How has lockdown technology boosted our appetite for change?

19 May 2021

At the start of 2020 we began a major new programme of work, a project pivotal to the future of CNG, the re-design and replacement of the systems that support our core business as an energy supplier.  The replacement of these systems will touch every aspect of our business with far-reaching implications for IT, our business processes, our staff and our customers.  But of course the beginning of 2020 brought challenges of its own.

Changing the way you operate

Changing the way a business operates is a tricky task, even at the best of times.  There are always a lot of technical issues to explore, impacts to understand, problems to solve and decisions to be made.  In normal times we would have progressed this collaboratively in face to face meetings, using whiteboards to sketch out and record our ideas.  But in the midst of a global pandemic, we had to find other ways to work!

Pausing our programme wasn’t an option.  If anything, the pandemic made the case to deliver business and system changes even more compelling, so there was no question of putting this on hold.  Just like businesses all over the world, we began to discover and embrace new ways of working. Within a week of lockdown being announced, CNG had transferred its entire 200-strong workforce to remote working, and as we all grappled with Microsoft Teams, we had to find other ways to use the technology to our advantage.

How technology assisted 

During the early phase of the programme, it was vital we gathered input from the right people.  When working on a project with such large scope, one of the usual challenges is getting all the stakeholders together in one place, and finding a room big enough to accommodate everyone.  An unexpected benefit of video calling is how much easier it can be to get the right people together, in one virtual place, without having the practical difficulties of meeting room availability.  Getting the right people together quickly and easily whenever we need to has really helped us stay on the right track.

As we got into the detail of the programme, we found that technology really helped with team collaboration: screen sharing on video calls makes it easy to dive into the detail of each team member’s progress; and cloud storage for documents is fantastic for visibility, collaboration and sharing.  We can even video key sessions for others to see who are unable to be present, keeping everyone in the loop. While this isn’t new technology, the pandemic forced us to look at these routes to success and apply them to our model.

Over the months of lockdown we have kept our momentum, relying on technology more than ever as a way to keep collaborating.  It hasn’t always been easy, and sometimes being on video calls for most of the day can seem pretty intense, but as the months have gone by we have found our groove, and even learned to see the positives.

There are personal benefits to working remotely, like eliminating commute time and being able to spend more time at home and with the family.  For some who live a long way from the office, this is a major plus and some have felt this is a change for the better. It has to be said, the pandemic has shown us that some people work better from home – they find that balance and focus a huge plus, for others, it’s more challenging and that’s one of the reasons we’ll be looking at a hybrid response to returning to work – to find a solution that suits everyone’s needs as much as possible.

While being together in one place undoubtedly has benefits, remote working and use of technology has enabled the team to keep delivering change under really challenging circumstances.  We’re proud of the team for the innovative ways they have found to keep themselves in touch, informed and motivated over the last 12 months.  As we go forward with implementing changes to the business systems at CNG, the flexibility and willingness to adapt that everyone has demonstrated will help the whole company on our next steps towards business transformation.

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