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Case Study: Fueling Change in the IT Department of a Utility Company

Case Study: Fueling Change in the IT Department of a Utility Company

How can the technology department of a utility company become a driver of change in the organization?

 

The energy utility industry is long-tenured, regulated, and pressured to change. Technology can be a useful tool for improved affordability, reliability, and sustainability. Still, a CIO at a major energy utility company was facing a difficult challenge – readying his IT department with some significant barriers to positive change:

  • Previous layoffs left remaining employees overworked, fearful of their positions, and distrusting of leadership
  • Frequent changes in leadership and direction leave many to ‘wait it out and hope it passes.’
  • Partial adoption of change plans, like Agile
  • Work from home, with poor meeting engagement, 2x the meetings, and limited cross-department visibility or relationships.

The CIO recognized that readying their people for change and upskilling would help to reduce total costs and improve retention, customer satisfaction, and project velocity. He wanted to position IT to take a more proactive and strategic role in the organization.

Together, we realized that the culture would have to change. Employees were disengaged and distrusting, and senior leadership needed to make sweeping changes to address these pain points.

 

Scope of Work

Our role was identifying and bridging the gaps between the IT department and the company’s C-level leadership. This involved a thorough gap analysis and action plan, creating coordination across projects and vendors to deliver a cohesive message to employees, and collaborating on training and communications content. The ultimate goal was to improve internal communications within the team and set them up for success in the next phase of digital transformation:

  • Conduct employee interviews and develop personas by segment to understand needs and concerns.
  • Develop baseline metrics: employee reviews, Glassdoor ratings, social media comments, internal surveys, and Sharepoint and Teams engagement.
  • Create a communications plan and set up and optimize channels: Enhance Sharepoint to improve usage and user functionality in the existing tech stack for email automation and training.
  • Generate vision, key messages
  • Design training tools and content for managers to overcome employee resistance to change, engage in constructive conflict, and give actionable feedback.

The CTO plays a strategic role in driving change, from digital transformation and AI/ML to agile to smart metering and ERP upgrades. Are your people ready?

Change Readiness Scorecard


KPIs for IT in Utilities

One of the challenges in this project was a lack of metrics. Because the organization was striving to move to data-driven decision-making, there needed to be more baseline metrics. Based on available baseline data, we were able to identify people-focused KPIs as near-term milestones. These KPIs help measure progress toward a productive and healthy organization of growth-minded people, providing cost-effective and strategic support to internal customers.

Our work within the IT organization yielded significant changes in upskilling (+194%) and organizational health (72% improved satisfaction).

Picture5

This IT organization is on track for a 5x ROI from these change management efforts by year-end, based on:

  • Reduced turnover
  • Labor savings from faster adoption of automation
  • Total savings: $609,900/year

ROI will be increased when considering the ripple effect of:

  • Reducing the tech debt: savings in licensing costs through improved requirements, earlier involvement in decision-making
  • Lifecycle labor cost savings, assuming a 5 to 10-year technology lifecycle
  • Labor savings of automation in other departments, such as accounting, communications, and field operations

Lessons Learned

Launch Team worked with the senior leadership team and managers in a broad range of activities to address a range of pain points, which included:

  • Fear of further layoffs
  • Ambivalence and disengagement
  • Poor communications
  • Over-capacity teams without clear priorities or support
  • Lack of empowerment or clarity in decision-making
  • Brain drain: high turnover, lack of knowledge transfer, documentation, self-serve resources, or cross-training
  • Lack of visibility to the broader organization or other teams

Picture6

Core Principles That Drove Success

  • Listen first: We conducted interviews to follow up on an employee survey. 127 people agreed to speak confidentially.
  • Set baseline and target KPIs. Measure your progress and adjust.
  • Create change agents and champions.
  • Build cross-function relationships. By forming a manager cohort, a confidential peer group, and moderating discussions and resources on topics chosen to meet the needs of their teams.
  • Streamline and prioritize by proposing changes to the leadership team. This will empower managers and employees and refocus their energy on activities that drive results.

While we have achieved significant progress against initial KPIs, real change will require a sustained commitment by leadership to culture change, consistent transparency, and an organization-wide shift to a growth mindset that rewards successes and learns from mistakes.

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