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Switched on CIO: Simon Clarke of Trustpower

Switched on CIO: Simon Clarke of Trustpower

Clarke treaded quite an unusual career path – corporate lawyer, CEO, and now general manager business solutions and technology for Trustpower.

Many CIOs trace their career ascent with stints as a technology team member, project manager and business analyst. But Simon Clarke of Trustpower came to his CIO role via a different route, as corporate lawyer and then CEO.

Clarke has been general manager of business solutions and technology for just over three years at Trustpower, and reports directly to the CEO. He is responsible for business systems, technology strategy and services, project delivery/project management office and the metering and field service team.

It is, essentially, a CIO-plus role, and was an expansion of his title, general manager ICT. He held this role for 10 months, until it evolved to his current post, a reflection of the general transformation of the company.

Trustpower is listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange with a market capitalisation of over $2.5 billion. It provides electricity, gas and internet services across New Zealand and has over 230,000 customers. It also owns and operates 36 hydro power stations and two wind farms in New Zealand, two large wind farms in South Australia and a number of small hydro power stations in New South Wales.

Traditionally, Trustpower has largely been a provincial electricity supplier but in the last three years it has been moving into metro markets and transitioning into a true multi-utility provider, with products across power, gas, phone and internet. It’s also been increasing its generation footprint offshore.

This shift meant Trustpower had to undergo major systems changes and company-wide rebranding.

In this new business model, Trustpower used the confluence of changes to move to digital channels to grow its customer base, while increasing the number of services used by customers.

Technology is now more at the centre of our business rather than a service function. It is a key enabler of strategy.

Simon Clarke, Trustpower

Read more: Speed of technological change is top worry of New Zealand CEOs: PwC

Clarke says this also brings a different dynamic to the ICT team, and his role.

“The expectations around the technology function now is to go beyond supporting the business,” says Clarke. “It is now more into leadership strategy space where it is starting to drive change and be part of the leadership story in organisations.

“The rest of the organisation is more reliant and accepting of us coming up with ideas and executing or making the change projects.

Related:The five characteristics of a new breed of CIO: Gartner

“Technology is now more at the centre of our business rather than a service function,” he says.

Read more: Z CIO Lois van Waardenberg: Pure energy

“It is a key enabler of strategy. Without strong technology capability and an innovative and collaborative mindset, we cannot execute our business strategy.”

Clarke leads a technology team of 50 which is focused on actively working with other business units at all levels.

Thus, he sees the imperative of the technology leadership and teams working with staff across the organisation.

He says he makes sure he has good technology leaders who are good communicators working with other business leaders at all levels.

“We also have a customer insights team in our marketing team and they work with a dedicated business intelligence team that sits within technology,” he states. The two teams are jointly responsible for full business intelligence and operational reporting.

Read more: CIOs: Give priority to technologies to keep up with – or surpass – your competitors, reports Forrester

“The marketing team will say, ‘We have these insights. How can we use these in existing data to drive opportunity that is good for us to improve our business or our customer’s experience?’”

These joint projects between technology and other business units were not necessarily the norm when Clarke first came in.

Related: Data science in the forest

“When I first arrived, a lot of people in the technology team were talking about, ‘”The business wants this.’

I tried to change the language, he states. “Our business is the organisation, we are a part of the organisation,” he stressed to the team.

Read more: CIO, CMO and lawyer collaboration in the ‘age of the customer’

An important component of their job is to ensure ICT delivers quality services.

“You have got to get all the basic IT stuff right. That’s hygiene,” he states. He says the team focused on a lot of these services in the first year of his term, and after that, he felt the team was getting into a better space to be “trusted to start leading change”.

Next: CEO to CIO

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