Mel speaks at Utility Week Live

Bristol Water Chief Executive, Mel Karam attended Utility Week Live in Birmingham on Tuesday 23 May to take part in an open discussion about the role of transformation and flexibility in the face of uncertainty. Below are some details about what he had to say:

I’ve spent much of my career working inside and outside of the UK in the infrastructure sector. The challenges we face here, as a water provider, are similar to those faced globally: climate change, population growth and urbanisation, rising consumer expectations, and ageing assets. The stresses and constraints may change the severity of the issues, but the uncertainties are fundamentally the same.

Based on my personal experience and observing successful companies globally, successful strategies come from looking beyond the resources, refocusing on assets and infrastructure productivity, embracing technology, and making decisions based on the risks to customer service delivery.

It is becoming obvious that the key emerging trend in successfully delivering in uncertain times is fully embracing and engaging with customers, and not just as end users of the services, but also as a fundamental part of the supply chain. Customers need to be brought into the decision making and problem solving processes.

Overcoming uncertainties will depend on our customers trusting us. To do this, customer engagement needs to be embedded as business as usual not something we do to tick a box or comply with obligations.  As an industry, we need to be more agile, more flexible in how we approach our customers – adjusting to what customers want and not what we think is best. To get it right, we need to ask the right question, at the right time, in the right way – every time.

As our world changes, we, of course, need to be agile enough to embrace these changes. We, as an industry, need to be able to not only embrace new technology but create our own. When we talk about new technology, it needs to be both physical and digital. How do we handle big data, how do we use it?