Accelerating Thames Water’s IT Flow

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April 18, 2019

By Philip Taphouse, Command Centre and ServiceNow Programme Manager at Thames Water

I once came across a quote by Tim Huval, CHRO of Humana, on how ‘ a good employee experience is one where each employee feels that they can fully be themselves, freely contributing their talents, bright ideas and energy, to support the organisation’s mission and success ’.

This quote echoes with what we are striving to achieve for our own employees at Thames Water. We want to create amazing experiences for our workforce and our 15 million customers and inspire them to become our lifelong advocates.

Today, technology plays a fundamental role in transforming perceptions of customers and employees. But this means organisations have to be smart about the way they invest in new technologies to build a high-performance culture and customer advocacy.

At Thames Water, it’s fair to say that, at first, we learnt this the hard way. We had no real control or visibility of our IT infrastructure and that restricted our understanding over how to build customer trust and drive positive employee experiences.

Taking back control

The problem was that we were allowing multiple suppliers to manage and report on every aspect of our IT support and operations. Our suppliers were determining our approach and telling us how well they were doing – in essence, they were marking their own homework.

ServiceNow allowed us to take back ownership of all our tools, data, governance and processes, by creating a platform for a service integration and management (SIAM) model.

We now have a full command centre for all Thames Water IT operations and support, offering visibility of every application, incident, project and machine in one place — and the results have been dramatic.

When you’re running a vast and varied portfolio of more than 650 essential business applications, visibility is key. If one goes down it can mean hundreds of field engineers are left on the road without knowing where to go, customers that can’t access their accounts online, or water testing putting quality control on hold.

With ServiceNow, this has completely changed. For a start, the increased visibility of our IT operation means outages are few and far between. If they do happen, then we can almost immediately identify the issue down to the level of a specific database queue or even a single line of code.

Opening the digital workflow tap

The cost and time savings generated through orchestration and digital workflows have been immense — and there are numerous, concrete ways these have manifested in the business.

For example, the time taken for virtual machine builds has been reduced from 45 days to just three days. We can pop up microsites or create and run fully-automated scripts to build an entire platform in only three hours. When we demonstrated this to our board recently, I can honestly say they were gobsmacked. It’s a transformational change for the organisation

The Return on Investment (ROI) is staggering too. Our estimates indicate cost savings of between £6m-£10m a year as a direct result of the orchestrations and accelerated digital workflows that are enabled by the ServiceNow platform.

Virtual agents, chatbots and mobile capabilities to support any worker, anywhere

Our service desk used to be called the ‘unhelpful desk’ by many of our 6,000 employees, but we’ve completely turned around perceptions.

Our employees really care about the work they are doing, whether it’s they are dealing with a pipe leak in the field, talking to customers in our call centre, or working in head office. We have a responsibility to make sure we are giving them the IT infrastructure, applications and support to empower them in their roles.

The Thames Water employee portal, Taps, provides a modern way for everyone in the organisation to interact with IT, with digital workflows ensuring any problem, incident or request is processed at pace.

We’re also adding some exciting features with ServiceNow’s virtual agent and chat capabilities. If an issue or outage occurs, ServiceNow’s Virtual Agent automatically sends a message to any employee that might be affected via Microsoft Teams and a banner is created to flag that IT is already working to fix the problem.

Chatbots are also on hand to give employees an immediate way to find out more information and get updates in real time – with no human intervention required.

Unlocking productivity and more meaningful work

The transformation within Thames Water has been dramatic. The ServiceNow platform has given us back control and digital workflows and AI-powered technologies have removed time-consuming, manual tasks.

But we’re not about to replace humans. Our journey with ServiceNow has only served to highlight how much potential we were stifling within our organisation. By freeing up the IT team and our wider workforce from dealing with IT and operational issues, we are giving them the freedom to add value to the business.

As the CHRO of Humana pointed out, enabling our employees to contribute their talents, bright ideas and energy is what a great employee experience is all about.


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