Thoughts on Transformation – Part #1

The aim of this series of blogs is to present my thoughts on transformation covering it from three perspectives; Business, Organisation and Technology. There are so many aspects and viewpoints to transformation that there will never be “one right way to execute it”, to be successful the transformation approach and strategy should be tailored to the explicit needs and dynamics of an organisation, there is however a consistency in defining and articulating the approach and strategy to aid success.

I deliberately do not use the phrase Digital when taking about transformation as I believe it obscures the need for transformation to encompass the whole eco-system of an organisation. The inevitable “digital landscape evolution”, introduction of new technology components and new technology ownership models occurs as a result of transformation execution and should not be looked on as the driver.


Technology has and always will be an enabler. It allows organisations and individuals to realise the ideas and opportunities they come up with. In todays environment where we are shifting from full-contact to contact-less interactions and where people expect a consistent & seamless experience when dealing with all aspects of their life. This is regardless of the purpose of engagement whether personal, work, health or government. A consumers interaction with any aspect of an organisation has the power to drive highly appreciated & trusted levels of experience or to completely annoy and frustrate.

Whether commercial, government or cultural, an organisation’s focus on the experience they deliver to their “consumers” should push towards ease of service procurement and empowerment within delivery or execution of the procured service or product. Think of companies such as Deliveroo who make it easy to find and order from a diverse range of restaurants and then allow the customer insight into the “state of the service” and “who is doing the work” as the order progresses from accepted through to delivery as an example of putting the customer not just first but giving a sense of ownership of the whole process.

Organisations, regardless of what they do, that practise this engagement model put their customers front and centre in all things they focus on. However I would suggest that organisations that excel in this new model also put their staff at an equal level of importance to their customers.

New(ish) organisations that are “Mobile or Web” first tend to gravitate to point (b), organisations such as health and government tend to end up at (a), legacy and highly bureaucratic organisations get stuck at (c). Point (d) is the ideal end-state and should be the target for any organisation.

To put is in simple terms, how many times have you been wow’d by an organisations web or mobile experience and then when things go wrong been absolutely frustrated trying to work through the support services. Conversely organisations that have great support services can have abysmal to no self-service capability. Organisations stuck at (c) do tend to be;

  • Critical-in-nature in that you cannot do without them
  • Too big for customers to challenge effectively
  • Culturally unable to shift their mindset to transform to the new paradigm of experience driven expectations.

To transform an organisation towards (d) requires a shift in mindset, culture and strategy on how they are setup, how staff are empowered and the strategic use of technology to deliver the optimal experience to the end-point consumers. Note: I consider consumers to be anyone who interacts with an organisation be it Employees, Prospects, Customers or Partners.

In todays world you have access to a range of options that simplify the technology aspects. You also have a range of companies offering “silver bullet” Platforms and Digital Transformation Services & Methodologies that proclaim to make it easy to move to your desired area on the chart above.

External Advice, Methodologies and Technology approaches are important as they bring new perspectives and opportunities, however the most critical elements of successful transformation initiation and journeys are;

  • A clear business vision of why, how, what, who, where and when
  • A realistic understanding of your organisations cultural flexibility/rigidity
  • Honest assessment of the current state (Business, Organisation and Technology) and acceptable rate of change
  • A willingness to try new ideas
  • Flexible budgets and budget management focusing on KPI, ROI and not just on end-state $ amounts
  • An understanding of which approaches can provide benefits to transformation for your organisation
  • Resist falling for the “silver bullet” methodology, buzzword or technology trap
  • Buy-in, engagement and ownership from all levels and areas of the organisation
  • Change your world in baby-steps
  • Engagement, Empowerment and Enablement of employees, customers and partners on the journey
  • Acceptance that the transformation roadmap is fluid
  • Not everything will work as expected, change of direction and priorities are an integral part of transformation
  • No-one knows all the answers up front, but initiating the transformation activities is important as it is only possible to assess progress and if necessary change direction when moving

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson wrote a book titled Rework a number of years ago about their journey building the 37 Signals company (now trading as Basecamp). While the book is focused on their journey from startup, its messages are applicable to any company looking at a transformation as they reenforce a number of core principles that every company on a transformation journey should keep in mind. If you have not read the book yet, it is worth picking up. Rework eBook: Fried, Jason, Heinemeier Hansson, David: Kindle  Store

The messages from the book I particularly push when discussing transformation are;

  • Start changing (or making) something
  • You need less than you think
  • Embrace your constraints
  • Draw a line in the sand (small executable and measurable steps)
  • Ignore the details early on
  • Good enough is fine
  • Decisions are temporary
  • Planning is guessing
  • It is the stuff you leave out that matters, constantly look for things to remove, streamline and simplify
  • Make big decisions
  • Don’t copy – Innovate. Trying to copy another organisations successes means you are always playing catchup, never leading
  • Say no by default
  • Culture happens, it is not created

To make a transformation succeed it is critical to have a strategy that encompasses Business, Technology, Organisation. The strategy must be reflective of the business needs, culture & goals. It should also take into account where you are now and the constraints around change that need to be considered. A roadmap consisting of the current state, targeted state and step-states is vital so everyone can see how the transformation journey will be accomplished. The transformation roadmap should be business driven by modelling the organisations needs leading to the technologies required and not technology driven.

Transformation of an organisation is about the delivery of enhanced experiences and is essentially putting the correct data and capability (products, processes & functionality) in the hands of the consumers in a manner that is most appropriate to their role and needs at the time of engagement.

On a final note for this blog entry, Transformation should not be treated as a program but rather as a journey with a desired end-state described via a set of principles and guidelines, which if followed will evolve the organisation and its delivery of services/products over a targeted period of time. The end-state will be fluid, it will evolve over time as business, technology, marketplace, etc present opportunities and obstacles that need to be incorporated into your vision and strategies.

About Brian Maguire

Working in IT for 30+ years. Recent position was Global Enterprise Architect for Las Vegas Sands Corporation. Currently immersed in the startup scene in Budapest.
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