How do you start to make a difference when faced with such a large and complex organization?
Ensuring one multinational energy producer could turn biofuels into a billion-dollar business by prioritizing value and introducing a product mindset.
As the world shifts to a low-carbon economy, this integrated energy producer aspires to rapidly grow its biofuels division and become a leader in the sustainability space. Yet with operations all over the world and entrenched ways of working, business transformation seemed difficult to achieve.
The executive team had previously tried to find the blockers that would stop the business achieving its strategic goals. While they had identified major IT systems as a key concern, they had not looked into the impact of existing processes, systems of work or the mindset within the organization. Confidence in rapid business transformation was low.
Emergn was tasked with identifying any barriers to change the client had missed and kick-starting business transformation.
We applied design thinking to identifying the potential blockers of business transformation across three sample countries in Europe. What we found was a backlog of 120 issues. With the top 10 leading to 1,500 days of lost productivity every year. The next step was to tackle the priority issues and release the business from its shackles.
However, our analysis found that the problem was far larger than originally thought. By hosting workshops across the rest of Europe, we identified 240 issues that could not be resolved through the company’s original approach.
At the core of all our work are the principles of Value, Flow, Quality (VFQ). In this case, defining the value behind each of the issues allowed us to prioritize action. Shifting the mindset from project to product management helped optimize the flow of work. And including everyone from day 1 while encouraging fast feedback meant teams could build at pace and with higher quality outcomes.
The attention to value became a consistent narrative and led to teams focusing on products rather than projects. For example, introducing the concept of organizational experimentation – moving away from monolithic, waterfall projects with huge budget requirements towards a more agile, value-oriented model.
This included standing up a technical squad to build a global compliance, forecasting, reporting and optimization platform. One that would enable the company to meet biofuel regulations within each of the countries it operated in. And would add value by standardizing the company’s approach and reducing the errors that had impacted cashflow by some $85M per year.
By placing experienced consultants into the business who could communicate with the leadership team, we demonstrated what good would look like and gained buy-in to tackle further issues. Our teams were also set up to pass on their skills and capabilities so that when our engagement ended, the company’s own teams could continue to help the business transform.
The company had no fixed success criteria because different stakeholders had different perspectives. Hard currency savings. Forecasting improvements. Compliance risk reduction. All of these were important metrics. But by defining value at each stage of our engagement, we were able to maintain support and deliver successful outcomes early and often.
Through design thinking, we were able to identify the real blockers to business transformation. Our discovery workshops unearthed the priority issues to tackle. And the overall approach was readily adopted in other areas of the business because it was clear to those involved and could answer key questions for the leadership.
Our small, agile team was quickly able to release minimum viable products into the hands of users and gather feedback within six weeks of the discovery workshops. This helped address urgent operational issues in the biofuels division while we stood up a larger team to tackle the biggest priority – namely the accurate forecasting and compliance reporting platform.
Beta releases of products on the platform were followed by incremental enhancements every two weeks. These lead times had never been seen before within the business for solutions of such complexity. As a result, the work we did was recognized as a game-changer in moving the business forward at speed.
In 2022, our work on the biofuels platform alone contributed to $7M in hard value (through waste reduction, improved accuracy and removal of manual working). It also created $10M in soft value – largely in risk reduction and cashflow improvements. By the end of 2024, there will be $85M in hard value put back into the business.
On a wider scale, we have ensured this large, complex organization not only has the tools and systems but also the mindset to continue transforming and take advantage of the on-going shift to a low-carbon economy.
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