Enterprise Change Management At Southern Company

Atlanta‐based Southern Company , a leading utility provider in the southeast United States, is valued by its 4.4 million 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, the company ’ s business excellence manage, was charged with implementing a new enterprise change management (ECM) suite, 55 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 7,000 change requests a year, each of which required a time‐consuming approval process no matter how small or routine it 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 suite 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 suite 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’t being tasked with before,” said Traynor. The department selected BMC ’s Remedy software suite after spending 6 months designing the new process. Next came 10 months of customizing the systems and 7 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 8 of 10 requested projects have at least some level of risk, and 100% require resources to complete. Now the change advisory board meets 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 preapproved 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.

Traynor encouraged them to talk with the IT employees in their unit so the employees were not playing catch‐up as they had been in the first phase. Rather, the ambassadors were actively involved in designing system changes: “They ’ ve put their fingerprints on it. . . . We get a lot of mileage from [the ambassadors].” 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.”


Q.) Assess Southern ’s ECM system on the four dimensions of project success. How successful do you think this project is?

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