CIO50 2021 #26-50: Ewen Powell, Chorus
Ewen Powell is chief technology officer of Chorus, which delivers wholesale fixed-line broadband services to 1.2 million homes and business in New Zealand. The last 18 months have seen Chorus's technology function, and more recently, the broader organisation, transition to new agile and adaptive ways of working.
Based on the best practice principles of focusing on the customer experience, the new ways of working feature design-led thinking, enabling new technologies, agile development, and high-tempo deliveries.
The change to an adaptive style of working took a giant leap of faith from leadership. With just basic ground rules in place, the approach taken was to start doing it, this in the knowledge that the iterative processes would ensure outcomes were better next time around. One of the core differences of the change was that the technology team worked even more closely with its suppliers. Together they created a core development capability within the organisation, much closer to the business owners.
There were immediate and significant benefits from this shift. The changes fostered an environment where knowledge is shared more widely, increasing the speed to market and delivery, improving cost-effectiveness and lifting core capabilities.
Directly within the technology function:
· A 'hot-house' process involving partnering with internal customers, suppliers, and contractors has reduced the concept phase by six to eight weeks.
· Bringing design and build together has seen a 60 per cent improvement in time and cost.
· Teams able to adopt new technologies with generational change capabilities – 380 times improvement on speed for cloud-based data and analytics tools
· Developing new automated test tools has significantly improved efficiency with a 60 per cent increase in automated testing.
· The volume of project releases increased by 20 per cent with no drop in the quality of the delivery.
Review of governance processes
Instrumental to the transition was a full-service review of all the governance processes in Chorus. Senior managers fronted this from within the CTO function, and the outputs helped catalyse the shift, pushing through fundamental changes in governance structures so they could support the future direction of Chorus.
Recognising lessons can come from outside the organisation and within, the leadership also embarked on a journey to learn from the experience of other companies on similar paths—this increased understanding of the challenges ahead for the executive and other senior leaders. Chorus organised visits to Southern Cross, Genesis Energy, Z Energy and Transpower to leverage their learnings.
Reducing workplace stress and bullying
Chorus engagement scores show a steady improvement in people finding their workload manageable, feeling that they can live a balanced, healthy lifestyle and they have the freedom to work flexibly to maintain work/life balance.
Chorus received an overall Psychosocial Safety Climate rating of 43.55 in the 2019 NZ Workplace Barometer Survey run by Massey University, which is above the threshold of 41 for best practice.
Its harm variables for Workplace Bullying, Cyber Bullying and Sexual Harassment were more favourable than the entire sample of New Zealand organisations. The number of employees presenting to EAP for BHD is on average two per year.
Since the introduction of BHD reporting in September 2018 the P&C team have dealt with only nine cases and only 13 people have approached our Chorus Confidants.
There are various initiatives that have increased awareness, reduced the stigma and made it safe for our people to speak up and seek help. This is shown through a rapidly increasing number of employees presenting to EAP since the introduction of our programme in 2017, averaging 51 employees per year.
We’ve also had over a dozen of our employees share their personal mental health stories via our Courageous Korero article series and have around 50 employees in our Mental Fitness Network, which have resulted in colleagues seeking help as a result.