CILE prepares for the future with expertise from NRB

The Compagnie Intercommunale Liégeoise des Eaux (CILE) has been supplying potable water to over 580,000 people in various towns and cities in the region of Liège since 1913. The company recently took its first steps towards its digital transformation by opting for Office 365 and for SAP HANA as its new ERP package. William De Angelis, a consultant who is responsible for various transformation projects at CILE, sees this as an essential basis for further innovation of the company’s services to citizens and of its internal operations. CILE seeks the advice and expertise of NRB for both the ERP project and for its broader transformation process.

What’s the ICT department’s role in your organisation?

William De Angelis: “In 2012, the CILE directors decided there was a need for more solid structures and integrated management systems to achieve the quality standards set for our production and distribution activities. Switching to SAP with HANA technology was essential to make us future-proof. Management and maintenance costs have dropped dramatically, and the new open SAP environment has simplified the integration of new technologies and applications. This has made it easier to realise innovation as well.”

Angelo Parello: “The role of ICT has changed profoundly in a very short time. We saw a shift from a basic supporting role to a central supporting function for optimising internal processes and for improving the efficiency of our services to the citizen.”

How do you see the role of your department evolving?

William De Angelis: “The digital transformation gives ICT a central role as a strategic accelerator of the business. This forces us to think about new ways of approaching things. One of these is Gartner’s bimodal approach, which defines that you need to assure stability and guarantee that all core applications run faultlessly on the one hand but have to go for innovation, agility and digital transformation on the other. The second approach concerns the promotion of a company culture of collaboration between the different departments and ICT, a culture that will create the transversal dimension that is required for your digital transformation.”

Angelo Parello: “These different approaches and the evolution of the ICT department show to what extend this department occupies a central place in the strategic thinking of this company. ICT is already a crucial element in the functioning of CILE today and will become even more crucial in the future. It is therefore very important that CILE, thanks to the role of ICT, is participating in the development of the ‘Smart City’ concept. Smart Metering illustrates this very well. We indeed have to change the way we deal with citizens.”

What does the digitised world mean for a company like CILE?

William De Angelis: “Digital means leveraging operational optimisation and creating new business opportunities. As far as operational optimisation is concerned, digitisation has made it possible to generate a stream of data in the field and to process these data digitally (OT, IOT). This enables us to work with important volumes of valuable data. Algorithms have been developed to capitalise on these data and thus make better decisions with regard to buying energy, detecting leaks, predictive maintenance, fraud detection and sanitary safety. Digital transformation has also created new opportunities for CILE: we are indeed investigating a whole series of personalised e-services.”

What are your main challenges?

William De Angelis: “A first major challenge is to manage the data, the ‘new oil’. How can we manage the data of the company to maximise the added value we get from it? This isn’t just the task of the ICT department. You will need cross-functional teams that know where to find the data and how best to use it. Efficient data management needs to be a culture and a mindset, not just a project!"

“Next comes bi-modal ICT, combining predictability on the one hand and exploration on the other. This also requires a major cultural change. Moreover, you need to ensure that both elements are well integrated and don’t become separate silos.”

“And finally, we need to go for a better integration of the key actors of the different trades at CILE. They have to get well acquainted with ICT in order to become a source of innovation and an engine of our transformation themselves. After all, we all share the same goal, which is to provide the best possible service to citizens.” 

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