In late May of 2012, I completed a study on utility field workforce entitled Utility Field Workforce on the Go—How Mobility is Shaking Out. The research examines how utilities are maturing in their use of mobile workforce solutions (WMS) to support field workers. It points out how utilities can derive extensive benefits based on the abilities of MWS to fundamentally realign and redesign business process on many levels. However, the report notes the caution utility executives take in approaching MWS and how they struggle to align field operations with an increasingly mobile world. Why?
The struggle begins with the dichotomy between vendor solutions and utility process that often rears its head late (and after) the RFP process:
- In terms of how vendors are developing and positioning their solutions, modern MWS are increasingly built to address fluid "what if" work scenarios where continual change, and good management of it, is necessary to drive ongoing operational improvement.
- On the other hand, utilities, typically a generation or two behind the maturity curve for mobility, often compartmentalize work by job type and support it with linear processes.
If utilities wish to fully realize the benefits provided by MWS, they will need to embrace change management as a daily and ongoing reality of their work environment. So far, it's proved to be particularly daunting for an industry historically slow to adopt change.
Why? Because when it comes to change management, utilities often make the following miscalculations:
- Organizational development or project management is mistaken for change management. Even in utilities with operational change management (OCM), these dedicated resources exist to move people from one technology, process or job to another. Unfortunately, that approach focuses too much downstream on "what needs to be done" versus change management, which addresses "what should be done."
- Failing to go beyond training and communication. Change is personal and individuals absorb it at different rates. Too often, the training and communication is too short in duration, too focused on a singular objective and too traditional in methodology and it becomes a matter of time until employees, dissatisfied with what the change has meant to them, begin to work around the solution.
- Not understanding that return on investment requires commitment to change far beyond go live. Utility industry business cases are some of the most thorough when it comes to outlining return on investment. Interestingly enough, that commitment to demonstrating up-front ROI isn't often seen through thoroughly on the back end, with even the most progressive utilities measuring return for only a relatively short time. As a result, ROI is measurable only to that point, which skews the return outlined in the business case.
These miscalculations in change management are damaging enough when the technology solutions in question are far less open ended than MWS. It's not surprising that utilities often find MWS too disruptive and/or are forced to use a very limited amount of solution capabilities. That's hardly a blueprint for sound investment.
Without first committing to managing ongoing change, utilities will find MWS no better and probably a little worse when stacked up against other tactical operational support tools. However, the utilities that do get it right, by first embracing the idea that change is going to come and keep coming, will find these solutions are real strategic gateways to better enterprise views of what an optimized business looks like.
To view the study upon which this post is based, please visit Utility Field Workforce on the Go-How Mobility is Shaking Out.