By Ben Dickie, David Clark and Matt Turner
Northern Gas Networks are an award winning gas distribution company serving over 2.7 million homes and businesses in the North East, Northern Cumbria and much of Yorkshire. They're part of the global CKI family of businesses and employ just under 3000 people across the North of England.
NGN wanted to further build on its reputation for customer excellence, safety and efficiency, and their entrepreneurial and highly visionary CEO, Mark Horsley recognised this would require new and smarter ways of working, in particular unlocking a greater level or organisational agility and adaptability across the company.
Mark encouraged his senior leadership team to actively seek out and explore with HiveMind’s support more effective and efficient ways of achieving this through changes in ways of working, organisational design, new partner relationships, and enabling technologies.
Mark had no interest in pursuing the typical, slow moving and more often than not failed “transformation programme” route he recognised that newer more “evolutionary” ways of delivering change would work well in the NGN culture, a positive “can-do” culture he had spent two years prior to our involvement, shaping.
He knew that to take NGN to the next level of performance in terms of agility and effectiveness would require a mindshift in the way the NGN team worked. To help make this happen Mark appointed a new Innovation, Improvement and Information Director to the board, Dave Clark*.
Joining from the technology research firm Gartner and with a strong background in enterprise agility developed in .com’s, he was clear about how he wanted to revolutionise the way in which NGN delivered change. He was also clear that he didn’t want to use a traditional slow moving, high cost consulting partner to assist him, hence his engagement of HiveMind.
Prior to joining NGN David has already helped a number of his former colleagues in their thinking on the development of a more lightweight, affordable and agile consulting and delivery model, and with Mark’s backing and support, was able to provide the opportunity to test HiveMind’s capabilities in NGN.
DELIVERING ON THE AMBITION
From the outset David was clear that he wanted to up-skill and support people across the entire business in the application of agile techniques and thinking. NGN aren’t a fintech, or startup, they’re a heavyweight asset management company dealing with safety critical systems managed through carefully developed procedures, policies and processes. Changing something of this nature needs care and attention. Which meant applying a blend of different techniques; coaching, training, mentoring, advice, etc rather than just “bringing in the consultants” to build something and leave.
With a number of key projects already “in-flight” and following more traditional project management principles the decision was made to “intercept” a number of these projects and start to help people appreciate they could be delivered in a more iterative and agile way and at the same time act as a catalyst for change within NGN.
We embedded coaches across a number of multidisciplinary teams and customised and refined a number of different agile models to fit NGN’s culture and ways of working. Perhaps most importantly we worked hard with the NGN team to stop “agility” as being seen as a technology lead “thing”. With key business owners becoming actively involved in leading and managing value streams built around business capabilities. In addition to this we introduced the concept of “pace layering” to help create a modern and adaptive mindset based around risk and criticality.
TAKING A HOLISTIC PERSPECTIVE
NGN provides a perfect example of the HiveMind “Six Pillars” model, ie Purpose to portfolio, Organisational Effectiveness & Agility, Accelerated Solution Delivery, etc in that Mark (CEO) was able to bring together all these different elements to create an award winning business. Organisational Effectiveness & Agility was a significant part of the story, there were however other challenges which HiveMind helped NGN address as part of an overall shift in capabilities, including;
- Monolithic, hard to change, unresponsive IT systems,
- No system designed from the User Experience perspective,
- Frustrated colleagues, hampered by unresponsive old school IT function,
- Traditional approach to delivering projects,
- Silo’d thinking ie IT, HR, Ops, Finance, Communications, Procurement….little or no joined up working,
- High costs of technology, not reflected in performance and responsiveness
- All “smart thinking” outsourced from the IT function, totally reliant upon third party suppliers,
- Handful of large integrator suppliers with very high annual costs
- “Over the fence” mentality from a large majority of the business/operational users “it’s not our fault, it’s IT, it’s the supplier….”
- Fragmented and poor quality data requiring massive effort to process and understand,
- Low morale, no energy within a depleted and exhausted IT function,
- Outsourced help desk had become a byword for non-responsive and useless,
- No concept of what a modern digitally aware and savvy organisation could achieve.
In under 18 months NGN moved from an old fashioned, outsourced IT function to a modern high performance business change function with top down “Enterprise Agility”, whilst reducing IT costs by around 50%.
Across NGN the way in which an Idea is now brought from concept to operationwas radically improved and resulted in a more effective and efficient business performance.
Some of the highlights of the journey the supported NGN in, were;
- Introduced Enterprise Agility at a board level, introducing the concept of board level “stand ups” – to enable an agile and adaptive portfolio management process,
- Introduced the use of business capability driven value streams to help remove functional silo’s and barriers, this was a major and significant part of the success of the NGN work,
- Developing a comprehensive Customer strategy programme enabling the introduction of customer lead design and experience management principles,
- Delivered a CRM platform in twelve weeks and at a fraction of the original budget,
- Drove the in-sourcing of the external IT help desk and converting it into a “Colleague Care” team,
- Developed an IT service modernisation programme to reduce IT operating costs by around 50%,
- Coached and mentored NGN colleagues in how to deliver projects and programmes using agile delivery techniques including both kanban and scrum,
- Introduced and implemented “pace layering” for more rapid delivery of software enabled change and agile governance to support it,
- Development of a “Data Management” Strategy and plan,
- Personal coaching and mentoring for the CIO during this high speed, high intensity change
THE HIVEMIND TEAM SUPPORTING NGN
To achieve the level of change NGN sought to deliver, and all at a significant pace members from many different disciplines and background were involved;
Customer Experience specialists, agile architecture specialists, kanban/lean coaches, sourcing specialists, agile developers, information/data specialists, agile governance and risk management specialists. The team wasn’t all full time and NGN made use of the HiveMind Network flexible engagement model to call upon the people needed as and when needed, including short expert practitioner calls.
*Note – Dave Clark the CIO eventually joined HiveMind to lead its consulting capability
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