No one likes change
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- Jul 30, 2019 1:26 pm GMT
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There, I said it. I'll say it again. No one likes change. We may promote publicly that we all support change management efforts, but a small part of us likes doing things the same way we always have -- because that is the path of least resistance.
Recently I met with a large audience of seasoned utility professionals from a distribution power company who were evaluating vendors for a new GIS system. This was a multi commodity utility, so they had representatives from electric, gas, water and fiber in attendance. As most technical presales meetings go, the first look demonstration focus was on how the vendor's software can perform various utility workflows. Everyone was enamored by the shiny object with all of its bells and whistles.
But this utility wasn't just window shopping and kicking tires. They have starting their journey down the path of selecting a new system to model their assets for operations. Instead of just being content by knowing what new widgets are on the market, the end users really wanted to know how the software could perform their workflows. Parallel to that, the managers and directors want the group to think outside of the box about the world of possibility and not be confined to the way work is performed today. That is not to say that there are not progressive thinkers in the field or managers who oppose change, but for the most part users have a job to do and want to know how software can make that job easier.
This is where the vendor must shift from selling software to consulting how the software can be used. It is a delicate tight rope act of opening doors to a new way of thinking, while being respectful of tried and true practices that have been in place for a long time. This isn't as simple as uttering the words "have you considered doing it this way" followed by a canned demonstration that disregards that utilities best practices. It actually starts long before the meeting ever begins.
The best way to get buy in from the users and the managers about change, is to start by asking questions about current work day practices. I have been doing this for years by meeting weeks in advance with the utility and getting to know how they do business. This means guiding them through a series of questions as to document the day to day work, as well as the exceptions. People take pride in their work and by showing genuine interest in them, they will always make the time to help you understand what they do on a daily basis. This meeting is all about how the work is done today, including what they like and invariably, what they don't like. No solutions are suggested at this time -- it is 100% listening.
The take away for me is usually dozens of pages of notes to decipher over the following few days. The challenge is then to build a demonstration that still follows many of their current day processes, but streamlines certain aspects to make their lives easier. If we really are all about finding the path of least resistance, then if I can show someone how software can enable them to perform a task with less clicks, or to produce more total work in a given day, then I have earned their trust and they are willing to accept change. That doesn't mean that everyone has bought into the change, but if you can open the eyes of a few people, then the change becomes contagious. Instead of everyone fighting the change, people want to jump on the bandwagon as to not be left behind.
How do we support or GET BEHIND change? By getting IN FRONT of change. We acknowledge that change can be hard, but keep an open mind about the fact that just because we have done things a certain way for a hundred years does not mean that it is the correct or most efficient way of doing it. GIS software should be configurable enough to match existing workflows, but be robust enough to revolutionize how data is kept, maintained and shared with the enterprise. The utility is not looking for another system that will do the exact same thing they do today. They want to know what is possible and how the software can pay for itself very quickly.
GIS software has continued to evolve over time but is also in a mature state. Each vendor offers their own way model data where some prefer logical connectivity maintained in a database, whereas others opt for graphical connectivity. But for the most part, all vendors are able to check the majority of boxes for requirements. The difference in vendors is their experience and ability to understand utility workflows -- then to apply this experience by demonstrating how software can meet their needs today, while opening the door to tomorrow with a better way to perform a task. Vendors can be agents of change for a utility but only after the trust is earned.
Change is hard. But when you are willing to be a part of change, and accept that it will take effort to learn new ways of thinking, it truly can be a magical experience. I am excited to be working with this utility as they navigate their journey of change toward a brighter tomorrow.