Copperleaf Portfolio™ is now live at Affinity Water, the UK’s largest water-only supplier. Sarah Sayer, Investment Planning Manager at Affinity Water, and Cicely Striolo, Solutions Consultant at Copperleaf, share their thoughts on the portfolio planning challenges that prompted Affinity Water to look for a decision analytics solution, the implementation process, and the expected benefits.
Can you share a little bit about your roles?
Sarah: “I have oversight of our capital investment programme. I provide a link between our most recent business plan, the outcomes we committed to deliver, the investments needed to deliver those outcomes, and the management of emerging risks. I support our executives in making the best decisions for Affinity Water, our customers, and the environment—to make sure we spend our customers’ money wisely.”
Cicely: “I had the opportunity to wear two hats during this project: I carried out the project management duties for the Copperleaf team and acted as a senior consultant delivering the majority of the implementation. I had the pleasure of working directly with the Affinity team, which allowed me to learn more about their business needs so that we could deliver the best possible solution to meet these needs.”
What were your main goals for this project?
Sarah: “Our main goals were:
- To have one place to store all potential candidate investments, along with all potential solution options
- To be able to value everything on a common economic scale to understand the relative importance of different types of investments and to compare investments with different risk profiles and outcomes
- To help Affinity make the best possible decisions and deliver the greatest value for our customers
- And to stop using Excel to try to do these things!”
The Affinity team was fully engaged from day one. They were always prompt in responding to our requests and knew what they wanted to achieve. It was clear we were working with the right people in the organisation who had the knowledge and experience to be able to make decisions quickly and decisively throughout the entire project.
What were the key things you felt made the project successful?
Sarah: “We worked as a team! It was difficult to see where Affinity stopped and Copperleaf started. For me, this is a recipe for successful implementation of any new process or system. Also, the Copperleaf team was aligned with what Affinity needed—an investment planning and portfolio optimisation system. It was incredibly refreshing to work with a team that wasn’t trying to sell me things I didn’t want!”
Cicely: “The Affinity team was fully engaged from day one. They were always prompt in responding to our requests and knew what they wanted to achieve. It was clear we were working with the right people in the organisation who had the knowledge and experience to be able to make decisions quickly and decisively throughout the entire project. The other factor that contributed to the success and ease of this project is the fact that Copperleaf’s solution is truly an off-the-shelf product. It required very little modification to meet Affinity’s needs.”
Is there anything unique Affinity Water is doing with Copperleaf Portfolio?
Sarah: “We worked with Copperleaf to configure their library of common UK water value models and collaborated to develop a brand-new value model to evaluate low pressure. Having an extended value framework ensures that we are considering a much broader set of criteria into our CAPEX portfolio decisions, such as emerging risks and opportunities for Affinity Water.”
Were there any lessons learned?
Sarah: “What we learned is that if something is not quite right, or not right for now, feel free to speak up and query things with the Copperleaf team. Sourcing the data to create valuations showed us how we can think differently about creating business cases for projects. This is helping us recognise the data we will need to collect in the future. Also, get your best people involved in User Acceptance Testing. This helps to create challenging use-cases and scenarios and analyse the system outputs that prove the value the tool can provide. It made all the difference to have someone in our team who had done software UAT before!”
Cicely: “Communication is key and pacing is vital. I tried to remain adaptive and responsive during the entire implementation rather than mandating a one-size fits all approach to managing the project and our relationship within the team.”
What are the key benefits you think you’ll get out of implementing Copperleaf Portfolio?
Sarah: “I think there will be lots of benefits, but the key ones are:
- We now have a library of all investments. Team members enter candidate investments into the same system using a consistent format and common financial metrics to quantify risks, costs, benefits, opportunities, and/or needs.
- We can now compare apples, oranges and giraffes because everything is valued on a common economic scale. This allows us to consider the relative importance of different projects and make the best decisions about what to invest in.”
Copperleaf Portfolio delivers a significant step forward in our asset management maturity. Copperleaf Portfolio will also play a big role as we gear up for PR24, the next periodic review and asset management planning cycle with our regulator, Ofwat.
Investment Planning Manager
Have there been any other added benefits?
Sarah: “Other benefits include the opportunity to make investment planning a genuine business-as-usual activity, which is a huge process improvement. Also, the ability to link the Copperleaf solution with existing systems, such as Oracle Fusion which is used for capturing actual costs for live capital projects, allows us to understand variances that occur during execution, so that we can re-optimize the plan and adapt quickly.”
Cicely: “Getting to know Sara, Allan and the rest of the Affinity team!”
What’s next on your asset management journey?
Sarah: “Copperleaf Portfolio delivers a significant step forward in our asset management maturity. Copperleaf Portfolio will also play a big role as we gear up for PR24, the next periodic review and asset management planning cycle with our regulator, Ofwat.”
How would you describe the experience you had working with Copperleaf?
Sarah: “Much like Affinity Water, Copperleaf is small but perfectly formed! The Copperleaf team has been exceptional in our implementation journey, with flexibility to rival an Olympic gymnast, and determination to solve issues matched only by my colleagues in Affinity. It’s been an absolute pleasure working together!”
What’s one word you would use to describe what it was like working with Copperleaf?
Watch our webinar to learn more about Affinity Water’s story and how they are accelerating investment planning excellence.