Change can be scary. As humans we love familiarity and comfort, and that often includes the technology we use. However, when ways of working and business innovations are shifting the landscape faster than ever, outdated systems can’t provide the kind of experience customers and workers deserve. Leading insurance provider Suncorp New Zealand knew using Skype as a system for communication was no longer suitable and it needed to transition to a new communications system in a way its people would welcome and embrace the change. Tech change experts Kambium came on board to support tech partner Spark with a change management programme for Microsoft Teams that was so successful, it’s now helping transform Suncorp New Zealand’s way of working.
As one of New Zealand’s leading general and life insurance providers (Vero and Asteron Life brands), great communication and seamless information-sharing are essential to Suncorp New Zealand’s success. The purpose-led organisation is ‘customer-obsessed’ and aims to ensure its employees have access to the best tools possible so that every effort can be concentrated on assisting and responding to customers. That takes superb co-ordination in the back end, with all of Suncorp New Zealand’s team members across the country having access to the right information wherever and whenever they need it.
These days, that means equipping people with the tools they need to work – and collaborate – remotely. However, Suncorp New Zealand was experiencing challenges with its outdated Skype communications platform. Skype had limited functionality, being more of a videoconferencing tool rather than enabling real collaboration or easy integration with other business platforms, as today’s workers need. It also wasn’t particularly secure or reliable, no longer being supported with regular security updates and prone to dropping out on calls.
Despite this, it was familiar and comfortable for people who’d been using it a long time, like a pair of old shoes. This created its own challenges when Suncorp New Zealand decided to replace Skype with the cloud-based Microsoft Teams.
“The beauty of Microsoft Teams is that it is more than just a videoconferencing platform. It’s a collaboration hub and information management platform that provides your team with so many more ways of working. Teams has been proven to increase productivity, collaboration and create more meaningful engagements between colleagues,” says Hayley Thow, Chapter Lead – Client Leads, Spark Business Group Sales.
“However, while Skype was restrictive in what it could deliver for employees, there was an underlying sense of resistance to change. Employees were comfortable with what they knew. Some people didn’t want to learn a new platform, but most didn’t want their day-to-day job to be disrupted by the shifting technology,” adds Haider Khan, Head of Professional Services at digital transformation and change management consultancy Kambium.
“This is where we recognised that the job at hand wasn’t just a tech transformation, it was so much more than that. Before we could start the tech implementation process, a whole change management process needed to happen first.”
Making people part of the solution
It was lead tech partner Spark who recommended Kambium for the job of supporting Suncorp New Zealand’s people through the revamp. Having collaborated on many projects before, the Spark team recognised the power of Kambium’s specialist experience in understanding the psychology of change and bringing people along on the tech transformation journey.
For Microsoft Teams to provide the best results for Suncorp New Zealand, it was essential to ensure employees were part of the solution, rather than just being told how things were going to be done. To do this, Kambium was directly involved with the Change Champion Network, a group of 40 Suncorp New Zealand employees across each business area who became early adopters of the Teams platform.
The Change Champion members were an integral part of the change management programme. The members were chosen for being people who had cultural influence in the business. While they weren’t necessarily the most technologically savvy, they were directly involved with the operations of their business area day-to-day and were therefore able to provide key insights and feedback into how best to train the wider team and how to present information to get the best engagement possible.
Over six months, the Change Champions were part of the Teams pilot group for first-hand experience of the solution. This provided the Champions with the opportunity to trial the Teams solution to understand how the platform worked, ask questions, and understand how their BAU and project teams could use Teams most effectively. The Change Champion network met on a weekly basis throughout the project, attended training pilots, participated at go-live, and were instrumental in helping Kambium design a communications plan and the full training programme.
An organisation-wide first
Thanks to such a thorough change management process, employees started to adapt to the ins and outs of Teams easily. They were eager to learn as much as they could, they showed enthusiasm for the tools, and used Teams break-out rooms within the first week, something that often takes months to see.
Feedback received was incredible, with employees feeling supported and reassured throughout the process from initial training to implementation. People noted this was the first-time technological changes had been implemented in such a seamless way.
“The change programme took a people-first approach. By engaging with individuals across the business, understanding their ways of working and how Teams could best support them, we were able to bring Suncorp New Zealand employees on the transformation journey. Key measures of success were high training participation, communications readership, and commitment of the change champions throughout the project. It has been rewarding to experience the immediate uptake and positive response to Teams as well as the team’s eagerness to utilise the breadth of Microsoft applications,” says Caitlin Boorman, Practice Lead Adoption and Change Management at Kambium.
Suncorp Executive Manager Infrastructure and Operations, Mark Atherton, is equally enthusiastic about the transformation Kambium and Spark have created at the organisation.
“When you’re investing in a new platform or technology, firstly it’s essential that it’s fit for purpose and delivers a more effective way of working for employees, then it’s about ensuring employees are transitioned across in a positive way so they can understand the need for change and can see the value and benefits. Ultimately, if it’s the right platform and introduced with minimal disruption, this has positive flow-on effects to the business and customers,” he says.
“Understanding the capability of the new platform and the options available is key so employees can get the most from their Teams experience, and this is what has made the implementation of this project such an outstanding success. Many of our employees were hybrid working long before the Covid-19 pandemic, however, most have been working full-time from home since the August lockdown. Microsoft Teams has enhanced this vital virtual experience for all of us and has been more reliable, keeping us better connected at a time when it’s needed most.
“Teams has also made it easy for our employees to find and access shared team documents, and enabled breakout rooms and the sharing of a video while on Teams meeting calls. I know employees have also enjoyed personalising their backdrops for some light entertainment too.”
This approach will be key to helping upskill New Zealand’s workers in technology across every sector to address skills shortages and build innovation, according to Matt Bostwick, Partner Director at Microsoft New Zealand.
“Businesses are increasingly realising that investments in tech are an investment in their people, and that just as technology has become more human-centric, tech implementation processes must do the same. I’m delighted to see Kambium and Spark partnering in this way to support more Kiwi businesses to get more out of their IT services and solutions,” he says.
“If we’re fast becoming a world where everyone needs tech skills, understanding what motivates people to adopt skills and technologies has never been more important.”
An ongoing transformation partnership
After the success of the Teams deployment, which builds on previous successful tech implementations, Spark’s relationship with Suncorp New Zealand is gathering even further momentum, with a raft of additional projects in the pipeline over the coming months.
Kambium and Spark will support Suncorp New Zealand with an ongoing change management service in the coming year as the company’s way of working becomes more agile. This will mean driving further adoption of new Microsoft tools and services as Suncorp New Zealand continues to refine and enhance its ways of working for employees, which will be supported by the rollout of Surface devices to enable improved flexible working.
“The future is really looking bright, and we’re absolutely thrilled to be continuing our relationship with Suncorp New Zealand. We’re really becoming an extension of their team, and I think that’s what a true relationship is,” says Haider.
“Watch this space!”