Q&A: Rod Van Onselen – Origin Energy

We sat with Chief Transformation and Digital Officer, Rod Van Onselen to understand how he navigated the transformation journey at Origin Energy.

Hi Rod, can you help us understand a little bit about your role at Origin?

I joined Origin a couple of years ago as the Chief Digital Officer to build a best-in-category digital experience and capability that repositions us as a “digital-first” business. In December last year, I took on a newly created Chief Transformation and Digital Officer role to lead an end-to-end transformation of Origin’s Retail business, spanning all channels, people and processes and systems.

What was the reason for your role shift?

We’ve made great progress on our digital transformation at Origin, and wanted to broaden our transformation of the retail business beyond digital to improve the customer experience across all channels and touchpoints, while at the same time becoming more efficient and growing our business.

For perspective, what are some of the ways your customers engage with Origin?

Typically, customers engage with us when it comes to billing, payments, account set-up, purchasing and renewing products. Some customers also want to better understand and manage their energy use and costs – so we’re making the basics simpler, while also offering value-added services that give customers more control. We’ve made most of these available across both digital and assisted channels, and have dialled up our efforts to shift customers to digital channels as a first port-of-call, which has seen rapid growth in self-service adoption.

In terms of driving increased customer-centricity and growth, what are some of the headline initiatives that Origin is focused on at the moment?

We’re focused on being really clear on which experiences need to be functional (fast and easy) versus truly exceptional. Some of the areas where we’re striving to create exceptional experiences include providing energy usage insights that break down a customer’s bill, showing how much of their energy costs come from different appliances in the home (such as refrigeration, lighting etc). This requires some advanced analytics capabilities, but customers love it as it gives them a level of insight not offered by most energy retailers and helps them take control of their usage. We’re also building a number of new digital portals for specific customer segments – delivering much richer, deeper experiences for those customers that want something a little different. There’s also some great work underway using data and insights to provide more relevant services and offers for our customers.

With an agenda that broad, how do you prioritise your focus and decide how you’re going to bring everything to fruition?

Overall, we run a quarterly prioritisation process. One of the big challenges when I first joined was that the digital team was inundated with requests from across the business and it was difficult to get a single view of a prioritised backlog. We now sit down with senior leaders every quarter to agree our priorities and then plan for how these will flow through the delivery process. We have a well-defined delivery process that’s been worked up over time – spanning scan, discover, prioritise, define, create, go-to-market and iteration phases. This enables us to learn before committing to full delivery of initiatives, ensuring that only the most valuable initiatives get prioritised and go forward.

What are some of the changes you’ve had to make around resourcing and capabilities to enable such change?

One of the big changes we made was moving from a predominantly outsourced team made up of service providers and contractors, to a predominantly insourced digital design and delivery capability. With that came new people from a wide assortment of organisations, who had some very deep and broad experience across our digital capability areas. One of the key challenges when you're going through that sort of team growth is that everyone comes with different views on ways of working and digital delivery practices based on their past experiences. So, over time we've really tried to create a more defined and consistent way of working to unify the team – which has been important as new people join.

What are some of the challenges that arose from mobilising the organisation around these consistent ways of working?

A key challenge was building understanding and alignment across the broader Origin business as to why doing things differently made sense and would produce better outcomes. It’s been important to build a shared language and consideration across teams and stakeholders of the different phases of initiatives and why we work that way.

When looking at the team, what are some of the ways that you are driving engagement, productivity and cohesion?

Origin’s purpose is ‘Getting energy right for our customers, communities and the planet’ – and we rally around this. We’ve organised our teams into self-directed squads who have most of the capabilities embedded to release change fast and frequently. So, this has removed many of the barriers teams often face in larger organisations, where scale can come at the expense of speed. And we’ve got a fantastic group of people who are passionate, taking their work but not themselves too seriously, which makes collaboration and getting results much easier.

If you had a crystal ball, what would you do differently in terms of transformation?

After two years of transformation there are a number of things I’d probably have done differently with the benefit of hindsight. First up, I’d have brought forward the definition and establishment of our ways of working and delivery process – it’s paid dividends that we could have benefited from sooner. I also would have augmented the team with some more seasoned experts in a few specific capability areas such as authentication and identity management, as an example. These are complex areas and we probably could have taken a faster path had we done less learning as we went. That being said, I’m incredibly proud of what the team has achieved in such a short time – it’s been awesome.

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