Distilling 58 Million Search Results on ‘Business Transformation’!?

This post was initially published on LinkedIn.

Search ‘Business Transformation’ and you will get 58 million results. No, I did not click on all of them. But it is not surprising that some people can be confused or disoriented, especially if new to the area or coming from one corner of this huge landscape.

I write this to provide the big picture or ‘helicopter view’, so the next time you read or hear about it you know where that perspective is from, then you can form your view on how it fits and can be applied to your business situation.

Why Business Transformations?

Business Transformations enable three transition scenarios: start-up, strategic (re)-alignment and turn-around. And underpinning these scenarios are changes in business vision and strategy.

In all these transition scenarios, more often than not, business transformations require significant changes in business process and the attitudes and behaviours of people who use them.

With significant changes in business process come disruption of existing IT systems and technologies that are used by the organisation. This is why many articles of business transformation inadvertently equate it with process and systems transformation.

It has become a cliché, but the truth remains: people are like the ‘treasures’ of the business. You can implement new process and systems and fall short of transforming your business. You can have the brightest idea and the strategy to go with it, but when people do not rally around it, you will fail. You can rollout an attractive communications campaign, but when your people do not buy-in to where you are leading them, you will have just wasted your time and money.

Because of the critical element of getting buy-in from people on the vision and underlying activities of business transformation, many articles on business transformation focus on organisational change management and ‘leading change’ strategies.

Hardware and Software of Business Transformation

To illustrate the whole picture of business transformation, I coined the term ‘hardware’ and ‘software’ of business transformation.

Imagine buying a beautifully presented and well-designed device, but without any applications for it to be useful, nor the mechanism to ensure it continues to be useful as your needs change. You need all of these to be a satisfied customer.

The ‘hardware’ of business transformation relate to the structural aspects of change. They are easy to see and touch. These are also more commonly known – program management structure, governance, systems and tools, process, business rules, policies, to name a few.

For example, the establishment of Enterprise Program Management Office (EPMO) is often associated with business transformation programs. Less well known is the need for Enterprise Business Architecture (EBA) to organise, prioritise and deliver the work for process and systems change across the company, so that the benefits of change are not cancelled or diluted by one initiative over another.

The ‘software’ of business transformation relate to the aspects that influence behaviours and attitudes. The management team can mandate governance processes but governance influence is best tested when the mandate is removed and people still willingly, with enthusiasm and care, proceed to conduct the same activities. The ‘software’ aspects are not so easy to touch, but when used effectively they help embed and sustain the change. They are often experienced and observed. Just like software, there is an ecosystem of these influencing levers that address the strategic, operational and individual-personal responses to change.

For example, the leadership behaviour that motivates, encourages and inspires is one of the many keys to successful transformations. At the operational layer, the change management activities that support the change projects and initiatives provide the linkage from the strategic to the individual-personal response. At the personal layer, there are ways to raise awareness and help the person adapt and thrive through change. The lack of alignment between these layers cause tensions in the ecosystem and can decelerate or knobble the transformation.

This is the landscape view of business transformation. Does this help you position the other articles you are reading on the subject? How does this inform your approach for the business transformation program you are leading or part of?

Also read this related blog ‘Hardware and Software of Business Transformation’

I will be writing more on the foundation – the not so visible aspects – of business transformation in my next post. Up next is Enterprise Business Architecture.

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