You’re an entrepreneur, the CEO or Director in a company whose success defines yours but the writing’s on the wall and you need a killer business transformations strategy. Business Transformation may be overdue because technology is no longer fit for purpose and business processes are holding together with sellotape. You need to make some changes – small or wholesale – but it needs to be soon and you need as close to a guarantee as you can get that the business transformation will be successful.
With the number of failed transformation projects that one hears about, a certain amount of wariness is warranted, especially as these reports seem to involve from some of the biggest names in the business. To decide how to develop an effective business transformation strategy, start with the below.
What is business transformation and why would any businesses and the people who lead them need to undertake a business transformation?
What is Business Transformation
Business transformation, which is that it is the process of making changes to the business operations and processes of the business in order to achieve common business objectives that may boil down to efficiencies and improvements.
Changes in regulatory, operational, market/marketing and even political environments trigger business transformation. Businesses generally undertake transformations to alleviate or eliminate organisational pain or to make transitional gains, improvements or revolutions in the business process, the technological landscape and create competitive advantage through capability, insights or the ability to harness and deploy these in the company.
Successful Business Transformation
What makes a successful business transformation process and implementation. Successful business Transformation is procedural magic that can be applied to a failing business/business unit/function. It is magic when business transformation strategy is based on a true and clear demonstration and understanding of the root causes of what is going wrong, why and where the business or people are not delivering on investments or meeting expectations. It is magic when it is planned and structured within a robust change management methodology. It is powerful when people and their requirements are not treated as an afterthought as part of that process.
It’s magic when the brand is not forgotten and the strategies for the brand are revamped or what is existing if still relevant is intertwined into the business transformation strategy? It’s magic when a focus and objective of the transformation is explicitly to improve or at least preserve a customer experience that is demonstrably effective and excellence – relying on the brand imperatives here can help to make this happen.
It can seem to work like magic indeed if the work is done with honesty and traceability with regards to the drivers of the transformation, grasping the root causes and addressing them with vision, all tools and technology and that can be adopted with the resources available.
Objectives should be based on root cause analyses of existing risks, issues, failures and gaps in capability or in the market. Business Strategy founded on and focused on business and objectives and that keeps those objectives top of mind and must be traceable to gaps, opportunities, pain risks and issues.
Transformations fail when they become political, back covering exercises that are unmoored from the principles, issues and people that matter for the organisation. Knowing your business transformation purpose, understanding the process and identifying the triggers and elements are the key to successfully delivering the transformation that meets business objectives.
The Role of Change, Remaining Dynamic and Relevant
Change is constant and in the current business environment, seems to come at an ever-faster pace and greater magnitudes. Building in capability for and adaptability to coming change is a legitimate reason for transformation, to allow rapid assimilation of new ideas and paradigms and ability to allow extend or extensibility of organisation to incorporate, deploy or take advantage of change as it comes. It’s critical to be able to change, to adopt change and have the resilience to adapt as change unfolds, however it can create anxiety, analysis paralysis and inertia so it makes sense to remember that businesses that stay successful are the ones that resist the inertia and understand the change they need to make. Many leaders do know this but the next steps are not as clear.
Business Transformation as a concept and in practice addresses the change, change management, design and implementation and deployment of processes as well as people necessary to change the functions, operations, people, technology, systems, software and operating models of either the entire company or a line of business or business unit within an organisation that renders it more responsive, efficient and measurably improved and able to make the gains required in its environment. The business transformation strategy and the business transformation process are both dependent on the size, scope and scale of the change needed and its drivers.
Change Management is central to the attainment of transformation and technology change tends to be a core and enabling part of any transformation.
If you want to launch a new brand, change your brand, change your products, services or positioning, or recover from reputational damage – all of these are strong triggers for transformation, to help your business be more competitive and try to capture more of the market.
It’s very common to have to rethink how the organisation delivers its products and services to the market and how effectively communication, collaboration ad conflict resolution are addressed within a system and does away with bottlenecks, blockers, risks and issues. Businesses Process Reengineering, Business Architecture Re-Design, Target Operating Model Change, Business Process Design and Customer Experience Remodel are all areas that transformation will address and its wide-ranging nature makes Delivery Management and Implementation Management key to success. Change Management processes are graduated into sub-projects addressing separate business functions, systems and people and integration elements.
Several separate or overlapping stages of the following, planned and executed in logical phases through implementation and delivery including validation constitute the components of transformation, which would tend to happen over a significant period of time.
- Review of areas of pain, points of failure, opportunities for improvement or integration of capabilities or consolidation of functions and roles, within the business and technology
- Restructuring of functions and operations
- Portfolio reorganisation and business architecture change
- Technology and platforms transformation with systems and software development, integrations and migrations of data and roles
- Operating Models review, development and standardisation plus logical and systems integrations and readiness constructs for people, (geo) locations, roles and responsibilities – validations and embedding.
- Business Architecture – who does what, why and when and decision structure and hierarchies
- People change – attitudinal., competencies, management of resistance to change, restructuring, training and knowledge transfer, roles and responsibilities and hand offs and provision of clarity plus training on technology platforms that enable the role and facilitate all functions ad handoffs.
The Change Management Process
Transformation must be accomplished within a change management context – there are several accepted and effective models, notable amongst them are Kotters 8 Step Model or Lewin’s Freeze Models, (affectionately named by moi, Kotters Step Change and Lewin’s Ice Model). They aren’t perfect and need adaptation and experience but change models are necessary for achieving change because organisations are dynamic and are run by people. They help manage people’s attitude and resistance to change. It will not help you get sensitive, sincere and empathetic people on board to help manage this process, but knowledge of the process shows how you how important it is to bring people on board who can build consensus, who can manage with emotional intelligence and have personal integrity, character and flexibility in their nature.
Change Management exercises that are successful are run by people who can ensure that employees at every level understand the impetus for change, can work to influence stakeholders and work out trade-offs that may need to be made intra departmentally or for people whose roles are changing or being demised.
Roles in Change Management and Business Transformation – A rough guide
Running a business transformation process is extremely complex and needs great people, structure, governance and clarity of objectives, priorities and decision hierarchies and responsibilities.
Portfolio, Programme and project managers who are qualified to create business cases, and formulate multi-level plans for benefits realisations, effort, duration and budget information, establish with sponsors and stakeholder the immutable objectives of the transformation and schedule for delivering it. They direct the creation of system architecture and business architecture documents and project initiation documentation that can drive the graduated change processes that need to occur and attendant artefacts.
Systems, business and data analysts to review the As-Is position and plot the full To- Be journey cognizant of breaks, dependencies and track and report on emergent risks and issues, with a range of considerations, from the user experiences to customer experience in mind on a full end to end basis.
Developers, Technical Architects, Systems Designers, Testers and DevOps teams will drive the creation and manifestation of the technological landscape vision and capability
Business Architecture and Organisational Design Teams would review the As-Is business processes and ways of working to identify areas for improvement and what needs to change as well who would direct and support the functions
Implementation and Change Delivery to schedule, plan, resource and organise the implementation phases and work with technical and operational readiness teams to test, validate and iterate changes at all levels.
Operating Model Change and Operational Readiness Teams work with change delivery to plan and deploy phases and embedding with feedback loops and incident management for capturing operational risks, issues, failures to return to the development or execution process and re-deploy under control and relevant methodologies.
Project Teams ad PMO to determine the drivers for the change and primary areas of engagement and establish decision-makers in these spheres, track and manage the processes overall and track and measure benefits realisation and ensure that new competencies are exercised and new ways of working, technology ad processes are adopted with offline and emergency structures in place.
Executive Committee, Programme Board and the Steering Committee plus Design Authority and Sponsors lead the governance to maintain clarity, direction and momentum on the transformation across a plethora of issues, considerations and decisions and ensure the right interventions are made by the right people in a timely manner. They help to ensure the business transformation strategy stays on track to deliver stated benefits, part of which may require, in consultation with experts in other teams, consideration of emerging technologies that would further the case of the transformation. From digital transformation opportunities, within the organisation and outside it, e.g. cloud computing and migration from legacy systems to Big Data and Machine Learning and DevOps and putting a technology team in place who know and understand the business inside out with business champions and representatives who are in the process every step of the way to share insights on how the new tech might work in situ and if this creates any new requirements for end user computing or opportunities for removing those.
Transformation Strategy Link to Brand and Customer Experience
Strong and excellent business transformation strategy is differentiated by a focus on the brand purpose and promise and Customer Experience. The two go hand in hand and a focus on one creates opportunities for promoting and improving the other. Having been party to transformations run by other organisations, I can say that this almost never features in any transformations. The customer experience just isn’t on the radar. This is because the transformation strategy wholly ignores brand purpose and strategy. At the heart of brand strategy, is what the business should mean in attachment terms to the target audience, therefore remembering this, and aligning to brand imperatives creates a stronger chance of delivering a successful transformation that can deliver better CX and operations that will ultimately serve the brand better.
Culture and Brand Standards are usually the roles and competencies missing, guardians of brand standards, purpose and overall organisational mission that drives culture and innovation.