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Supporting organizations going through change


Direct Energy

Digital Transformation End User Training – Strategy to Solution

Enabling a complex business transformation by ensuring diverse learning needs are met for a corporate and field work force.

Who is Direct Energy?

Direct Energy is a retailer of home and energy services. The company was founded in 1986 and has grown to provide a vast array of services in its industry, including HVAC, plumbing, and electricity, while also providing warranty and protection plans for its customers.

With more than four million customers across North America, Direct Energy is the largest energy retailer in North America. It is a size and scale they have achieved, predominantly, through acquisition. 

What was the challenge?

Direct Energy’s success was in part driven by its growth-through-acquisition strategy. The result being an organization comprised of small businesses with 4000 employees based out of hundreds of locations and offices. With this successful expansion came a new challenge; centralizing the culture, processes, and data on an enterprise level to maximize the output from each business unit. This was particularly true for their home services operations—with 300 plus franchisees, Direct Energy needed to create a consistent experience in the home, on the phone, and on the web. To begin the process, Direct Energy planned to implement an ERP (Microsoft Dynamics AX) including a Field Service component, across the entire business with the belief that standardizing the business processes and supporting technology solutions would improve the experience for customers across all touchpoints. 

Direct Energy engaged Harbinger to lead the training program for the transformation. Our mandate was clear: Build out a centralized and robust training program custom suited to the diverse needs of the project, business, and its employees.

Training Challenges​

Direct Energy lacked a formal training organization with a dedicated staff of trainers.  They also did not manage learning with a Learning Management System (LMS). The organization took a decentralized approach to learning, allowing different businesses, locations, and teams to organize, develop, and lead their own training programs. The lack of enterprise level training programs led to conflicting customer interactions and inefficient business practices which would hamper the proposed business transformation. On the project side, resource constraints resulted in limited business input and engagement.  


Direct Energy required Harbinger to unify their training approach under a centralized platform to provide a consistent training program to support their business transformation and future state.

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What did we do?

Training Strategy and Architecture


A high-level strategic plan for training was developed to drive the learning needs of the transformation and beyond. Training schedules, plans, and resources were initially identified to provide structure and direction to the organization. Training tool templates were designed alongside a project style guide. These templates included Quick Reference Guides (QRG’s), Work Instructions, PowerPoint decks, and eLearning slides for project use. 

An architecture for ERP (Dynamics AX) training environments and data requirements was designed to enable in-person and remote synchronous training sessions for large user groups. Multiple training environments were prescribed to address the large population of end-users, the requirements of many unique lines of business, as well as the requirements of the training development team.  Furthermore, as effective training relies on the relevant and familiar context for users, processes were put in place to efficiently create and use real Production data that was also cleansed for data privacy and security considerations.


Training Advisory Group​


The Training Advisory Group (TAG) was created to leverage the business expertise from all 17 business units and provide an avenue for engagement for stakeholders. Different from SMEs and project team members, the TAG was able to provide input on training development and delivery. The mandate of this team was to help identify risks associated with training as well as develop mitigation plans. Additionally, the TAG had a role in socializing and engaging the rest of the business and leadership with updates regarding the project training approach. ​

A Practical Custom Learning Solution


A fully custom learning solution was developed catering to the evolving needs of the business and the project.  Learning documentation was created by leveraging existing ERP vendor (Microsoft) resources to ease the dependency on the Direct Energy Functional team and System Integrator, allowing them to focus on where custom content was required. The learning was designed to be “lean”, built around easily digestible “transactions” allowing users to use the material to support their live activities in Production, learning as they go. This strategy was developed to avoid excessive and ineffective formal training time for the learner demographic and rather focused on “learning while doing”.   It also leveraged users dual-monitor setup to have instructions on one screen, and Microsoft Dynamics on the other. As the system was frequently being updated, the documents were designed with minimal screenshots allowing for rapid modification and easy sustainment. The use of eLearning was strategically implemented to provide general project information to over 600 internal end users, and engaging, interactive training for over 50,000 external end users

Sustainable Learning 


The organization was transformed from one that used binders for training to one that had a practical but complete digital solution for training. Training documentation was hosted on a custom designed SharePoint site accessible to all internal and selected 3rd party organizations with documents that could be saved locally and viewed on desktop and mobile devices. This digital first training solution ensured that the large mobile workforce at Direct Energy could instantly receive step by step assistance when they encountered issues in the field. Alongside the training, documentation was a suite of step-by-step videos related to each transaction, as well as a direct linkage to Organizational Change Management (OCM) and Communications directives through internal tools for Employee Engagement (Yammer) and Video (Microsoft Stream).  

Train the Trainer and Delivery ​


Training was organized using the train-the-trainer approach and utilized team-leads to deliver learning to their peers. Train-the-trainer was delivered by Harbinger over a course of two months in 4 countries in 2 continents in both in-person and remote formats. Harbinger provided training skills workshops, ensuring trainers were not only capable in terms of the new processes and system usage but also able to manage and lead engaging and effective training sessions. Over 20 business-based trainers were leveraged to lead training sessions for their respective departments. Due to client time and business constraints, Harbinger was also engaged to help deliver training to end-users.


Communications provided daily updates of system enhancements, fixes, and updates along with their relevant training materials to ensure users had accurate documentation and could celebrate the wins. Communications came from the project team but also leveraged the relationships with site leads, and general managers. These targeted communications from members of their own team helped ensure the right context was provided to ensure success locally while emphasizing the importance of this change to their business.

Field Work Force Training​


Training delivery required a complex solution to address the needs of a large mobile workforce e.g. learners who worked in trucks, and not at desks. To add to this complexity, our trainees were accustomed to pen and paper when learning and performing their jobs, not tablets and cell phones. This necessitated a blended approach to learning, where those in the field were given numerous role play opportunities to learn their new digital processes, sessions on how to navigate their new devices, and with an eye to ensuring customer experience through this change, reinforcement on client interaction policies when using their new devices (e.g. ensuring eye contact when using their tablets). 

While trainees in the office were lucky enough to always be co-located with subject matter experts, peers, and multiple screens to reference instructional documentation, the same could not be said for employees in the field. To combat this, field users were equipped with easy access to digital and mobile friendly job aids but were also supplied with physical cheat-sheets containing visuals, common transactions, and business process reminders. In addition to training materials, a mentor/mentee system was developed, pairing employees who were most comfortable with technology to those who were less comfortable, ensuring their success in the field.

Training Evaluation​


A training evaluation process captured the effectiveness and utilization of the training program, allowing for continuous improvement. Effectiveness was measured through surveys and automated recording tools to track attendance, utilization of digital training documents and eLearning, along with NPS metrics. Stakeholder dashboards were built to help identify areas of opportunity and risk alongside baseline metrics. As training is a part of the broader OCM program, feedback from the training was included in broader change management and communication strategies.

What was the outcome?

Harbinger’s work led to the creation of a team of business trainers that became subject matter experts for their departments, able to lead training for go-live, but also leading to self-sufficiency in training efforts for ongoing new-hire onboarding and for future initiatives. Harbinger also implemented a custom LMS system using SharePoint for a paperless training solution enabling simple sustainment for the business moving forward.

This enabled Direct Energy to successfully go live with their ERP platform on several distinct business lines and organizations with unique cultural and operational norms.

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