BIE’s Business Transformation Survey 2018 revealed that on average, 25% of an organisation’s transformation team is made up of external talent.

So why is external talent so valuable in delivering step change? And what role does external talent play in business transformation?

The need for external talent

Organisations don’t always have the capability internally to deliver change successfully. In fact, previous BIE research found that only 42% of organisations have the internal capability to deliver business transformation.

Take an ERP implementation for example. It’s a very particular kind of transformation that happens, at most, every 10 to 15 years. Organisations simply don’t have people internally waiting to take that project on. They need someone with a specialist skill set to come in and help them implement it successfully.

The same is true for other types of transformation projects, whether it’s a merger or acquisition, cost-out or global standardisation of processes. Organisations need someone who has been there before, who knows what strategies work best, who knows the challenges you’ll face and how you can overcome them.

What's more, if you’re going through a radical step change, you can’t suddenly expect people who are already running at 90% capacity in their day jobs to take it on.

For all these reasons, external people with specialist transformation skills are often brought in to work alongside internal people. The right experts can show organisations how to structure and deliver a transformation programme. They can equip them with the right tools, templates, frameworks, guidelines and governance structures to deliver step change successfully.

The role of internal talent

For change to be embedded properly, a company needs to drive their own transformation. It’s the best way to get buy-in from everyone else in the business. Employees at all levels are more likely to become engaged with change if someone internally is telling them why change needs to take place than they would if it was coming from someone external.

This is why an internal person should always be appointed as the sponsor of the programme. It’s also important to identify change agents within the business; people who are real change promoters and can encourage engagement across the whole company.

Embedding a legacy

In the end it all comes down to legacy; external people are used to coach internal people around how to deliver business transformation. In today’s disruptive business environment, organisations are becoming increasingly focused on building internal transformation capability so that they are better equipped to respond to constant change. In fact, 62% of those surveyed by BIE said it was a priority for their organisation. By bringing in external talent to help with transformation, organisations not only have a greater chance of successfully delivering change but also of creating a change-able organisation.

And though, on average, transformation teams are made up of 25% external talent, the reality is that this proportion is likely to vary at different stages of the transformation programme. At the start of a programme, the percentage of external talent may be much higher because you’re setting the structure and the accelerators to set change in motion. But as things begin, you may start to wean off external people and hand back over to internal people.

During peak periods of transformation, the internal/external talent split should become closer to 50/50 due to the sheer number of functional workflows in play. This should not concern companies, but they need to start thinking about the legacy left after the business transformation is completed. They need to roll the right people off the programme, at the right time, and ensure that internal staff soak up the experience of these people.


In our Business Transformation Survey 2018 we looked at how buying has matured, how transformation teams are structured today, who the major sponsors and organisers are, and how businesses are engaging their employees in transformation. To download your copy of the report, click the link below.

business transformation survey 2018

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