The energy industry today is at a crossroads, and depending on one’s point of view, one might see either boundless opportunity or tumult and disruption.
Decarbonization is accelerating, digitization is reshaping our capacity to track and model the energy ecosystem in real time, and the trend toward devolution will continue to move power generation away from centralized monopoly suppliers.
Decarbonization, digitization and devolution have at least one thing in common: In each case, the supporting technologies will require fundamental digital transformations within all major industry players.
While new digital workflows and data capabilities may theoretically promise significant return on investment, that ROI will not be realized if the digital transformation is not enthusiastically embraced throughout the organization.
Many steering committees and program managers focus on technical progress and assume that exciting new innovations will sell themselves and naturally scale throughout the company. Because of this assumption, they do little to pave the cultural road that will socialize the new ways of working. This “build it and they will come” model is rarely successful. Rather, successful digital transformation in the energy industry requires sustained user engagement that begins early in the planning phase and extends past the go-live moment.
In particular, five crucial components of a user engagement strategy can help energy companies find success and avoid failure as they scale digital-first mindsets and workflows throughout their organizations.
With any transformation initiative, levels of enthusiasm will range from “Bring it on!” to “This will never work here.” To optimize the messaging and engagement, the program team needs to think of members of the organization as falling into three camps: the supporters, the neutrals (probably the majority) and the naysayers. A stakeholder map should be used to track which key stakeholders fall into each camp (this document should not be widely shared by the change manager, for obvious reasons). The stakeholder map serves as a guide for how and where to deploy specific types of messaging. Tracking the sentiments of every individual employee is certainly excessive; one recent digital transformation project successfully tracked the sentiments of all relevant team leaders, and below that level, developed personas to represent groups of affected users. While the core message should be consistent across the organization, different emphasis may be required depending on how the changes are perceived by various team leaders and user groups – hence the need for an engagement plan.
The engagement plan describes how the key groups of stakeholders will be informed and updated about progress and defines the messaging that the program wants to reinforce. When it comes to particularly critical stakeholders, plan for periodic one-on-one engagements, which ensure consistency of messaging and provide opportunities to develop rapport with key organizational influencers. For a large global energy company in which the transformation will affect operations in a specific region, this might mean one-on-one conversations with leaders in the field operations and production management teams, as well as stakeholders in central corporate functions, including the communications team. The engagement map should include a mechanism for tracking the status of each engagement, as well as a “heat map” that captures specific areas of concern and triggers urgent messaging activity.
Once the key stakeholders have been mapped and incorporated into an engagement plan, the program team should create a separate communications plan to present the digital transformation to the rest of the organization. This plan should capture all organization-wide channels that may be used – Yammer, email, Slack, team briefings, town halls, etc. – along with the key messages that need to be shared with a wide audience. Most importantly, the purpose of each message should be clearly defined. Is it meant to increase awareness, drive anticipation, impart knowledge or reinforce earlier messaging?
A Change Impact Assessment (CIA) is both one of the most important pieces of a digital transformation messaging strategy and, ironically, the one most frequently overlooked. In its simplest form, the CIA visualizes the implication of the resulting changes from an end user lens and determines what needs to happen to socialize and embed the proposed changes. The changes may require new training programs, project management tools and reporting structures. A CIA is best developed in a workshop setting that brings together technical, program and user resources stakeholders after the technical design work is completed. In one recent capital programs management transformation project, the CIA process included representatives from front-end engineering design, engineering management, data standards, contracts and procurement, and operational readiness – all of whom contributed unique perspectives and surfaced concerns that might not otherwise have been addressed.
A final – and, again, often overlooked – element of a digital transformation program is an assessment of business readiness. Ideally, this should take the form of a series of workshops scheduled about one month prior to go-live. The aim is to measure and track to closure the activities needed to ensure a successful go-live, and is a first step toward permanently embedding the new changes to ways of working. Remaining training needs and the delivery of go-live communication should receive careful attention, as should arrangements for resolution of end user queries and issues at go-live.
As energy sources and distribution ecosystems continue to evolve, the energy companies that seamlessly integrate new data-driven digital solutions will be the ones that seize the present moment and shape the future of energy in the 21st century. Yet even the most advanced digital solutions will make little difference if they are not rapidly and enthusiastically adopted throughout the company. While change management should not be seen as a “silver bullet,” focusing on the key elements of change management dramatically increases the probability that a digital transformation initiative will meet or even exceed expectations.
Talent & Change
Keith has successfully delivered a number of technology enabled transformation programs, the majority in the energy sector. His experience confirms his belief that addressing the people side of change is critical to achieving a sustained and cost-effective transformation.