Empowering Thames Water to own its digital transformation

The challenge

To help Thames Water decouple from complex and costly legacy technology contracts, migrate to modern cloud-based platforms, and build a team of skilled system engineers. The company’s goal is to establish an in-house Systems Integrator (SI) function to power its ongoing digital transformation.

The background

Thames Water is one of the largest water utilities in the UK, providing services to 15 million people across London and the Thames Valley. Looking to enhance its operations and become a customer experience leader, the company is undertaking a wholesale digital transformation, which includes a move from legacy on-premises infrastructure to modern cloud platforms.

The company faces three fundamental challenges with regard to its digital transformation. First, it needs to break loose of its contracts with a legacy System Integration provider. These contracts tie it into a variety of long-term support services, including mainframes that have been in place for over 20 years and are in urgent need of replacement. Thames Water’s digital team, led by Mike Potter, Executive Director for Digital Transformation and Group CIO, realised that a rapid move away from these legacy contracts requires expert advice. The alternative is to be locked into an endless cycle of service renewals for outdated and inflexible hardware, with no cost control.

The second challenge is to find partners with the technical expertise to manage the migration of enterprise applications from legacy to cloud platforms. Moving to the cloud can be a lengthy process – and a risky one depending on the nature of the services in question. Leveraging expert partners will help Thames Water reduce risk, a vital concern given the nature of the services it provides to customers, and accelerate its digital transformation.

However, the company is keen that it doesn’t simply swap on-premises vendor lock-in with cloud vendor lock-in. It’s third key challenge is therefore to find a way to grow its in-house skills base so that it can eventually take full control of its own cloud estate. As Mike Potter explains: “Our aim is to disintermediate SIs by building our own in-house capability in partnership with cloud engineering experts, and then to build our talent pipeline to reduce our reliance on these very experts. Eventually we want to be self-sufficient in the cloud and masters of our own digital destiny.”

The solution

Following a competitive procurement process, Thames Water selected Tecknuovo as one of their digital transformation partners. “Tecknuovo had two key assets,” explains Mike Potter, “a proven track record of rapid scaling, and the agility to respond quickly and predictably to our needs.”

Thames Water is now leveraging our “Zero Dependency model” approach to free itself from legacy licences and technology and to ensure it is entirely self-sufficient in the future.

For the first of these goals, Tecknuovo is working line-by-line through Thames Water’s mainframe licences and service support contracts to identify break points and help decouple Thames Water from its deeply entrenched legacy supplier. As this work unfolds, we have also taken on the task of designing and implementing Thames Water’s new cloud platforms, as well as undertaking the lifting and shifting of applications and workloads into this new environment. This is a significant task, drawing on a team of 70 Tecknuovo associates working full time at the client’s premises, across multiple teams and technology stacks.

We are now working with Thames Water to compliment the apprentice and graduate programmes by bringing a ground-breaking approach to upskilling. Through hiring in a team of ambitious, junior-level system engineers and putting them through an intensive 12–18-month training programme working alongside expert associates each with 15-20 years’ experience we will be leaving Thames Water at the end of the programme with a skilled internal team of domain experts grounded in the company’s unique needs and ready to deliver.

Our Zero Dependency offering goes beyond the training of junior- to mid-level engineers. Through our partnership approach we compliment the upskilling of juniors with the reskilling of people, helping your internal teams move from X to Y. Digital is an ever-changing industry and we will give you the means to move with it.

When Thames Water’s new in-house team comes online, our Zero Dependency approach will deliver as planned: Thames Water will be fully in charge of its own technology-agnostic cloud platforms and ongoing digital transformation, free from reliance on any partner – including us.

Our results

The project will complete in around another 12 months, but already Thames Water is realising profound benefits. “We’re seeing a step change in terms of business benefits: agility and cost reduction,” says Mike Potter. “If anything, the pace and scale of what we’ve achieved so far has made the digital team here something of a victim of our own success – clients within the organisation are pressing to do more and more, as they realise just what the cloud can deliver when combined with the right expertise. It’s clear that once our digital transformation is complete we will be able to realise whole new levels of responsiveness and innovation.”

Thames Water is well on the path to breaking free of the legacy technology that has acted as a constraint on innovation and operational velocity and realising a future as a cloud-first business. The infrastructure Tecknuovo is helping them build will enable data-driven business models that will deliver compelling customer experiences and fuel operational enhancements with better insights.

Meanwhile, the skills transformation will prove significant in that it will enable Thames Water to become a service – not a system – integrator, no longer reliant on transformation partners or technology vendors. And by focusing on upskilling junior employees, it has done so at a low cost compared to hiring senior engineers. Meanwhile, employees benefit from this approach as they can accelerate their careers by acquiring skills and experience on a vastly reduced timeframe.

Mike Potter concludes: “Tecknuovo is delivering exactly what we needed: complete control of our digital journey across people, processes and technology. They have done this as a true business partner that is focused only on our needs as a client – something that is very rare indeed.”