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Systems Implementation Triumph

Talk With Kotter
Writing that reads "European Utility"

For a system’s implementation to truly work, and stick, it needs to be about more than just the system itself. It’s people, after all, who will ultimately use the system – or won’t. When Kotter met ACEA, a government-sponsored Italian multi-utility, they were preparing for a change that would shock their status quo. Employees had spent generations enjoying comfortable, familiar patterns of work: walking the same routes, and seeing familiar faces each day. Yet, a new business strategy had been articulated, designed to create value through the redesign of processes and the massive deployment of technology powered by SAP. Once executed, field employees would be given iPads that would set their most efficient route each morning. Gone would be those familiar patterns, along with a sense of predictability. People were going to be asked to do things very differently than they had grown accustomed to doing them. These daily behaviors are the heart of change. They’re also challenges that often get overlooked amid the many activities required to get the system’s components in place and ready for go-live.

The goals of the systems implementation were to:

  • Increase service quality
  • Decrease costs
  • Enable information to flow more efficiently
  • Optimize service delivery and customer relationships
  • Avoid repetitions and redundancy between the front-end and back-office

Kotter partnered with ACEA to accelerate a systems implementation digital transformation that involved every level of the organization from the bottom up. One critical backbone of an effective SAP implementation is accurate data. For ACEA, migrating from a pen and paper system to a mobile workforce management platform was entirely contingent upon their incomplete and inaccurate database getting cleaned. They had tried to outsource the task of cleaning their data such that a go-live would be possible, but all of the consulting firms turned down the work. “It is impossible,” they were told.

Kotter first aligned senior leaders around the criticality of the opportunity before them – ACEA could transform from a static monopoly to a model for Europe in customer responsiveness, efficiency, and business performance. We then helped them organize networks to create urgency for the change across the organization. That problem of dirty data? A team of over 85 volunteers from across the company knocked on doors and literally knocked down walls and bushes to get missing addresses, find meters – whatever was needed to complete the task. In just 90 days all 150,000 data points in the pilot site were cleaned. This visible victory had a ripple effect, inviting employees to participate in the change in a material way, rather than waiting for the change to happen to them. A host of efficiencies and innovations followed – including the collection of over one hundred million Euros in unpaid bills and a 50-day procurement process reduced to less than 10. A network of employees who experienced the early phases of the implementation volunteered to be dispatched to other parts of the organization to help those not yet impacted by the rollout be successful when their turn came. ACEA demonstrated that a best in class system, powered by infectious, engaged employees, creates an unstoppable force for change.

"These results and initiatives have an extraordinary and immense value. They contribute not only to the spirit of the participants, but show with evidence and tangible clarity that this dual system is, for us, reachable and doable."



Inaccurate or incomplete data points cleaned


Days to reach audacious goals


Inspired volunteers


Infectiously engaged employees


Million euros in found revenue