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C-Level conversations

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Orchestrating the Perfect Day

Before it could change its workforce, A2A, an Italian utility company, had to learn to change itself.

With a portfolio that includes generating, distributing and marketing energy, distributing and marketing gas, water supply, waste management services, sustainable mobility and projects for smart cities, A2A is a very diversified company. Looking across the business, one will notice a wide range in how digitized a segment, service, or department is.

For example, why the traditionally ‘white collar’ office-based jobs are generally at the high-tech end of the spectrum, the more manual, ‘blue collar’ jobs remain predominately paper-based. Considering that nearly half the company’s workforce is employed in these blue collar business units, it should come as no surprise that this is where the company is focusing the bulk of its digitalization efforts.

When you make a change to a process you have to enable your people to feel comfortable with that change.

Luca Maccarini,
Head of Digital Corporate, A2A

Clear a hurdle

“Ideally, we want all our operators to have a smartphone with the apps they need to contribute to our business by providing data in a more efficient and streamlined way” says Luca Maccarini, Head of Digital Corporate at A2A.

But making this change is a bit more complicated than just handing out new smartphones. To succeed, it must first clear a hurdle called ‘company culture’.

“We are a company that does not like to make mistakes, so much so that we tend to avoid experimentation as that could lead to failure” adds Giampaolo Montemaggi, Head of Operational Excellence, Internal Communication and Change at A2A. “One thing we are working on, from a cultural perspective, is how we can create an environment that isn’t afraid to fail and thus open to change.”

In other words, how can A2A learn to change? According to Maccarini, the place to start is with the company’s people.“If you tell one of our operators working on the ground that they need to usea new digital system, they’ll likely ask ‘what for’,” explains Maccarini. “If you can’t answer this, if you can’t show the benefits, then the change will not happen.”

A Single, Seamless Journey

To answer the ‘what for’, A2A has implemented a strategic framework for implementing digital change across the company. “Our strategy integrates digital transformation together with people management, with operational excellence, and with communication to create a single, seamless journey” says Montemaggi.

“When you make a change to a process you have to enable your people to feel comfortable with that change” adds Maccarini.

For A2A, this enablement meant starting at the beginning. After all, just three years ago, the company’s blue-collar workforce didn’t even have a digital identity – and it’s certainly hard to use digital platforms when one doesn’t have an email address to access those platforms.

“Look, just because someone is ‘blue collar’ doesn’t mean they are digitally naive – like everyone else, they use smartphones and tablets and other technologies daily” notes Montemaggi. “The challenge is to transfer this digital knowledge from the home to the job.”

Towards the Factory of the Future

Here, A2A got a little creative. They created an app that employees can install on their own device and use for such practical tasks as checking their holiday time and submitting a request to stay home. By giving employees a very good reason to use a digital solution at work, the company laid the foundation for adding other digital solutions into the repertoire. As a result, when the A2A released an application for its urban hygiene processes, users were happy to embrace it, seeing how it could help reduce paperwork and, ultimately, make their job easier.

People are open to change, but change can’t happen in a vacuum, you, as a company, have to be ready to make the change too.

concludes Maccarini