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The Hoggett Bowers 2 Minute Interview: Ian McAulay

Ian McAulay, CEO, Southern Water

What challenge did you tackle and overcome in your business this week?

Significant storms bringing torrential rain and potential flooding along with strong winds causing power outages/blips which disrupted water treatment works continuity.

Which ongoing business challenge is occupying your thoughts this week/month?

Summer water demand. The pandemic has meant people are, quite understandably, now using around 10% more water. Last summer, with high temperatures and no travel overseas we experienced long durations where peak demands which were closer to 30%. 

We have had 2 national lockdowns and a range of regional tier variations over many months. In what way has your approach to these lockdowns / tier restrictions permanently influenced your own way of working and have you made, or will you make any further adjustments as we slowly begin to emerge from the 3rd lockdown?

For a very significant number of our staff it’s been little change. We’re a 24/7 business and our essential workers need to be at the treatment works, control centres and out in the field. Personally I’ve had to very substantially cut back my time on operational sites and work much more from home. Now I’m actually looking forward to being able to get back out with the teams.

Given the reliance on technology during lockdowns, do you now envisage an acceleration in digital/workforce transformation in the short-medium term?

In short yes. It’s already well underway. Existing tools which were already good have improved further and new ones introduced. At the same time the workforce has become more digitally competent and comfortable. That’s a strong combination driving acceleration and I expect that to continue.

What are the new working norms starting to look like for your organisation?

As I noted for many operational colleagues their place of work will not change radically. For others, the change will be bigger. For everyone though we are using technology to give more flexibility to their working day and activities. For example improved collaboration tools help eliminate unnecessary travel and Video/VR means we can bring expertise virtually to sites from anywhere in our operation.

There is a dramatic reduction in carbon footprints during lockdowns, what is your business planning to do to help continue this going forward?

Travel reduction in lockdown for a business like ours has been an easy win and will continue. However as a sector we have committed to achieving Net Zero by 2030 so future plans are bigger and bolder. Greater energy efficiency, including switching to sustainable supply, increased production from our own biosolids resources and moves towards EV are good examples.

In terms of personal well-being, what changes have you made, and will you stick to them post lockdown?

I had my hip replaced which has been liberating. I’ve made time to walk the South Downs regularly now which is great for physical and mental wellbeing and that will continue.

Who or what has inspired you this week? (They don’t need to be famous)

My children, who are in their twenties. The last year has been so tough for their generation but listening to their enthusiastic plans to emerge from lockdown has been uplifting. And I’m looking forward to seeing them very soon!

Given the recent announcements pertaining to a roadmap out of lockdown are you planning to book a summer holiday this year? If so where ideally would you like to go?

Yes it’s booked. Orkney and Shetland in September. Ideal!

Any words of wisdom?

“Having the will to win is nowhere near as important as having the will to prepare to win”. Do the prep.