Complexity in business is growing. There are now more moving pieces than ever before and that was before the pandemic threw everything off-kilter. We’ve learned to leverage technology — sometimes to our own detriment. You can automate and productize offshore, but effective business transformation requires herding the cats and getting them to dance together.
Everything is Connected
Business transformation isn’t just about implementing a system or buying or selling a company. Everything happens at once. Everything is interconnected. When you have a business transformation enabled by technology, there’s a web of connections across people, processes, data and tech. Those can, understandably, be difficult to manage in harmony.
The biggest pain point and need across industries is leading people through change. You must teach them to shift their ways of working to be more interconnected, be leaner and more precise, and to see the ever bigger picture. The first hurdle is ensuring your vision and call to action are understood. Once they get the why of what they’re doing, they’re more likely to get on board, which can make the project and transformation run more smoothly.
And yet this is still not enough because the next part will be to translate the “what” and the “why” into the “how” and orchestrate the mass-scale transition from doing things the old way to the new world.
There will be changes to business processes, hierarchies, roles, responsibilities, technology landscape, and data. It will not be easy. But the end goal is to have an empowered community of capable people using optimum processes, enabled by the correct technology, and driven by precise and insightful data. And it’s worth a little pain to get there.
Here’s an analogy to illustrate: your body is an intricate system of different networks (circulatory, respiratory, nervous system, etc.). If you need to undertake major surgery, the impact across all of the networks has to be precisely planned and managed before, during, and after the surgery.
A business transformation—especially going digital—is in some sense enterprise surgery where key operations are being transplanted, and just as with a heart transplant, the impacts can be far-reaching if it is not carried out with the entirety of connections in mind.
The Importance of Unification and Orchestration
Typically there are two primary factions on a digital transformation project: the Business team and the IT team. The Business team includes stakeholders who want X done and Y solution delivered, but who don’t really care about how it’s done, as long as the deadline is met.
IT handles the tactical approach. This team knows what’s possible and what’s pie-in-the-sky, and may push back on what it deems impossible. You can see how, with different approaches and goals, IT and Business teams might not always jibe in how they work together.
The key goal is to unify these two sides so they’re operating in lock-step together to achieve the wider company goals. A successful business transformation must connect the dots among all involved functions, locations, and organizations. To do so, it is imperative to cultivate an integrated team of technologists who understand the nitty-gritty as well as leaders who excel at soft skills and influencing decision making who, working together, can foster an environment of agility, iterative solutioning, and collaboration.
Why The Right Transformation Consultants Are Indispensable
With every major transformation, especially involving technology, companies will rely on external consulting partners to execute the bulk of the work. Whether it is a software vendor or a Big-4 consulting firm acting as an implementation partner, transformation projects are awash with onshore and offshore strangers, each working on a specific piece of the puzzle, often not knowing or caring what anyone else does. After all, everyone has their own deadlines and deliverables.
However, digital transformation is never cookie-cutter; each project is unique and should have a unique solution where success is defined by the ability to effectively operate the business after go-live rather than merely putting in a new suite of technology tools. This is where we find many transformations falter: the implementation vendor or, in many cases multiple vendors, are each working to the four corners of their contract, each is incentivized to shift the risk to the client and to maximize the number of changes and incremental costs, and no one is motivated to break down the silos, play the referee for both external and internal accountability, and drive the
collective body of work.
The key gap that requires attention is end-to-end orchestration. Whether it is localized within a single domain of technology, process, or data where internal and external teams need to operate together, or driving unification at the program or portfolio level, the increasing need during transformation initiatives is to ensure the “how” it all comes together is clear, understood, and accountable by all parties involved.
This is the consistent need we have found based on feedback from our Fortune 100 clients over the last decade. As the scale, complexity, and interconnectedness of each transformation increase every year, so does the need for cross-functional program leaders who will unify the various parties and integrate business, technology, and data activities to drive the transformation. Doing so effectively requires calibrating the implementation of any solution to the intersection of best practices and client culture. The “how” things are done is paramount. Every organization is different and has unique strengths and challenges, so to maximize a successful outcome—just as in surgery—the same body of work requires special considerations and fine-tuning.
And because this need is ever-increasing, the only choice is to meet it head-on. For these reasons over the last several years, we have focused on identifying and applying proven outcomes to evolve the various methodologies involved in business transformation. The result is the integrated transformation model that is founded on building a tailored approach to each client engagement. In doing so, we have found an effective and scalable solution to taming the complexities associated with orchestrating business transformations enabled by technology.
At the end of the day, business transformation is as much about leading people as it is about technology. The increasing complexity of global operations and diverse technology landscape only further highlights this fact. When embarking on a major transformation initiative, taking an integrated approach that unifies all activities across the dimensions of people, processes, data, and technology will maximize your ability to succeed.
About The Author: Alec Talan is Partner and General Counsel at Blue Skies Consulting in San Francisco.