Anyone hoping for a pause for breath during a period of rapid change is destined for disappointment. To use what is already something of a cliché, Business Transformation has become business-as-usual.
As the rate of change accelerates and the type of change becomes more diverse so the ubiquity of business transformation will become even greater. And organisations will need to get much better at handling it.
How can they do this?
Transformation is often fragmented between different teams: IT, HR, Business Change and Process Improvement Teams all play a part. I see a need for a more integrated approach in future, with end-to-end change managed more collectively for speed, agility and cost.
This integration could see these responsibilities brought together in one centre of expertise, led by a Director of Organisation Effectiveness, incorporating the full range of expertise. This department would understand how to design a comprehensive operating model, rather than just parts of it, delivering a quicker and more robust change for their organisation.
Operating models will (must) be designed at pace
Business models are changing rapidly, and as this pace of change accelerates, operating models will need to keep pace.
This means setting aside perfectionism at the start of the transformation since no design can be perfect, but also because the quest for perfection will simply run out of time.
Clean data will become increasingly critical for organisations needing to transform from one state to another, from the data in core Finance, CRM and HR systems to more day-to-day information such as role descriptions.
Significant time gets lost to data cleansing on too many business transformation projects. If data is managed better on a daily basis, project leaders can implement change far more quickly.
Applications such as orgvueTM (see my earlier blog about orgvueTM here make testing and modelling new organisational structures easy and intuitive. I believe more and more businesses will use this kind of technology in future to prepare for reshaping in the face of various scenarios.
Design for flexibility
Given that (almost?) everyone in the workplace now accepts that no business can afford to remain unchanged for any sustained period, isn’t it madness that we don’t build flexibility into organisational structures from the start?
Larger, long-established organisations have moved, almost with inevitability over the years, towards matrix structures, often a result of assumed but untested logic and political fudge.
In fact, the resultant complications make matrix structures notoriously tricky in practice. Ambiguity around responsibilities and accountabilities of regions, functions and products create duplication or oversight.
The matrix structure will remain, but the ability to shift and adjust will be critical. Bringing clarity to the workings of the matrix means that change can be better implemented within a clear framework.
A loss of autonomy for the support functions
As businesses adopt more SaaS solutions within the support functions, they are confronted with a key difference in the way change is managed. These solutions are not customised to fit the needs of a business, but instead, are configured around a standard set of commodity processes. This brings pace and simplicity to the implementation of new software but requires a change in mindset from that business, and for some will represent a loss of autonomy in designing the day-to-day workings of teams.
This “adopt and adapt” principle also raises some interesting impacts on our ability to generate engagement and acceptance of business changes, where the most effective change management strategy had previously been to involve teams deeply in the creation of new solutions. How will business respond? Some will accept the knock-on impact of lower levels of engagement, but others will find new ways to get people involved, maybe via changes in the core processes, or in product design, which can differentiate one business from the next.
Business will invest more in business transformation
The ability to design and implement workable solutions to transformation challenges will become indispensable.
The incremental improvements of the past are no longer good enough. Companies need to start investing now in the technology, architecture and skills they need for future transformations.
So my advice is to invest in people, technology and data to prepare for the inevitability of change.