Atlanta-based Southern Company, a leading utility provider in the southeast United States, is valued by its 4.4 electricity customers for its excellent service, and it ranks as Fortune magazine’s “most admired” company in its industry. That means quality is important in everything the company does. When David Traynor, business excellence manager at the company, was charged with implementing a new enterprise change management (ECM) site, he knew its key users, employees in the IT department, would scrutinize the new system and be very critical if anything didn’t work exactly as it should.
The projected investment for the ECM was in the seven figures range, but the business case was straightforward. The justification was based on the savings in time and costs from reduced meetings and the ability to devote more attention to risky projects. The IT department was handling over seven thousand change requests a year, each of which required a time-consuming approval process no matter how small or routine the change was. Each change request needed to be approved at one of the three hour-long review committee meetings that were held each week. Some Frustrated employees were even starting to circumvent the approval process. Clearly something had to be done. But even though the ECM had clear benefits, the IT department was not eager to work on a system that didn’t promise to be very exciting. Further installing the ECM promised to markedly change the way the IT folks performed their work. “They had to log all their changes, gain approval, take all these steps that they weren’tbeing tasked with before,” said Traynor.
The department selected BMC’s Remedy software suite after spending six months designing the new process. Next came ten months to customize the systems and seven months to build them. The first ECM phase was rolled out in August 2010. Surprisingly, the new system produced even more change requests than before-almost 3,000 additional ones each year. Traynor reasoned that, before the ECM was switched on, a lot of changes must have been processed without any review. That was problematic given that about eight of ten requested projects have at least some monthly (rather than three times weekly) and deals only with emergency changes and high-risk changes that could affect critical sites or many users. Routine change requests are pre-approved using standard formats.
Traynor hadn’t spent much time getting buy-in from the IT department during the first phase of the ECM project. He now believes he should have started the ECM communication and training effort much sooner in the first phase. The second phase of the implementation, the incident and problem management system, was done differently. Traynor appointed “ambassadors” from each IT unit as before but this time they participated from the very first day of the second phase of the project. Traynor encouraged them to talk with the IT employees in their unit, so they were not playing catch-up as they had been in the first phase. Rather, the on it… We get a lot of mileage from [the ambassador].” Traynor wants them to learn the ECM and play a major role in training and testing the system. He adds, “The hope is that [they]… become the go-to person after we go live.”