more efficient in their water-related stakeholder and constituent management, in line with the aim of the shared-service model.


Key learnings

  • It’s about the business, not the system.
  • Developing an understanding of Wellington Water’s core business processes before the deployment helped structure the system in a robust and sustainable way.
  • Take a pragmatic approach.
  • Transparency and communication are key.
  • Keep it simple.
  • It was important for Wellington Water to adopt a single way of doing things and trade-offs were made, based on the right information, to achieve this.
  • Pick the right partner.

About Wellington Water

  • Manages more than 6500 kilometres of pipes, 138 reservoirs, 249 pump stations and 4 water treatment plants
  • Supplies 140 million litres of water per day (on average), for 400,000 people
  • Represents the largest body of expertise in water infrastructure services management in New Zealand, outside of Auckland
  • Aims to drive efficiency for the end-to-end asset management of any water resource
  • Goal is to deliver benefits to the shareholders and their communities through cost savings, resilience and expertise that individual councils could not achieve on their own.

The facts

  • 6 months of planning and delivery
  • Water data from 5 councils brought together
  • 250,000 pieces of information migrated.

Pic credit
PHOTO courtesy of: Wellington Water


This article was first published in the June 2016 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.

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