You only have to go to any recruitment site, jobs page or career seminar to see that Transformation is already “the new black” in the world of Business and Professional Services. However, before rushing blindly into this new paradigm, what exactly do business leaders need to know about Transformation vs Change?
When it comes to transforming your business there are as many service providers as there are approaches. Change professionals have long since been familiarised with the transformation “lingo” (BPM, LEAN, SOA, Process, Workflow, and Digitisation). The growing familiarity of this language in everyday parlance is becoming a new normal for us, however words alone don’t help us understand the realities of business transformation vs business change. They help us understand the “how” and to some extent the “what” (and often, these apply equally well to change as transformation), but they don’t get to the “why”, which in my opinion is the key question a business leader must ask when deciding if transformation is right for their business.
The most successful transformations start with determining “why” your business needs to transform in the first place. Some years ago I met Janelle Hill, a wonderful lady and BPM adviser at Gartner. She defined Transformation to me as “always mind-set, never a toolset”. It is no surprise so that BPM is best described as the cross section of Technology, Methodology and Psychology. From a business leader’s perspective, this is the only way to approach this question because transformation is so much more than an individual initiative, framework, product or lexicon.
Business Transformation is the alignment of Methodology, Technology and Philosophy to effect fundamental change to how business is conducted in response to a shift in market environments. In other words, the “why” is found in the readiness and motivation to reimagine the entire fabric of a business in order to sustain, grow or realign a market position within a changing business world!
So does knowing why we need Transformation make the mission any easier? The answer is “most probably not”! In fact, the required scope and scale of such an undertaking makes it harder by an order of magnitude in most cases - and this is echoed in the failure statistics of transformation programs across the world. However, understanding the “why” is the first step to making transformation worthwhile. If we are sure about why we are doing this, the rewards from successful business Transformations can be staggering.
It is generally accepted that Lean initiatives and Waste removal can yield a 25% cost saving in a process. A well-executed Transformation Programme can yield between 60% and 80% saving in the same processes. Should this be enough to get you excited? Well, not just yet… because the second most important thing to remember about transformation is that it should never be undertaken to reduce cost alone.
Transformation is a business journey not a tactical or strategic opportunity, and if we treat it as such we should realise that the prioritisation of cost-cutting as a transformation outcome endangers a business vision and its sustainability.
Transformation initiatives should be undertaken where the business imperative is spread across increased customer satisfaction and growing revenue or market share. Lower cost may be a welcome by-product, but it should never be the “why”. There must be a clear, mature, confident, measured and assured vision for our business’ future before we begin transformation.
Fundamentally, these are precisely the reasons that Transformation is different to change. Where Change improves the past, Transformation creates the future. Successful Business Transformation cannot be achieved via insulated change initiatives or narrow business objectives.
Transformation is an enterprise-wide commitment to an enterprise-sized ambition. Nothing less.
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