Back in January, OVO energy acquired SSE Energy Services (SSE plc’s household energy and services business). The merging of their marketing and communications teams has been a story of success thanks to a period of digital transformation with help from Optima. As a result, OVO has been able to deliver enhanced customer experiences and foster a more collaborative, creative in-house environment.
On day three of the Festival of Marketing 2020, Jada Balster, VP of Marketing at Workfront, spoke to Richard Farquhar, Head of Marketing Transformation at OVO Energy, and Ali Crawley, Transformation Director at Optima Partners, to find out how their processes have changed and what this means for the energy company in the short and long term.
Life before digital transformation
Life before digital transformation at SSE Energy Services, and before the acquisition, contained plenty of siloed teams, and unclear roles and responsibilities which stopped teams from succeeding as well as they could have done. But despite the preconception of stark differences between SSE Energy Services and OVO Energy, the skills, technology and values of the two brands harmonised well, argued Farquhar.
“[There was] lots of speculation, I think, around OVO at the time being very technically advanced, very, very focused on their brand and a much newer company, a much more nimble company compared to SSE.”
“Coming into the early discovery phases when the teams started to join together, what was quite reassuring… was that we realised that we complement each other quite nicely. So, from a technical point of view [SSE Energy Services was] in a really good place actually, and in some cases quite a bit further ahead in our maturity and evolution than the equivalent OVO teams were.”
He also acknowledges the “fairly shaky base” SSE Energy Services started out on at the beginning of its digital transformation journey. As a company, its “strategy [was] completely disconnected from [its] delivery and execution”, he explains, and there was very little data-driven insight informing its strategy.
First and foremost, in order to reorganise its processes, this base needed to be stabilised and a business case for change was outlined.
Identifying the most important aspects of change management
Optima’s Ali Crawley outlined the four key attributes of change management:
- Creating a strong commercial case – how the transformation will help save or make money for the business
- The burning platform – highlight the current issues with the platforms and processes at your organisation
- Identify where you’re heading – understand what changes need to be made to business operations in order to achieve key goals
- Coalition of change – what do you need to create the change? Which teams, what kind of budget and buy-in? Come together as a group to make it happen.
The transformation process
Digital Transformation requires a company to make massive changes that span technology, business structure and working processes to streamline or modernise workflows and, by extension, outputs.
Crawley explains that Optima helped to organise workstreams and data at OVO, and moved creative and development roles away from admin-based work towards driving innovation.
“For us, the big focus and drive was, ‘we need to work really hard at flipping that round and find out exactly why that’s happening.’”
Farquhar outlines other ways that the company was wasting time and resources, including spending too much time in meetings and calls trying to understand what they were trying to execute, as well as not using data efficiently enough to drive insights.
To counter this, the brand developed tools such as templates for easier creative tasks to allow teams to spend greater time on major projects. Trust and autonomy was nurtured among OVO employees, which ultimately grew empathy between teams and broke down longstanding silos.
“People’s work was invisible, it was off to the side, it was off the radar and this put it straight back on the map… each of the teams could empathise with each other and understood what their role in the overall system was.”
Image: Festival of Marketing.
The effect on creative processes and output
Farquhar explains how he saw 40-50% improvement points across “all key measures”, including utilisation, creative throughput and effectiveness, by removing a lot of friction points that had been previously identified, as well as adopting new behaviours.
“Our creative teams feel an awful lot more empowered, they feel that they have more space and I think… a lot of it is about how the teams feel once they have these tools at their disposal.
“… It’s quite important to take a look back around and just check in that what you’ve done has actually made a difference for individuals.”
Externally, customer satisfaction has become increasingly better too, he concludes.
From an output perspective, Crawley also says he is very happy, “I think it’s been very successful because we’ve had a very collaborative approach from the beginning… The people that were, in some ways, subject to change actually led their change.”
The changes were also felt by senior directors at OVO.
“Our Operations Director… he gets a more efficient, leaner function in terms of throughput, in terms of investment… The Marketing Director sees her team much more zoned in on, and connected to, strategic imperatives and the work being much more transparent.” Farquhar notes.
Consequently, he has witnessed teams being more positive and engaged, as well as more confident in peer to peer conversations, particularly where measurement against objectives is required.
Setting up for future success
How will the changes that have taken place impact the company going forward into 2021 and beyond? Both the panelists agree that there are exciting times ahead for OVO Energy, with focus around the further integration of technology, personalisation of the customer experience and work on tackling climate change.
Crawley explains he is working on implementing technology in innovative ways in order to help OVO’s in-house creative team to achieve some pioneering output going into 2021. His goal is to leverage people and processes together without causing disruption to the usual production activity.
“… [A] big thing right now that we’re working on as we speak is the connection between, Workfront, Adobe Creative Cloud and Jira to actually enable a project that otherwise wouldn’t be able to happen in such a smooth way.”
Meanwhile, Farquhar explains the wider opportunities digital transformation has presented for the OVO Energy brand in the future.
“One of the things we’re starting to look at, by way of a vision, is never missing a moment to serve or to sell.
“… As we step forward into customer decisioning and much higher degrees of personalisation we’ve now got a… solid ecosystem of technologies [and] a really collaborative team that sits on top of that.”
He also highlights the brand’s Plan Zero mission statement, a scheme to help tackle climate change from within the organisation.
“That gives us a real sense of purpose, and with all of those solid foundations and mechanisms in place, it gives our creative team lots of headspace to focus on that as a business challenge… I don’t think historically we would have had that.”