Together we can achieve more

Posted: Tuesday 18th July 2017

This was the resounding conclusion from the 2017 Institute of Water Annual Conference.

Taking place in the contemporary setting of Chetham's School of Music in Manchester on the 14th and 15th June, the Institute of Water Annual Conference 2017 attracted over 150 people from across the water industry. The conference again proved to be a key event in the calendars of the water and utility sectors, with many top opinion-formers and industry leaders presenting their views to help shape the water industry of the future.

The new President of the Institute of Water, Thomas Faulkner chose this year's theme around innovation through collaboration. Titled Together We Can Achieve More, the conference explored how the water industry and, ultimately, customers would benefit from this approach.

The speaker line-up was crafted to gain perspectives from the water utility companies, regulators, and the supply chain and others outside the sector.

This year the Institute of Water was joined by some familiar faces such as Jo Causon, Chief Executive of the Institute of Customer Service, Marcus Rink, Chief Inspector of the Drinking Water Inspectorate, Cathryn Ross, Chief Executive of Ofwat and Alan Sutherland, Chief Executive of the Water Industry Commission for Scotland.

This year the conference welcomed new speakers from the water industry supply chain to give their views on what collaboration with water companies means for them. Representing the supply chain were, Alex Vaughan, Managing Director of Costain, Neil McKenzie, Director at Lagan Water, and Mark Enzer, Group Technical Director at Mott MacDonald.

Indeed, it was the view point from the supply chain which really set this conference apart.

Neil McKenzie, Director at Lagan Water, said: "Collaboration involves challenging the current way that many water companies operate and involves openness, honesty and trust to make it work."

He also highlighted how the risks of poor collaboration, caused by inadequate scope definition, bad attitudes and miscommunication can adversely affect the process. Neil firmly believes that effective collaboration does produce high performance delivery teams, engenders trust and leads ultimately to customer satisfaction.

The 2017 conference also featured experiences from sectors operating outside of the water industry.

Recognising that there is much to learn about collaboration and innovation from other industries, the conference set the tone with Key Note Speaker Andrew McMillan, former Head of Customer Service at John Lewis. Andrew spent most of his career at the renowned department store giant, where he headed the Intelligence Team, with responsibility for customer service and analysis of demographic trends. Andrew believes service reflects internal culture and he shared some of the examples of internal collaboration that helped shape the success of the John Lewis organisation.

Jo Causon, Chief Executive of the Institute of Customer Service, stressed that working in collaboration needs to actually involve the customer in the design and delivery of the offer with a greater focus on personalisation, she noted the clear link between collaboration and trust: "More and more customers are expecting a seamless customer experience not just inside the organisation and sector but across organisational boundaries; for collaboration to really work, we have to be aligned, joined up purpose and focus."

The conference also had representation from the water regulators. Cathryn Ross, Chief Executive of Ofwat was quick to shake off the reputation that regulators should be feared and urged the need for the water industry to work with them.

Cathryn said: "Ofwat's vision of collaboration is not one we can deliver alone. It must be a shared vision across the industry. Collaboration is not a fluffy nice-to-have. It is an essential ingredient of the sector and something the water sector has in spades."

Summing up the two days, Thomas Faulkner, President of The Institute of Water said: "I work cross sector and I certainly see the water sector as the leading light in terms of collaboration, innovation and new ways of working.

"As a passionate believer in collaboration, the conference has really motivated me. The benefits for all are clear and I will put even more effort into leading collaborative approaches both in Skanska and the industry that I am so proud to work within."

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March 2021

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