Last year I wrote about five common things that I see businesses do that often lead to transformation failure. It struck a chord with readers, many seeing behaviours of their own that were stymying their business efforts to implement new programs, products, ways of working and directions.
It’s undeniable that large scale change is difficult, though I wish I could say it isn’t. But there are things that can cut through complexity and overcome key barriers to ensure a transformation that makes a real difference.
So this time I thought I would look at the factors that lead to transformation success. Hopefully you can use them to improve the odds!
As you’ll know if you’ve tried to upset the status quo in your business, the biggest blocker to success can be your own employees and customers. Resistance to change is natural, particularly if people are worried about it unduly affecting them. It’s incredibly important to get their investment upfront.
This can be done by including stakeholders as early in the process as you can, giving people information to anchor to, and telling a story. The strategic identity, or north star you are aiming for, and the compelling reasons for moving towards it, should be the vision that creates a movement for staff and customers. Authentic, meaningful and coherent conversations around this will align efforts, engage hearts and minds, and build a bridge between today’s capability and tomorrow’s possibility.
While businesses are under pressure to change quickly, that cannot translate to captain’s calls. Not only will this not engage the people you need most — those who will be delivering and benefitting from your vision — it can also lead to costly misalignment mistakes down the road. Instead, an outside-in approach is needed when designing a competitive future.
Everyone needs to be in the room when transformation is the topic. Staff, customers, influencers, SMEs, advisors — you name it. By co-designing and co-innovating for the future, the vision will be reinforced, diverse perspectives and thinking will be incorporated (always a good thing), the intended users will be at the heart of business thinking, and the transparency will build a sense of shared purpose and trust.
It should go without saying, but data is imperative to transformation success. It will enable you to understand the present cost of your experience and touchpoints, inside and out, and identify a focus point to start from. The use of data and real-time analytics will remove ambiguity from the transformation process, and reduce waste, ensuring that you’re designing a future backed up by evidence that will deliver real value.
The right platforms and capabilities will also allow organisations to grow faster and integrate feedback into planning, daily work and the future. Investing in them, and a 360 degree view of the customer — across all channels and interactions — is well worth the money.
One of the biggest motivators for transformational change that I believe companies should understand is that it should enable the ability to adapt. With the pace of change we are facing, and the uncertainty around how things will play out and when, there is constant pressure to respond.
Businesses with a competitive edge over peers will win this game, and will need to be a different breed than we’re used to. Their differentiator will be that they are prepared to respond quickly, with less risk and less cost. Agile ways of working will enable such a response. The shift is to iterative working, where small increments of value build as they’re proven to ensure the right path is taken. It cuts back on bureaucracy, aligns bottom-up with top-down, and builds in resilience to turbulence.
Doing all the above things will, I’m confident, go a long way to ensuring transformation success in the face of disruption. But there’s one thing that will make or break all of it: culture. The best preparation in the world cannot compete against an organisation that is risk-averse, scared, or not incentivised to succeed.
Embrace the new ways of thinking and working, but also embody them. Obsess over your customers and delivering value to them, and make sure everyone in the business believes this is their main reason for work, no matter what they do. A mindset that supports fast and strategic experimentation — with frequent feedback — will be necessary to really make agile work, and it must be driven from the top. It will be worth it.
It can sometimes seem like digital disruption is over-hyped. After all, it feels like we’ve been waiting for it to overtake business since the invention of the digital camera. Some industries have overhauled quicker than others, but it remains true that a few disruptors — or innovators — are changing the game for everyone else. To compete with these outliers, transformation will be necessary. I have no doubt of this, just as I know that with the right approach as outlined above, it’s absolutely achievable.
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