What is pilot purgatory? Pilot purgatory is about getting stalled in the pilot or testing phase of new technology like a Mobile EAM solution, and therefore not able to show results and scale the deployment. In this 3-part series, we will discuss strategies for maintenance operations teams to avoid pilot purgatory based on the PPT framework (People-Process-Technology). This piece will discuss effective change management by addressing People, their mindsets, and their role in the change.




Effective Change Management Starts with your People


People Issues that Result in Pilot Purgatory


How Do You Escape Pilot Purgatory?


The Ingredion Story


The Furnas Story


How Sigga Can Help



Effective Change Management Starts with your People


“About 70% of pilot projects never see the light of day”


Digital transformation is changing how asset-intensive companies do business--and yet “about 70% of pilot projects never see the light of day,” according to research from global management consulting firm McKinsey. And yet, companies who were able to make the leap have reported an increase in productivity by 10 to 30% simply by increasing the reliability and availability of equipment while keeping maintenance costs under control.


But why is it that some maintenance organisations succeed in digital transformation, while others fail? Worse, some maintenance-tech transformations find themselves suspended in a state of pilot purgatory where they simply never get to the stage of a proper rollout.


That’s because when it comes to digital transformation, it’s not just the technology and the process that matters, but also the people. These people can be your technicians, operations managers, planners, production managers, and more. Without their buy-in, you can find they can block your pilot and render it useless.



People Issues that Result in Pilot Purgatory


If you’re in charge of a digital transformation project for your maintenance organisation, here are some of the typical “people” issues that you may encounter that can result in pilot purgatory:



Inadequacy of Project Definition and Leadership Buy-in


Management needs to acknowledge the importance of digital transformation of their maintenance organisation to make the goals a reality. This alignment is required across the organisation including management in production, warehouse, IT, and all the way up to the CEO.


Because adding automation, a mobile solution or other digital technology is not just adding new technology, the technology changes the work processes which in turn changes what people do and the skills they require to be successful in their job. And since the maintenance function is a service organisation and is highly integrated to many adjacent functions such as production, the change impacts the processes and people’s roles across the organisation.


The leadership team needs to be aligned and prepared to keep the whole organisation inspired to the goals of making a change that may appear to be focused on only one function.



People Feel That Their Job is Threatened


You must consider that the workforce may not react well to sudden changes in their jobs. For instance, you may be employing a maintenance department administrative employee who is spending long hours printing work orders and collating safety and work instructions for distribution to the technicians every day.


However, with a mobile digital transformation, the app automates the distribution of work orders and instructions electronically. Naturally, this employee may start thinking that they will be out of a job soon with digital transformation.


Leadership must then work to ensure that the maintenance department understands how these changes will help the department grow. If job retention is assured and employees will be assigned to other tasks, you must communicate this to the staff, so they welcome this transformation instead of blocking it. In fact, the digital process can even be a motivational factor to replace boring, repetitive tasks.



Battle Fatigue


If your maintenance organisation has gone through unsuccessful or painful change efforts before, they may be experiencing “battle fatigue,” which makes them cynical about new automation and mobile EAM solutions.


If you are a maintenance operations manager, you will need to support your employees through the transformation by dispelling uncertainty and keeping communication lines open. Without a leader, employees may become discouraged, especially if the digital transformation has been tried repeatedly without the best results. The last thing you want to happen is for digital transformation fatigue to set in, and the entire maintenance department can become resistant to the process.



How Do You Escape Pilot Purgatory?


The key to effective change management is to have an inclusive, holistic plan with a clear vision and roadmap. Have the whole organization on board and remember that business transformation is the goal, while digital is the tool. Here are some strategies that you can employ:



Address Organisational Culture to Embrace Change


Organisational culture is a factor in a successful digital transformation. Failure to build a digital culture can result in a general failure of your company and the individual failure of your maintenance department. The entire company needs to be on board, and the company needs to know how to adapt to this new digital way of working.



The Ingredion Story


For example, the food ingredient company, Ingredion, was battling a very reactive maintenance culture. The breakdowns and urgent requests limited the completion of preventive maintenance activities creating a huge backlog. The production management team were leery of taking
the risk of disrupting their production processes with any change. Their focus was on how fast maintenance can respond to a problem.


To turn things around, Ingredion chose to start the change management process with automating the planning and scheduling process recognising the benefits would be highly visible to the production managers. They would have better visibility to the maintenance activities and directly experience the equipment uptime benefit of accomplishing more planned maintenance.


As a result, the whole organisation experienced the benefits and were inspired to support further automation solutions
to accomplish more preventive maintenance and reduce downtime events.



It is harder to change culture than it is to change technologies. People get engrained in the traditional ways of doing things. It can be comfort with flipping through paper as opposed to a scrolling on a mobile device. Or the ingrained belief that the maintenance department is actually the fix-it-when-it-breaks department and be resistant to plan downtime for preventive maintenance.


It is critical to recognise where the digital change will disrupt people’s comfort zones and tackle the change in their mindset with the vision of the future state.



Appoint “Digital” Leaders


3.1x more success if the “management team established clear story for transformation.”McKinsey


Leadership is key to inspire the organisation to embrace the changes. Digital transformation requires change at all levels, especially when it relates to talent and capabilities. Everyone from the boardroom to the maintenance department needs to be on the same page for your company’s success.



The Ingredion Story Continued


Expanding on the Ingredion story, senior management set the tone while a few key managers led by example as they were personally motivated
to solve some of the “madness” of the reactive culture.


These managers were responsible for the maintenance planning and scheduling process which was taking them 2 days every week.
The managers needed to download the backlog of work orders to spreadsheets, arrange them into maintenance schedules considering
the production schedules, materials and parts availability, technician skills and availability. The resulting schedule was uploaded back into SAP
to be dispatched to technicians and then frequently updated to address all the reactive requests and breakdowns.


Deploying an automation solution took the process from 2 days to 1-2 hours to the delight of the managers responsible, but also started a cadence of planning and accomplishing preventive tasks, reducing the backlog, and improving equipment reliability and uptime.  


The managers used the time savings to lead further process improvements in maintenance operations.



You may find these people already within your maintenance department. These people bridge the gaps between the conventional and digital parts of the business while having both the experience and skills necessary to lead and inspire innovation efforts when it comes to new automation and mobile solutions.



Empower Employees to Define New Ways to Work


Companies that want to empower their maintenance team to embrace change must not only provide education for any identified skills gaps, but also encourage employees to participate and take risks. The more involved your employees are with developing the new work processes, the more successful the transformation will be.


Behnam Tabrizi, author and teacher of Leading Organisational Transformation at Stanford University, describes that digital transformation is not about technology. “He often encounters participants who are skeptical of the entire operation from the get-go. In response, he developed an “inside-out” process. All participants are asked to examine what their unique contributions to the organizations are, and then to connect those strengths to components of the digital transformation process — which they will then take charge of, if at all possible. This gives employees control over how the digital transformation will unfold, and frames new technologies as means for employees to become even better at what they were already great at doing.”


Your digital software provider or consultants may know best practices, but they don’t have intimate knowledge in what works and what doesn’t work in your daily operations. At the same time, you need to consider that processes will need to change to take advantage of automation and new digital technologies. Keeping operations managers and a few select employees involved in defining or adapting new workflows will make them feel like they’re part of the process. Identify people who not only know the process but know deeply why things are done this way, what are the fundamental objectives and dependencies behind the process. McKinsey found that companies were 1.6x more successful if they had “People engaged in key roles were more involved in developing initiatives than during past change efforts.”



Redefine Roles & Responsibilities


Every member of your team needs to understand their role and how they fit into the entire process. If you’ve communicated this correctly, they will feel more engaged and see that they are essential for the project. This simple but crucial step will lead to higher quality work and a happier team.



The Furnas Story


For example, the company Furnas had a team of administrative assistants who printed work orders and then entered completed results daily into SAP EAM. This task required the person to have the unique skill of knowing how to get around the platform in order to open each work order and update the status from the technician's handwritten notes.


Digital transformation through a new mobile EAM app got rid of this time-consuming task because it synchronised directly with SAP whenever a technician updated a work order. As a result, they were able to save 7,500 admin hours per month of tedious printing and collating
paper-based work orders plus manual data entry tasks.


In the beginning of the project, they started the process of retraining in order to retain and reallocate 46 administrative employees
to other needed functions in the organisation. Maintenance department savings amounted to $630,000 per year.



Not all digital transformation projects completely replace jobs, but most impact the day-to-day work of the people in the organisation. The implications at a minimum mean that job roles and employee goals need to change. And in many cases, the organisational structure needs to be adjusted as well.



Select Technology That is User-Friendly


You can make your life easier by making sure that new software is intuitive and easy to use by the people who will be doing the work. Failure to consider user experience can lead to decreased user adoption and low team morale – especially if doing the work the old way was faster.


It seems obvious, but the user interface (UI) can be overlooked as an explicit requirement, especially when choosing a mobile application. Not all mobile applications are the same, some are responsive web apps while others are natively built within the operating system and conventions of the mobile device. Selecting the later technology results in an application that leverages people’s common experiences from use of their own personal mobile device. This familiarity creates an easier transition to the new way of working.



Get Effective Change Management Help


Sigga has 20 years of experience in industrial maintenance processes. In fact, we began our company as a professional services firm, helping enterprise clients with SAP EAM. We are adept at working with teams to implement new mobile or digital workflows, and we can help you implement proven effective change management processes with your people.


Hear more about the success at Ingredion in our webinar with Rafael Padilha, Director for Reliability and Continuous Improvement at Ingredion (NYSE:INGR). And download our Furnas Success Story for more details on how they avoided pilot purgatory to achieve quick results and scale.


We have designed our Mobile EAM and Warehouse solutions as native mobile apps to drive better user adoption of new mobile workflows. Our planning and scheduling automation solution for SAP saves hours creating and maintaining maintenance schedules.


Contact us to learn about how we can help you. Together, we can trail-blaze your way through effective change management with your people to avoid pilot purgatory.



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