Business transformation: more than just a ‘buzzword’?
As I read through lots of great articles, listen to many podcasts and sit through lots of leadership seminars, it’s becoming apparent that there’s a growing conversation around business change, be it merging organisations, evolving an offering, restructuring teams, or developing sales pipelines – whatever the topic, there’s a lot of it going on, which is great in some respects, but in other ways can be quite negative.
On a positive note, leaders of businesses are prepared to create a mindset of change based upon a clearly defined strategy which would have been through a thorough process with some clearly identified objectives at a firm-wide level. Of course, the most crucial part of the strategy is one of clarity in deployment and measurement of impact – both internally and externally of the organisation, and let’s not forget the learnings from speaking to your customers.
Negatively, however, this is a mindset that should always be active, one of constant development, listening, looking, learning, and developing a considered evolution, not just enhanced, and driven by the current market and economic crisis that every business has been through over the past two years and with the potential for the next two years driving uncertainty. It must always be on Board or Leadership team radar.
“Change before you’re forced to! Be in control of the process.”
Along with this thinking, I’m hearing a lot of conversations around business transformation, and in every conversation I listen to, they talk about different meanings of the term ‘business transformation’ and what this means when applied with a very broad brush. In some instances, it’s related to business development; in others it’s related to staff retention and acquisition, and many more varied associations with the term. What is apparent is that for each example they’re all wildly different and aren’t business transformation at all: they’re simply talking about one aspect of the bigger transformation.
Of course, this one aspect is very important and has its place in all leadership teams’ focus, however it’s part of a much bigger, challenging, exciting and very rewarding business-wide objective aligned to a long-term strategy.
So, is business transformation becoming a ‘buzzword’ and undermining what is a critical business programme delivered by experienced experts, who truly deliver transformative impact? I’m not sure that it is, maybe more just misunderstood.
What is business transformation? Well, what it isn’t is a single focus on an area of the business for one specific need, such as developing business to simply increase sales – why? Well, as an example, if we increase sales and achieve rapid growth, we may experience the following risks as a result of rapid growth:
- Not scaling customer service
- Management alignment and agreed strategy for growth – driving mistakes and issues
- Scaling technology to business need for the long term
- Unexpected cost of ongoing sales growth and marketing
- Retention of valuable existing and recurring customers
- Lack of operational control
- Losing track of finances
- Cash flow mistakes and unexpected pressure – potential growth in purchases etc.
- Building a stronger more align sales team and process for increased pressure on sales pipeline
- Ineffective business operations
- Hiring the wrong people at speed, not identifying the right candidates that bring the right expertise, experience, and value
And of course, there are many more risk factors to take into consideration.
However, what these risks do is illustrate that there must be a wider focus and an applied business strategy, one that’s aligned to a business-wide objective and has all stakeholders engaged and bought into the strategy so that it’s owned by all – every single individual within the organisation. This takes time and isn’t an overnight change programme, it’s a longer-term process of planned change – with ‘planned’ being the key word and mindset.
So, what is business transformation, given it can mean so many different things, to so many individuals and businesses? It’s our belief and opinion that business transformation is a term that best describes a transformative process that covers a wider, but connected, range of areas of a functioning business, which includes operational, sales, finance, cultural, digital and people. It’s a process of change that a business goes through to enable it to manage its way through shifts in a market.
The process of business transformation is very complex and can be worked through many aspects of an organisation. It certainly mustn’t be considered as a quick and straightforward process – it’s not. The process of transformation can vary dependent upon scope of change required and naturally size of the organisation, however (and typically) the process can take months and sometimes years to see through to completion and even at that point, the evolution should never end. The scope of change and decisions made will affect every area of the business and therefore the process of transformation starts at the very top and filters down through the entire organisation.
The C-Suite and/or Board of Directors carry the responsibility for the entire business transformation process, and for defining the company’s purpose and vision, which then set the foundations for change. In identifying the layers of the business model, it enables decision making around changes required in areas such as operational, people, digital, marketing awareness and business development. Ultimately it creates the ability to identify where more value can be added in the future.
Here are some key considerations when looking at deploying business transformation:
- Assess the current business situation
- Get decision maker buy-in
- Get employee buy-in
- Create a regular flow of employee engagement
- Create a consistent communication strategy
- Develop an effective change management process
- Set goals! Short- and long-term and, of course, what the ultimate goal is
- Motivate and develop urgency
- Eliminate fear of failure – we mustn’t be controlled by fear!
- Create the ability for collaboration throughout the entire organisation
- Be creative and encourage the development of new ideas
- Develop the people by building a skills development programme
- Measure, measure, measure – employee engagement and external engagement
To conclude, I’m not saying that business transformation is a necessity within organisations. Business leaders have the option, their choice, to ignore change rather than embrace it, and therefore create a ‘standing still’ mindset and positioning within its relevant market. This also breeds wider within the organisation, which again can be dangerous and distract from the future potential growth and value.
It’s also important to remember that business transformation isn’t just for the big and mighty corporates: it can be very powerful for start-ups, SMEs looking to scale further, or for when organisations are merging or acquiring. Typically, the process of transformation should pioneer any major milestone or strategic junction in an organisation.
As I have mentioned previously, and to manage expectations, the process of business transformation can be a long process, one not to be rushed. It requires complete alignment, dedication and buy-in from the top down. It is a commitment to change.