Ruth Moreland is a career Interim specialising in Programme and Project Management, programme managing business and HR transformations, HR projects and initiatives on a global scale.

What are the key challenges organisations face when managing business transformation?

For me the key challenge is around the organisations ability to identify, understand and plan appropriately for the people side of the transformation.In my experience, organisations are good at the strategic, operational and budgetary plans, but often the people implications of the transformation are not considered, considered too late or are very much underestimated.

The other challenge is related to the size and the length of a transformation. Often the focus is on getting to a certain point, but failing to realise that embedding the change will take a long time, probably years. During a recent assignment we identified that our target operating model was going to be a three-year transformation. Two years into that programme there was still much that needed to be done – so even within the HR environment, we’ve probably underestimated the scale and duration of that change.

Finally, the other thing is that you can be caught out if you don’t reassess and re-evaluate as you journey through the business transformation. Things are changing all the time and you do need to have that constant eye on whether the roadmap is still appropriate.

In your experience, how are organisations approaching managing Business Transformation? What works/what fails?

In my experience organisations are taking more structured approaches to managing business transformations, ensuring there is a sponsor, programme teams responsible for the transformation and recognising it is often necessary to ‘resource up’ during the transformation.

Business transformations that include a People and Organisation workstream (or similar) within the programme governance, in my opinion will have a better chance of implementation success.

Something that often fails is sponsorship – not having a sponsor, or having a sponsor that is not an active sponsor can mean you end up having leadership / transformation teams that are working against each other. A transformation of any size requires an active sponsor.

What is your experience of the level of internal capability organisations usually have in managing business transformation?

I don’t think a lot of organisations have the internal capability, and how they try to bridge the gap is really important. Many organisations will use the big consultancies (Deloitte, Accenture etc.), which are very good, but I think there are huge benefits to be gained from building internal capability.

A recent example which I thought worked well was where the HR function created a Change team of experienced interims including an OD and Change specialist to guide and support on a range of business transformations over a 2-3 year period. This team worked closely with business sponsors, HRBPs, leaders, programme and project teams to coach and upskill them in transformation, change and project management competences.

As the business became more skilled in leading and managing their business transformations, now with the guidance and support coming from their strategic HRBPs, the interim resource was steadily released.

In your experience, how easy is it for a business leader to know if their organisation has a capability gap?

It can be difficult especially if they have not been through a transformational journey themselves and therefore do not appreciate what is involved and what will be needed.

In your experience, how easy is it for a business leader to find out what the capability required is?

A business leader may bring in somebody who’s got all of the expertise and is going to help define not only what needs to be done and when, but who is needed to help do it. A consultancy or an interim can do this, helping the business leader to identify the capability that is required for the programme; often a mix of internal expertise and interims.

How would you suggest approaching developing an internal capability in managing business transformation?

While organisations typically like an injection from consultants or interims who focus on the activity, create energy and drive around the transformation programme, it is important to assess internal capability and work with these people, using it as a developmental opportunity if needed so that knowledge is built within the business for the future.

Internal capability can also be developed through learning from past experience. Speaking to colleagues involved in one of the first acquisitions a highly acquisitive organisation carried out, say it was a lesson in how not to do it! There were many elements that were not planned for and consequently the experience was generally not a good one for those impacted by the change. With each subsequent acquisition things improved slightly, and now these colleagues are saying, “Actually, we’re pretty good at doing this now.”

What advice do you have for business leaders managing Business Transformations?

That sometimes it’s good to have people on board who have the battle scars from previous transformations. Internal skills (subject matter experts) and deep institutional knowledge is really important, as well as having an appropriate programme team to direct and guide the transformation effort.

What are the top tips you would give other business leaders around building an internal capability in managing business transformation?

Use internal or external experts to help build internal capability deep within your business – don’t assume this is something that people just know how to do. Develop a common language, methodology and framework (tools and techniques) that everyone can relate to and should utilise.

Coach leaders how to be effective sponsors and develop change agents right across the business and functions to guide and support the change activity.

Have a strong internal communications team to help manage effective communications.

Review and evaluate the effectiveness of each transformation programme and use lessons learned in future.

Ruth Moreland is a career Interim specialising in Programme and Project Management, programme managing business and HR transformations, HR projects and initiatives on a global scale. Her most recent assignment was Group HR Programme Lead at the London Stock Exchange. Prior to this she has undertaken interim assignments across a wide range of sectors, including assignments at Anglo American, TalkTalk, Barclays, BP, Black & Veatch, The Bank of New York and Zurich Insurance. Ruth has a MSc in Human Resource Development and a BA (Hons) in Personnel Management.

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