Business transformation can redefine the future for an organization with the foresight to seize opportunity. Transformation may be driven by advances in technology, market forces, customer demand, financing, demographic trends, or cultural shifts. For many businesses today, it was the global pandemic that signaled a need to rethink business strategy. The fundamental question was how to thrive during and after the pandemic. To answer that question, many enterprises are taking steps to transform their businesses, rethinking strategy and reconfiguring operations to match new realities. What does it take to succeed at transformation and what are the roadblocks that can stall efforts?
The Basic Building Blocks of Successful Business Transformation
Some business transformations focus on ways to embrace and extend digital capabilities, which became a critical means to maintain business continuity during the pandemic. Who didn’t shift their shopping for even the most basic of life’s necessities to ecommerce at that time? Medical checkups moved from office visits to telehealth. Schools became virtual. Office work went remote, and Zoom became everyone’s go-to for maintaining connections. Those transformations in daily life and business were undertaken in record time, based on emergency conditions. Successful and sustainable business transformation requires more, however.
Whether transforming your product array, moving into a totally new market segment, reconfiguring the way you deliver solutions or restructuring the way you operate your business, you will likely invest in technology to facilitate the transformation. To be successful at any transformation requires a comprehensive roadmap to guide your efforts. Factors that can quickly derail the best intentions if not managed well include:
- A clear vision and easily understood goals
- Well-defined strategy and business requirements
- A plan for execution and a plan for managing change
- Visibility into the metrics of success
- The right people in the right roles
Vision and Goals
Big projects often fail because companies don’t do a great job of defining their vision and goals at the start.
- What will the enterprise look like as you go forward?
- Does the transformation align with your current vision, or do you need to adjust one or the other to reach your goals?
- Are the goals relatable to your team?
The vision must be clear, and the goals must be understood at a granular level. Everyone needs a North Star, and each employee needs to know how the work they do contributes to the desired results. Carefully consider how a readjustment of vision and goals changes employee roles and responsibilities. Make sure everyone is on board with the changes.
Strategy and Requirements
Many system implementations run into trouble because the architects of change underestimate the need to fully define the requirements up front and the strategy you will follow before, during and after the transformation to ensure they are achieved. Go beyond technical requirements to understand business requirements. Talk to the people who will use the technology as well as those who will benefit from it, both inside and outside the organization.
If you cut corners at this early stage, you may spend twice as much money and time at the back end to fix everything that went wrong. Take data, for example. Without reliable data, your business cannot function. Consider a global company that needs to integrate data from multiple countries. Proper data validation to ensure accuracy and compatibility with the new system is critical to project success.
To get this right, consider bringing in outside experts who have experience working on similar projects for companies like yours. Not only does this allow you to benefit from best practices, but specialized implementation partners can ease the burden on the internal team, help balance workloads, and be held accountable for progress and milestone achievement.
Implementation and Change Management Plans
Never get so wrapped up in deadlines that you push forward without adequate planning, both for the implementation and for managing the changes it will bring. The worst plans are those that assume everything will work in accordance with a preconfigured timeline. Be flexible and agile. Don’t push forward without ensuring enough time and resources are devoted to planning, troubleshooting, and defining how success will be measured. Make sure everything works in accordance with the defined business requirements. Otherwise, you will find yourself dealing with unexpected cleanup, overtime surprises, hits to employee morale, burnout from overwork, damage to company culture, and mounting challenges with both recruiting and retention.
Keep in mind that unmanaged change is often a failed change. How will you get people to change their habits and help transform the business? Don’t be surprised if there are some who don’t embrace the new system and use the new tools, but instead create their own workarounds to avoid documenting what’s required. When you underestimate the human factor and fail to explain how the changes impact individuals, you run into unexpected issues. A plan for change management is as vital as a disciplined plan for implementation.
Visibility into the Metrics of Success
Business transformation requires knowing how you will measure success. Identify the KPIs that give you more visibility into how the business is performing, so you will know when and how the needle moves. Visibility into financials and other operational areas will help in understanding how to create the scale needed for transformational growth. That could entail production efficiencies in manufacturing, an R&D buildout in life sciences, innovation in software solutions, or a move from spreadsheets and paper records in the back office to new accounting and payroll systems.
Understand what success looks like. Do you have the ability to be dynamic and flexible? Are you able to pivot when unexpected (and they are always unexpected) surprises crop up? Looking to an outside practitioner to provide an unbiased evaluation of current capabilities and limitations can help advance any discussion of metrics. Someone who is not enmeshed in the day-to-day running of the business can offer guidance to help you identify the right triggers and determine the best time to invest in new systems and technology tools.
The Right People in the Right Roles
Whether your business transformation involves integration of an acquisition, change to a different accounting system, or the introduction of new technology, never underestimate the people factor. At the start, plan how you will deploy resources. Issues to address include:
- Which employees to assign to transformation activities.
- How to ensure regular responsibilities continue uninterrupted.
- Whether to bring in experienced consultants and contract staff to help implement the project or back-fill the roles now dedicated to project execution.
- The need to match current capabilities and development potential (and any possible shortfalls) for staff assigned to the transformation project, as well as post-transformation requirements.
Never Forget the Most Vital Contributor to Successful Business Transformation
The biggest roadblock to a successful transformation? PEOPLE. If you don’t have the right resources on the project, fully invested in the results, the loftiest vision and the most disciplined and dynamic implementation will not be enough to compensate for missteps with people.
When you need help, look to a specialized partner like Sayva to provide the qualified resources required to execute the plan and ensure goals are achieved.
Contact us to learn how we can help you succeed with your business transformation.