Culture and change management key to digital delivery at AGL

The Australian energy company's digital and customer experience leaders talk about how they're tackling digital disruption

From left: AGL digital lead, Nigel Page; AGL head of digital and customer experience, Josephine Monger; Sitecore chief strategy officer, Darren Guarnaccia
From left: AGL digital lead, Nigel Page; AGL head of digital and customer experience, Josephine Monger; Sitecore chief strategy officer, Darren Guarnaccia

Culture is one of the biggest hurdles AGL faces as it seeks to tackle digital disruption head-on and better respond to rising customer expectations.

Speaking at the Sitecore Digital Trendspot event in Sydney, AGL’s head of digital and customer experience, Josephine Monger, said the energy company’s 185-year heritage and conservative corporate culture had initially made it difficult to adopt the dynamic and interactive approach required in a digital-first environment.

“Sometimes it can feel like you’re talking to the oldest person here,” she told attendees during a Q&A session. “In the digital environment, you have to think quickly and make decisions faster. That test-and-learn, ‘fail fast’ approach can be scary for a lot of senior and middle management to take on-board. They want to do it, but have to take that leap of faith and become more agile in the way they work.”

On a personal level, Monger said she had also found it difficult to embrace the concept of going to market with a minimal product, then iterating.

“The other challenge from a cultural perspective is that most companies operate in a very regulated environment. Dealing with customers’ expectations in line with these regulations is quite a challenge for us,” she said. “So it’s a combination of culture of the company and industry.”

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Despite the challenges, AGL has made significant steps forward in building a digital strategy, and the digital team now operates as a centre of excellence internally. According to digital lead, Nigel Page, it started prioritising tasks through a combination of “low-hanging fruit and maximum areas of pain”.

“Often it’s where you’re hurting the most that causes this kind of change to become possible. Once it’s possible, it’s up to you what you do with it,” he said.

In AGL’s case, the first major step was consolidating its collection of customer-facing websites into a single platform. Adopting Sitecore’s Web management platform was a step in being able to do things differently and more effectively, Page said.

Another key to driving a digital-first mindset across the organisation was positioning change as an advantage, he continued.

“The trick is not to overthink things – if we do something and it’s right, then we carry on, but if it’s not, we’ll adjust or take that out,” he said. “Change is the benefit, rather than the enemy, and perceiving things that way has allowed us to become good at change.”

The success of the digital team’s more agile approach opening up constructive debate around risk and management, Page said.

“What we’re seeing now is an eagerness to start adopting these approaches more broadly through the organisation, so the benefit has been more than just in the pure digital space,” he said.

Monger pointed out a customer’s service expectations are not being set by the energy industry, but by digital giants such as Amazon. This makes it vital for organisations to start building better digital credentials.

“You have to just get started. Taking one step at a time and learning from that is the only way to do it,” she advised.

The ultimate objective driving AGL’s digital transformation is customer retention, Monger said.

“If customers want to interact with us through an online platform, then that is where we need to keep the focus and ensure our KPIs meet our ability to meet these needs in a competitive environment,” she said.

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Up next on Page’s to-list list is opening up the organisation’s APIs to external partners, as well as building out customer-facing mobile apps. AGL is also starting to explore the Internet of Things and its potential.

“Things are moving so quickly, we have to have the methodologies and capabilities in place so we can respond to that,” Monger added. “At the back of our mind is that disruption is inevitable, so if we don’t disrupt ourselves, someone else will.”

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