Reducing operational friction by design

stock image for EDF, worker looking out from new site

EDF Energy

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The client

One of the UK’s ‘Big 6’ energy suppliers, EDF is a multinational energy provider that operates around the world and is state-owned by the French Government. Supplying everything from traditional energy and nuclear, to clean, EDF aims to provide power from their own operated sources, with ambition to further the development of renewables.

stock image for EDF, Hinckley Point C

As such a large utilities provider, they have major operations to maintain and support on a daily basis, across many different sites and countries. As with all major organisations, people are at the heart of all those operations and how they work together is of vital importance. The roles, responsibilities, movements and needs of any one person have to be managed by processes geared towards efficiency and effectiveness.

The challenge

With operations ever expanding, new mammoth projects ongoing (such as building nuclear reactors) and legacy systems still in place to run the organisation, EDF had a mountain of internal inefficiencies in play which needed to be rectified. Having tried the conventional methods of reviewing process and reducing friction between departments by way of consulting firms and ‘innovation strategy’, EDF were keen to try something more hopeful and that had yet to be attempted within the organisation, design-thinking.

With initial buy-in and investment to support this alternative path, we got to work identifying where, how and in what way inefficiencies in process were occurring across the business. As the world was still recovering from the logistical effects of the pandemic, the most important issues to tackle for EDF were related to resourcing, the core processes related to the whole workforce.

stock image for EDF, user at computer

As an organisation there are people across a wide variety of different roles, whether that’s computer centric office work, internal supply management or on-site power station operatives. Each one of these people have needs, equipment to use and processes to follow. Not to mention to even be in their position, they need to have applied for the job, been initiated across all the relevant internal systems, accessed their equipment, been given relevant security clearances and then continuously supported by relevant departments.

When it comes to the organisation’s lifeblood, its people, there are a mountain of processes operating at any one time and all together (hopefully in harmony). However the reality is, particularly in most organisations of this scale, the processes work just enough, and it’s down to the people who have been there the longest to simply just know what to do in any situation.

The solution

To review the processes in play, we had to start at the very beginning. Establishing with our client team what their goals were, what they believed to be the current issues, and who we needed access to in order to begin our research. We were able to establish what would be of value by the end of this piece of work, which was the ability to identify all the processes in play for any one person joining, operating day to day, and eventually leaving the company. We needed to highlight the journey for any level of role, and stipulate which departments would be involved in any part of their process (ie where does the responsibility lie for any one thing getting done).

This in itself would be a major piece of work to deliver, showcased in a relatively few key documents, but overall consisting of a mass amount of information that needed to be interrogated through basic user research with key departments. All the outputs from this then leading into the service design aspect of the project which aimed to highlight where key efficiencies in process could ultimately be achieved.

stock image for EDF, workers on-site

The core of our work here lay in the connections we had to make with those key departments. Once we understood through investigation which departments were relevant to any one process, we began researching in a contextual interview manner with people who operated that departments processes day to day. Through our many sessions across various departments, as well as recurring sessions with the same people in order to validate and verify findings, we were able to not only showcase those findings through our raw research outputs on Miro, but this all fed into our service blueprint and ‘day in the life’ methods.

design asset example from EDF, service blueprint

Acting as overview maps of how any process operated, the service blueprints were accompanied by ‘day in the life’ outputs which aimed to establish the needs and responsibilities of any one person, within their role, within their sector. These highlighted in more detail, what those particular responsibilities were and who specifically they had to deal with in order to complete a process.
The service blueprint we devised laid out the full end to end landscape of the roles, responsibilities, needs and activities any one person could have relating to the corporate level of their role. As we were dealing with the whole organisation, we created several blueprints to cater for the different sectors that existed, whether that was corporate head office or on-site production.

The results

Having established design-thinking practices within the organisation, working closely with a variety of people across general roles, as well as directly with senior leadership teams, we didn’t just deliver outputs for this project we also evolved the approach EDF has toward organisation wide problems. We helped to define practical ways in which issues in process or efficiency could be tackled through simply being human with each other and leveraging a hive mind.

design asset example from EDF, day in the life prints

With the particular deliverables and achievements we gained on this project, we were able to highlight where EDF had those inefficiencies in process when it came to any individual person trying to conduct their day-to-day responsibilities. We highlighted the chain of collaboration and the sequence of events that occurred for the most frequent activities.
All of this in turn helping to boost productivity and streamline processes that led to less time lost when setting up new employees, improved security measures as a result of knowing exactly when security access need to be granted and revoked, reductions in latency when requesting vital equipment and more importantly a clearer view for leadership knowing which processes are in play at any one time.