Before You Make Changes, Understand Your Customers

For a project to work, utilities need to consider the human factor first.
Published: Mon 14 Jul 2014

When you introduce new technology into an environment, it is important to understand that environment and the people living there. If the recipients do not have a proper understanding of the technology and what it has to offer, they will probably reject it. This will lengthen the timeline which can prove to be very costly. This is according to Jodie Sherwin-Hill, Executive Director, Jomat Investment, who spoke to us at the African Utility Week.

Sherwin-Hill points out that the “people factor” is not always taken into account. This includes all stakeholders. Often, staff members may not even understand the new technology. It is essential that the reason for the change is communicated-especially to staff members who have been following a traditional and long-standing business model.

It is also important to note that every country requires a different approach since values, expectations and existing infrastructure can vary. For instance, Cameroon wants to implement smart metering but it is lacking the necessary infrastructure to support the new technology.

Change education

Often, communities are forgotten and not educated on the benefits of the new technology. In response, Jomat Investment offers a pre-education process to everyone who will be involved in that environment. Through this process, the chances of success are increased.

Jomat Investment has designed a very empowering “teach the teacher” program which is directed at company representatives. These students are then armed with the right knowledge to effect change. These “teachers” help stakeholders through the change and implementation of new technology. Jomat Investment then observes and assists these “teachers” to effect change in the field.

Same model applies

Sherwin-Hill explains that Jomat Investment uses the same process in all markets. The “change” model can be applied in every situation:

  • C-Classify your market and understand the environment first

  • H-Harmonize by explaining what the technology has to offer

  • A-Apply. Explain how the technology applies to the user

  • N-Neutralize. Share some of the technology’s drawbacks and be realistic about its capabilities

  • G-Groundwork. Do some research on the community and its values, concerns and expectations

  • E-Evaluation. Always carry out a proper evaluation before the technology is rolled out.

Says Sherwin-Hill: “The key is to be transparent from the outset by explaining the costs and benefits to the consumer. If you are not transparent, it will come out eventually. Rather be proactive instead of reactive.”