Business Transformation in Disguise by Jess Tayel

In the quest of uplifting capabilities, better serving our customers, improving the bottom line or acquiring market share, organizations have a mix of projects and programs to help achieve those business outcomes.

Some projects are scored as critical and complex. Different organizations have different methods of scoring what is critical and complex and what is not. Some organizations would have a clear and mapped out defined scoring system of what is critical and what is not, and some would settle for a subjective measure.

Having this assessment and measure is excellent. However, the thing that I have noticed is that all projects are executed the same way! Yes, the project management methodology might be a light touch for some projects and heavy on the governance and control for others depending on which bucket the project is assigned to. The same goes for the delivery method, whether it is delivered using waterfall, agile, or using a hybrid method. Yet, all projects are to be delivered using the same methodology steps/phases. These steps are more geared towards planning the solution, designing the solution, executing then testing the solution.

Perspective Image

I believe there is another dimension to the delivery of the “big critical projects”, which is knowing whether you are delivering a Change initiative or a Business Transformation initiative.

Why is this distinction important? Because they both have different characteristics that dictate how they should be brought to life.

Change initiatives are more focused on the execution of a defined set of projects/initiatives that may or may not have an impact across the entire organization. The focus of the change initiatives is a well-defined change in the way things work around the organization. Examples of Change initiatives would be introducing a new payroll system, moving into a centralized shared services model, executing an office move, and the list goes on.

Business Transformation, however, is a portfolio of initiatives that have high level of interdependencies, with a great deal of change across the organization, with a focus on not just execution but also reinventing and discovering a new or a revised business model based on a future vision that is targeted towards a significant business outcome that determines the future of the organization.

With that in mind, Business Transformation is more unpredictable, iterative, and is about a substantial change in mindset and way of doing business. The “How” may not be as defined as it is the Change initiatives which means that we need to try different methods and be more experimental.

Because of the above distinction, Business Transformation should never start with finding a solution, i.e., bring in this technology, hire this firm, change model X to Y. However, it should instead focus on:
o Define the purpose and the platform of urgency
o Why is this important?
o What would happen if we do not achieve this transformation?

o Who is our customer (internally and externally)? Tip: Internal customers, i.e., employees, are as important as your external customers. Understanding their point of view and what impact they will have on the success of this program is critical
o What would that mean for our customers?
o What competitive advantage are we bringing to our customers? And to the market?
o What changes to behaviour and mindset is required to make this change a success?

o Define Success?
o How do we measure success?>br? o What does success look like in the future? Tip: be as detailed as possible. Tell a story of success fast forward X number of months into the future
o What are the barriers to success?
o What are the top 3 risks that may affect this transformation?
o What are the top 3 opportunities that we need to capitalize on to deliver success?

Arguably, you may say that the above can be part of the initiation phase. Well, realistically speaking and in my 20 years of experience around the globe, I have rarely seen the above steps executed diligently from a customer centricity point of view before our hands starts to get itchy to dig for a solution. Usually the above is a light touch, if done at all, and then straight into project kick off. I believe the above is a necessary step prior to any project work commencing.

Time spent clearly articulating those elements, is time well spent and directly contributes to the success of the transformation, reduces rework and change fatigue. More like spending time to sharpening your saw before starting to cut the tree In the next series of this article, I will talk more about what is required from the leadership team and the internal transformation team to facilitate and create success. In a later article, I would love to shed some light on what an ideal setup for a successful Business Transformation Program would be.

I hope you have enjoyed this article. Feel free to comment and send feedback; I would love to hear from you.


Jess Tayel is a Business and Career Coach, Consultant and Mentor, who helps individuals and businesses design, build, manage and achieve true success in business transformation.

She also helps business transformation individuals achieve their career goals, grow it and win contracts/jobs and achieve fulfilment.

Jess has global experience, having worked in 4 continents for over 20 years, giving Jess well-rounded, hands-on experience specialising in business transformation, PMO setup and management, program management, business process improvement, business analysis, user experience design CX, service design, business systems support, technology implmentation and change management.