Melbourne Water plans $5m IT upgrade

Armed with $5.1 million to invest over the next 12 months, Melbourne Water group manager for IT Malcolm Haynes is out to win 'customer respect'.

The bottom line is improving service levels for both external customers and its 600 employees and doing it with a 'conscience' as this will in turn generate customer confidence and respect.

For Haynes, improving Melbourne Water's ability to operate as a successful commercial entity means managing the organisation's resources and its environment in a sustainable manner.

With annual operating revenues of $480 million, Victorian Government-owned Melbourne Water is the core supplier of water and sewerage services to Melbourne's three retail water companies City West Water, South East Water and Yarra Valley Water.

"The proof points of success will lie in improved quality, timeliness and accessibility of services to IT users," Haynes said.

The Internet for electronic service delivery will be the key enabler of that vision which will also reduce costs.

Melbourne Water will roll out a number of core technology projects over the next 12 months, underpinning what Haynes called some "smart strategic IT investments".

Firstly, it will enhance critical corporate information systems by continually updating them with the latest versions of software.

The company's major system marked for ongoing enhancements is the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System (SCADA, developed by IT services consultants Logica). The system is core to Melbourne Water's water treatment plant management and to reducing ongoing support and IT management costs.

Other core systems marked for upgrades are the asset management system, the graphical information system, the drainage scheme creation and maintenance system, and its financial and commercial systems.

The five system upgrades will cost $800,000 over 2002 to 2003 and the key goal is to establish an integrated applications environment within the utility.

Other projects scheduled for the next year are a Windows 2000 upgrade, a new electronic document management system, a mobile computing solution and an upgrade for remote user access.

The projects combined will not be without their technology challenges. Haynes said the key will be to move the company progressively from "functional-based" internal transaction systems to an integrated IS model.

The success of that integration will depend on factors like improved business efficiency, customer service and information management availability, which at the same time supports company-wide learning and accountability to the government and general public, he said.

"We're aiming to give our customers and partners more access to Melbourne Water's systems via the Internet, [so] the business is more outward-looking."

"IT has to be flexible enough to provide different applications and solutions for business requirementS while still maintaining a high degree of system security and data integrity," Haynes said.

Also high on IT's priority list is to upgrade Melbourne Water's IT infrastructure, covering telecommunications, desktops and servers.

"The rapid rate of change in the computer technology environment requires continual updating of desktop, network and server infrastructure to enable maximum utilisation of IT infrastructure investment," Haynes said.

"Melbourne Water is committed to an annual replacement program of infrastructure that has fully [used] its economic life."

That program will cost $1.9 million over the next year.

Haynes said each of Melbourne Water's projects demonstrated a clear cost benefit for the organisation. The technical demands of that program are that it must improve productivity and financial returns, he said.

Melbourne Water's IT initiatives for the next year come on the heels of a three-year $4.9 million replacement of its telemetric network upgrade completed last month, under which it performed a live cutover from the legacy Integrated Telemetry Network to a replacement network. The new network operates as a fully distributed database enabling monitoring and control of assets from any of the system's 31 work stations in nine sites across Melbourne.

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