This special interest group covers mobile technologies and approaches that are helping utilities do business today. 


You need to be a member of Energy Central to access some features and content. Please or register to continue.


Tactical but Strategic – Progressively introduce technology change to your office teams and field crews

image credit: Dusk Mobile purchased from Shutterstock

This week I take a look at how to progressively introduce technology change to your office teams and field crews.

Many of us have heard of “phased approach” or “big bang” with launching of software projects. For those that haven’t, a phased approach being incrementally introducing change e.g. one region at a time, one depot at a time, one shift at time, even one business unit or business process at a time. There are many ways to do it and numerous benefits in doing so.

The big bang approach is centered around a point in time and using that to differentiate between the old world and the new world. This could be actual time, e.g. June 30, month end, contract termination or commencement amongst others. The idea is everyone involved gets onboard at the same time. There are many benefits to this approach also.

One of the big challenges with digitization and the introduction of new technology, is the step change from the as is, through to the, to be. Bridging this divide is critical to success of the project.

So how do you approach change management when introducing new technology?

Here are the 3 most common scenarios that consideration should be given to:

  1. Are you digitizing a new process that was previously paper? E.g. forms
  2. Are you digitizing a net new process where previously there was nothing? e.g. newly awarded project
  3. Are you digitizing a previously digitized solution on legacy hardware or software? E.g. system change

Based on the familiarity of your teams with technology change, one option is to progressively introduce change. So, I’m going to explore the most common of those 3 scenarios, number 1, digitizing a paper process. Using an incremental approach to achieve a consistent baseline can de-risk a project.

Here’s some best practice suggestions on ensuring success:

  1. Gather the facts – Who is doing what, how are they doing it and why are they doing it?
  2. Engage and Analyse the gathered facts – Work with business Subject Matter Experts and process analysts
  3. Workshops (virtual or physical) to shadow the role – Lots of information can be found from observation.
  4. Change familiarity – does your organisation have a track record of successful change management or a strong relationship with a 3rd party who do?
  5. Technology – does your nominated vendor provide a means to deliver in an incremental approach?
  6. Time to make change – How long do you have to make the change?

Whether you have 5 locations or 50 locations, the chances are that the same process is conducted differently somewhere between them. This could be as simple as different colours between internal staff, external staff and equipment. Or it could be more complex with some teams using bespoke spreadsheets, whereas others are using paper or any other means (including chalk board, whiteboard or verbal).

Trying to bring together the same underlying business process into a consistent technology platform via these differences can introduce un-necessary risk to the overall success of the project. I’d go as far as saying, I have seen many of these types of projects fail or not deliver the full anticipated benefits, as some locations can’t or won’t come onboard.

So, what can you do about this?

If your Change Management team start by introducing a consistent baseline technology to start with e.g. spreadsheets. This introduces familiarity to your teams and has them singing from the same hymn sheet. Same colours, names, look and feel, just consistent.

This approach does add time to a digital transformation journey but increases the likelihood of success for the end game. If you’re already using consistent spreadsheets, proceed straight to the next section!

From this newly achieved baseline, these spreadsheets can be more easily imported or replicated into a software solution.

This takes your teams on a journey and the easy to use functionality can be applied both within your business and across your customers and suppliers. If you’ve got teams who receive daily spreadsheets from customers, discuss with those customers on having them upload the spreadsheets directly.

The final stage is full integration and automation between customers, suppliers, office and field staff.

Thoughts welcomed on what has or hasn't worked in your mobile workforce transformation journey!


Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 17, 2020

One of the big challenges with digitization and the introduction of new technology, is the step change from the as is, through to the, to be. Bridging this divide is critical to success of the project.

This is a great way to put it, Alan. Do you think part of the resistance internally may come from the makeup of utility workforces which are known to be more heavily tilted towards long-time, career employees rather than the more frequently turned over and maybe even younger workforces of other industries? If the decision makers and managers are people who have been in the organization for many years, they are more likely to want to keep doing things the way they always have, right? 

Alan King's picture
Alan King on Aug 17, 2020

Thanks for the question @Matt, a great one.

Certainly an area of resistance does come from the makeup of the long term workforce of men and women, who are skilled at their jobs and perform their work successfully. This can lead into a KPI conversation also with misaligned KPI's between business units or management levels but I won't go into that one here! 

Using digitization as an example, it's not that the job is being performed badly or even unsafely necessarily, it's the ability to capture more information to make better decisions. 

I can appreciate the level of confidence and comfort that comes with the ability to turn up to work and do the job well. To have that altered is a big deal and over the years I've been fortunate to see many projects in mobile workforce succeed but a number fail, including through change management. It's one of the reasons why I'm such an advocate for supporting those going through the change if they are expected to adopt the new world.

Thanks again!

Alan King's picture

Thank Alan for the Post!

Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »