It was the “perfect storm” of opportunity. Three segments of the environment were changing at once - technology, the legal environment and the cost structure all converging.
This case study shows how a programmatic approach to change and the integration of practices and techniques enabled us to succeed.
The challenges occurred as we implemented a new way of handling basic work processes across a large corporation. The impact affected many departments and divisions. Managing change across large enterprises is always challenging, and this project was no exception. Like so many change efforts today, process improvements were enabled by a new computer-based information system. So this story is about change in people, process, and technology.
A certain image of local events was in the minds of Sunoco executive staff. They all remembered the devastation of September 11, 2001 and the World Trade Center. The loss of people, of course, is the real tragedy, but the thought of losing paper records and watching them fly down the streets of New York was also impactful.
There was also the high-rise office building fire in Philadelphia only three blocks away. The loss of their business records was also having Sunoco’s leadership team think about their whole records retention strategy and business resumption plans.
When we decided to move to a new office space, a quick calculation showed that we had
over 10,000 square feet committed to file drawers. This would cost over $3.3M over the 10-year term of the lease.
This alone became an economic incentive to examine our information storage and alternatives to save costs and improve internal processes.
The effort began with fact-finding as we discovered that our file drawers contained both valuable records needed to operate the business along with infrequently used records. We also learned that information was out of date and/or difficult to determine the latest versions. We also looked at other paper-based records at our remote offices and off-site storage facilities.
The team reviewed policies and legal requirements to determine what could be stored off-site or tossed out. We found that some information storage was necessary, but could be done in alternative ways.
Bottom line was that 15% could be tossed out, 50% was suitable for remote storage and about 35% was needed to perform current transactional business. Of the 50% suitable for remote storage, the bulk of this was legal requirements such as contract and invoices that could be scanned and accessed electronically.
For the 35% of active documents, we needed to examine how each document was used and how it fit in the workflow. Part of this included minimizing the need for documents to ever go into file cabinets after the transaction was complete.
Each item needed a plan for change including process change, the people impact and technical solution. Details included the desk procedure level for the department and overall workflow to the organization..
Sponsorship and the Business Case
The primary key was to establish the level of sponsorship needed to drive the significant amount of change. This involved several senior executives to assure that all stakeholders were aligned and satisfied with the approach and timing of the change. They were also responsible for ensuring that the organization could achieve both the economic and operational benefits desired.
The first key sponsor was the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) who had a large number of affected departments. These teams would assure that the economic benefit case was solidly constructed and credible.
In Sunoco, there is also a Senior Vice-President of Administration who is responsible for many of the staff groups. This includes the facility group responsible for space and buildings along with other affected departments such as Health & Safety, Purchasing, Risk Management and the CIO and technology groups.
There was also the SVP of Legal who had teams involved with the Corporate Secretary, and the Records Management & Compliance Groups.
Forming a “coalition of the willing” and establishing a steering committee was part of the challenge in initiating our change management program.
The senior executive staff was willing to rally behind a single senior business leader to oversee the day-to-day change effort, and that person was the VP of Procurement Services. This was the right person to work with the community since he had a strong background in organizational development as well as negotiating and business process improvement. He was recognized as an agent of change and shrewd business person.
We established a project office that included representatives from each of the business areas, and then began doing the work necessary to validate sponsorship down to the department level.
A basic set of change impact assessments, stakeholder analysis, engagement steps and communication plans were developed. Each group worked to validate the work processes, and then identify the volumes and level of effort to put together our business case parameters.
This initial work created a lot of organizational buzz and handling the churn of information became a major challenge. A concerted effort was placed on assuring each group that due diligence would be paid to each element of the change. This enabled the team to create enough detail for the business case to be compelling for the sponsors, and to assure each operational and staff group that their requirements would be fully understood with appropriate solutions to meet their requirements. It was about balancing the pure ‘business’ economics, with the people and culture issues of change.
The next challenge was to incorporate the right mix of change management practices, project management and business analysis practices to handle the need of each department. Although this was managed at the highest level as one major program, at the ground level, each department and each work process was a separate component of work. Blending these different functions with their separate practices was really the key to a successful business outcome.
Each department and each work process was analyzed for its overall work flow, its use of document life cycle, and what the ‘as is’ and the ‘to be’ solution would look like. Each form was examined, each document type analyzed, and each workflow carefully reviewed to determine what level of electronic automation was suitable. User requirements were documented, and classic business analysis techniques applied. The objective was to understand what change would be recommended for the process and how best to use technology to support the process change.
A change readiness assessment was used to determine how best to prepare the organization. This was performed in careful coordination with the stakeholders and their management teams. Each of these in turn drove a work breakdown, and a work plan for the project to proceed once approved. This level of business engagement was critical to our success.
Dealing with resistance to change was another component the teams focused on. For most departments, the paper-based processes they were using had been in place for most of their careers. IT systems were often used but not well understood. In some cases, work processes did not fully synchronize with manual process and with the way work was performed.
Changing from paper to a mix of paper, and mostly electronic based processes, was a dramatic and significant change. It meant changes in job descriptions re-establishing performance and service level expectations.
Like a major highway construction project, the culture needed to accept that there would be a lot of “temporary inconvenience” for long-term improvements. Added to this was the fact that the entire company was physically moving to a new office space with a completely open floor space. Our culture was destined for upheaval.
The key to meeting the second challenge is really a story about integration. We often ‘stovepipe’ our solutions and manage change within only one aspect of a function. In this case, we needed to look at an integrated approach across disciplines to achieve business outcomes the organizational changes needed.
Transitioning from project to operations
Since the program affected many departments, employees and work processes, changes were delivered in many steps rather than in a “big bang” approach. As a set of components were identified, analyzed, designed and built, stored files were sent to be scanned and the new transactions began. This meant that each component had to be constantly transitioned from project phase to operational phase in a very short timeframe. To keep the business running smoothly, we had to turnaround document processing very quickly.
To handle the extremely high volume of several departments’ concurrent needs, it was necessary to use an outsourced industrial scale scanning center located in Arkansas. We engaged a trucking firm to box up and move truckloads of documents from Philadelphia to the scan center. The new transactional documents then needed to be available online, or if they were still required by the workflow to be rendered into print, and processed.
New business transactions were locally scanned in the new building and each new transaction type tested and processed in accordance with the newly defined processes and records management policy.
The third challenge, then, was about a continuous stream of change in small increments. This allowed people to focus their attention at one set of changes before moving onto the next. It is a practical example of incremental change over a complex problem similar to an agile solution approach.
The overall approach was to develop a new set of practices that could work across the area of project management, business analysis, and change management.
The complexity was significant and quite different from other transformational change efforts we experienced. Formal business analysis techniques were used extensively to assure that requirements for process change were well understood and well documented. Good visualization tools and strong requirements management gave the stakeholders confidence in the quality of the changes proposed.
One positive element that was unexpected was the time pressure of the physical move. The new floor plans simply did not have space for file cabinets. So a certain element of resistance to change was pragmatically overcome.
Another parameter was the executive decision to terminate our contract with our form publishing firm and move all forms to a print-on-demand basis.
For many stakeholders, these “givens” were effective drivers to help expedite change.
Communicating our new Records and Information Management policy was achieved by using the company intranet. Here we showed the entire process and new requirements for record keeping, compliance, and even required keywords. This was accompanied by “best evidence” rules, which clarified some of the mistaken beliefs in what was legally required.
Meanwhile, down at the actual department level, each work process was analyzed by our team of business analyst’s and a specific set of practical steps developed for what would happen with the stored files and each transaction.
The entire process of blending the business analysis techniques, with the change management practices was linked into a newly created set of project management practices. This in turn was leveraged for other large and complex business problems and created a new practice model for driving out organizational transformation efforts.
Critical Success Factors
Throughout the initiative, sponsors were committed to the objectives and were kept informed both by the project team and by line managers reporting to them.
A number of communications channels were established, but most important was the face-to-face monthly staff meetings.
In these sessions, the lead business executive reported key project deliverables and plans. Face-to-face is always more personal and creates a better dynamic and issues were discussed and resolved quickly. During the sessions, our executive consistently stressed that the initiative was about more than just changing work processes – it was about changing our culture from an old ‘paper-based’ way of doing business, to a new highly efficient way of working to provide faster service. This created a personal imperative for ‘ownership’.
Stakeholders at the middle management level were coming at the problem from both the human organizational level (for a specific department), and the ‘process owner’ level. This group of middle managers wanted to be successful, but they also had day-to-day jobs with quotas, performance goals and service levels to meet. Disruptions to their operations created risk, and generally this group is risk averse.
To deal with any “resistance”, the team made an effort to address their concerns about fully understanding their work process. Communications were directly with managers and their affected staff. Each individual was made to feel that their voice counted, and no reasonable concern was left unaddressed. Everyone knew they were empowered to ‘pull the emergency stop cord’ and bring effort on that element to a halt until the issue was resolved.
A series of briefings were held with each participant to fact-find, validate requirements, and eventually provide training at a detailed process level. This gave each worker a sense of control over their own destiny. They were also given direct access to the implementation team, and did not rely on impersonal communications only. While the teams used email, most of the real work was done in these small group settings with affected stakeholders.
Communications & Training
As with any project, communications was a key success factor. The difference on this project was that communications about change impacts were broken down and delivered during the small working sessions rather than large, broad communications. Granular and focused communications, delivered personally in small group meetings, was the key communication strategy at the stakeholder level. Training followed this format as well.
Other supporting aspects included bringing the IT team in to work with individuals who were not computer literate. Since the new approach was computer-based, IT helped by making sure the basics were covered. Managers ensured they sent the right people to the right level of training.
The Physical Environment
Another aspect that was very important to people was recognizing that their new offices had significantly less space. Not only were there no file cabinets, but each person’s workspace was substantially smaller.
The upside was that the furniture was new and more centered around a computer as the primary work tool. Even paper storage in the work area was minimized. This knowledge contributed to every employee’s sense of moving work into their computer. It was a chance to clean up, streamline and become more efficient. People were committed to create less paper, reduce copies and be part of a new way of doing business. It made sense and everyone was made to feel they had a part to play.
There are many ways to change culture in an organization, but it all comes from the top and ultimately has to reach the foundational working levels of the organization. Many change initiatives fall short of their objectives because they feel piecemeal, or like ‘the program of the day’. The initiatives do not have a sense of durability that is implicit in culture.
Our initiative seemed different because it was tied to many obvious changes around a new building, around more ergonomically efficient work spaces, and around reducing waste and our dependency on paper. On top of that, the economics were obvious. The need for change seemed pretty compelling. The risk appetite was right, and acknowledgement of the need for change was all present across all levels of the organization. Timing is everything, and in the case worked in our favor.
To further support the change, integrating key concepts of the disciplines was critical. People, process, and technology had to be balanced and lined-up. Recognizing that the people impact was not all positive was also an important element around shifting culture. At its core, the initiative focused on doing more with less. Our strategy purposely focused on the people who were affected. We wanted to improve work, but we didn’t use a bulldozer approach. We aimed to be granular enough to allow each process and each person to directly interact with the new solution. It was beyond the normal ‘show and go’ of so many initiatives.
Another important aspect on this initiative was to establish a multi-function team. The team was not multiple specialists, but rather a mix of business analyst, project leader and change manager skills all within same person. Specific roles switched depending on the task. In this manner, team members played multiple roles and functional experts coached team members. The lead was primarily a business analyst, and deep functional support was provided by specialists on a consultative basis. A robust mix of project management, business analysis and change management tools and practices were all used.
This initiative followed a traditional approach to the change management process. The business case was developed during the project initiation and included change impact and organizational readiness assessments. During the project design phase, the change management strategy was embedded into the entire approach. The sponsorship strategy came first, and was subsequently supported by the stakeholder engagement and communication strategy that fit into the overall project plan. Change impact and readiness was then extended down into at each task level with a tailored development and learning process for each element of the organization.
Integrating the change management plan within the overall project plan allowed feedback loops to verify the effectiveness of the plan during execution. This was built in at every level of the review and helped drive acceptance of our work efforts. At Sunoco every large spend initiative triggers a complete post-audit, and an evaluation of outcomes, costs, and benefits. Using this comprehensive review, this project was successful on all measures.
A complex transformational effort in the modern workplace is often tied to technology. It’s hard to conceive of business process change that does not involve some form of technology.
This case study is a classic example of how advances in technology in forms, document and content management along with on-line portal and intranet all were components used in the solution. Elements of change management were also key to the transformation. Creating a strong and durable partnership with the sponsoring executives and with the key stakeholders was critical. The human relationships, and trust in those relationships, was strengthened with good communications plans, transparent governance, and all based on a solid and well understood business case.
The key to the success at the project level was also around engaging a strong set of players from the business, from the IT community, from the vendor partners and from the support groups involved.
Creating a solid plan that integrated project management, business analysis, change management and vendor integration from project through to operations was important to the business outcome of the effort.
The move was very successful, and the organization learned to live without its paper dependency. While there is still a lot of paper used and copiers still do exist, papers are no longer filed. They are read, used for their specific purpose and then disposed of. Overall, Sunoco’s paper use has been reduced by over 50%.
As for the physical move and the new space, it is now the new normal. No offices and no doors are just and accepted facts, and teams still use workrooms with doors for meetings.
The acceptance of going paperless, and using scanned images, is also the new normal.
People like solving problems faster, and have learned that they can find more, and find it faster on their computers, than they could ever do before. This matters most to our external customers. The biggest new ‘side-effect’ is the transparency of information. But with transparency comes issues of security, and that is the topic of another paper for sure.
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