Business Transformation – What, Who, When, How?
What is transformation?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines transformation as:
‘A complete change in the appearance or character of something or someone, especially so that that thing or person is improved’
But what is transformation within the context of business? The Harvard Business Review informs us that:
Business transformation involves making fundamental changes in how business is conducted
Whilst the above are both informative descriptions, it must be the Engineer in me, but I like specifics, so with that in mind I want to focus on defining further what business transformation is.
To me, business transformation involves the structured (and planned) change, improvement, evolution and/or the replacement of processes, people, training, systems, technology, marketing and brand perception, so that ultimately the business achieves improvements in the form of, for example, increased efficiencies, sales, workforce skills, customer satisfaction, brand improvement, stakeholder approval.
Who can perform a business transformation?
In my opinion, any business of any scale can and should consider initiating a period of structured transformation to support their business.
Whether you are a company with a turnover of £50,000 or £50,000,000, you will likely perform (roughly) the same change activities, however, the key differences between your transformation will be around the scale of transformation you are attempting, the time frame that it might take, the resources required to achieve the transformation and potentially the magnitude of the transformation you are attempting.
Also remember, just because your company might have a small turnover and resources compared to others, doesn’t mean that you can’t complete a successful business transformation project within a supportive time frame.
When should a business go through a transformation?
I think this is an interesting question.
- Do you initiate a period of transformation when your business is going well and you have positive momentum and sufficient resources behind
- Do you initiate a transformation during a period of business plateau when things are steady, so in other words, your business isn’t growing, however, it’s not reducing either? Or
- Do you initiate the transformation when things aren’t going well, and you see the transformation as an attempt to recover your business and get it back on track?
In my experience supporting transformation projects across businesses of various scales and industrial sectors, when things are going well in a business and their confidence and motivation are high, this is when they are willing to push the boundaries a bit more in relation to the magnitude / aspirational goals they set for the transformation. Additionally, when the business is in a positive position, they have more resources available to allocate to the transformation to support its success.
I think the most stressful and difficult time to consider initiating a transformation is when things aren’t going well in the business. Let’s be honest, when a business is struggling it’s going to be under so much additional stress and the motivation levels of staff within the business may not be high.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t initiate a transformation during this period, but rather it’s important to recognise that its going to be tougher. However, successfully completing a transformation during a difficult time builds a real sense of achievement within a business and a confidence to know they can get through the tough times. Additionally, the experience of transforming a negatively performing business builds resilience in the team as well as an internal appreciation of the fact that they never want to be in this position again.
How do you perform a business transformation?
There are a variety of ways to facilitate a business transformation, however each transformation has its own unique aspects, as such the method to perform the transformation will vary. That being said, I believe there are three keys factors needed to support a transformation:
1. Transformation Process knowledge and experience.
Taking on a transformation can be a significant challenge and it requires real commitment. Having the support of people who have successfully completed a transformation can significantly increase your likelihood of success, as well as reduce the time the transformation may take.
2. Stakeholder buy-in
Your team are key, they are key stakeholders, if they aren’t on board and integrally involved in executing and helping to plan the transformation, they won’t buy-in and the success of the transformation will be impacted.
3. Allocation of Resources to support the transformation activities
You need to buy into the fact that to make a transformation you will have to allocate resources (which may be limited) to complete specific tasks. You may also have to make an investment in external support, software etc. Both of these can be difficult decisions to make, but if they are pivotal to the success of the transformation you have to take it on the chin.
I personally like to keep things simple and I use a Current State to Future State method to support transformation.
So, to summarise.
- Transformation can take multiple forms
- It can be done by businesses of any scale and during any time of their existence, however its always easier when the business is in a positive position.
- Transforming a business is a challenge. It takes time (potentially months and longer depending on the scale of transformation) and a lot of hard work and commitment.
- Thinking you can successfully achieve a transformation without time, effort and commitment, is a sure-fire way of setting yourself up for failure. However, if you follow a process and have the support of people with the appropriate skills, knowledge and experience, you can successfully transform your business and ensures success for years to come.