Editors note: This blog post was originally published in June 2016 and has since been updated with additional information.

BIE research found that 80% of organisations are going through a business transformation of some nature, with systems implementations, cost out operations, and standardisation of processes being most common.

Despite the immeasurable benefits it can offer, enacting a fundamental change in the way your business operates can be a long and arduous journey, with no guarantee of success. So how do you ensure yours does succeed?

No business transformation is the same. However, there are four vital steps that every organisation should take.

1. Scope

Before you can implement change, you need to have a clear vision of what you want your improved business to look like - your Target Operating Model (TOM). You also need a clear understanding of where your business is today. Once you’ve established these things, you can scope out your business transformation programme.

In their report, Business Transformation and the Corporate Agenda, Forbes and KPMG say: "Getting the right strategic vision is critical. This means being able to anticipate what the customer is going to want and how best to achieve it. It also includes defining the depth and scope of the changes and the redesign of internal processes and structures. Is a major transformation necessary or will a more surgical, limited repositioning be enough? Is the current state of our organization optimal for this type of a transformation?"

So what will your programme look like? What people, skills and resources will you require over time? How will you maintain your day-to-day operations? What are the potential risks and other issues? Scoping out your programme ensures that every base has been covered before you forge ahead with your transformation, and that everyone in your organisation is on the same page.

2. Plan

Once you’ve defined top-level, you need to plan out the details. How will you realise your vision in practice? How will you access the people, skills and resources that you’ve identified as being necessary to successful transformation?

Your journey starts with your current operating model and moves to your Target Operating Model - and beyond. Consequently, you need to map out the best possible route and identify potential alternatives too.

Do you have the internal capability to deliver your programme or will you require the support of interims? Transformation buying has matured, and people are now more likely to seek the expertise of an interim manager who can help them develop internal talent at the same time, instead of relying on management consultants to deliver the programme for them.

An interim manager will be well-versed in the specific challenges of transformation and can lead the charge while your current leadership board focuses on keeping day-to-day operations working optimally. An interim will work alongside your current team, empowering and nurturing internal talent and embedding a positive legacy of an agile, change-able business. So by the time you reach your goal, you’ll have a more responsive, more flexible, and more adaptive team.

Success relies on bringing in the right talent, at the right time. You may need to bring in a number of different interims at different times to drive different elements of the transformation. For example, If you are installing new technologies, will you need someone to integrate these seamlessly with your current platforms? And will you need additional support when it comes to ensuring employees successfully adopt the new technology?


Download the eBook "How to approach your business transformation" to find out about the most common challenges of business transformation.


3. Execute

You know what you want to achieve and you know how you will go about making it happen - now it’s time to move into gear and get going. And this is the really difficult part.

Writing for Forbes, Kasia Moreno says: "Most companies get the vision right, but the execution is the hard part […]. In the current complex and fast-changing business climate, organizations often underestimate the significance of operating model refinements necessary to effect transformation across people, process, technology, data management and risk management components."

The fact is, no matter how well prepared you are, business transformation has a low success rate - 70 per cent of programmes fail. However, there are things you can do to increase your chances of not becoming a statistic.

It’s best practice to treat your programme as a changeable entity that you should adapt as you encounter new challenges along your transformation journey. For this reason, establishing governance is critical. A Programme Management Office (PMO) can manage all parties involved in the delivery, and review the strategy and plan on a regular basis, adapting and flexing the roadmap where necessary to keep the programme on track.

Employee engagement is also key. Worryingly, in a survey by BIE, 47 per cent of senior executives felt their employees had become disengaged with change. But it’s people that ultimately make change happen, and the success of a business transformation will be reliant on engaging employees to move to new ways of working.

Our research showed that regular and open communication is considered one of the best ways to keep employees engaged, as well as giving them opportunities to help deliver the transformation. Managing and prioritising the programme of work to demonstrate early success to generate momentum will also be key.

4. Post-delivery

You’ve done it - you’ve successfully implemented your change programme. After go-live, it can be tempting to hang up your boots, but you are still walking the transformation path. True success comes in embedding and continually evolving your target operating model. The characteristics that defined your transformation - ambition, an open mind, determination etc. - should be a constant as you continue your day-to-day operations in a new way.

You might be interested in reading our previous blog about post-delivery, for more information about this important step in your transformation journey.

Whether strategic or tactical, evolutionary or radically transformational, change is the one certainty for business leaders today. Embarking on a business transformation is an important decision for your organisation and one that you want to ensure bears fruit. Taking the steps outlined above will help set you on the road to success.

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