The Pitfalls of Transformation — 5 Common Traps To Spot And Avoid


Theo Priestley, Contributor

August 14, 2015

One of the world leaders in technology is currently undergoing a massive multi-year transformation, to take its customer experience reputation from zero to hero. It’s a recognised leader in its field but also leads the field in poor client service and it has taken steps using Business Process Management (BPM) to help transform the experience it gives its customers when ordering its products and services.

It’s a hypothetical but all too common scenario, and a grand ambition deserves success but already, within months of inception, there may be trouble ahead for the programme and this particular Client. While we are usually treated to the stories of achievement I want to highlight where a transformation programme can so easily be derailed by the smallest detail at the start of the journey. Some of these areas are of no surprise as a critical component of change, but they also represent the key points where failure can begin to manifest first.

Please Sponsor Me

We are told time and again that engaging a sponsor for major change is a key to successful delivery. What we are not told is that aside from finding the right sponsor at the right level, the sponsor must be as active and visible as much as the transformation programme leaders. In this case, the Sponsor is a name, a name high up on the org chart, but their visibility within the programme itself is lacking. Not only this, but at key decision points to steer the programme and align all parties concerned to the goal, they are missing or silent within meetings. A sponsor accountable for the success and return on the change investment must be prepared to take control, however painful it may be. This is a failing that can be rectified by;

  • Setting the terms of sponsorship right at the outset and making the accountability and involvement clear. This is not just a matter of providing a business case signature and funding but a contract that supports the goal and criteria of success.
  • If a sponsor cannot commit to the level of engagement required, find another who can and will, or indeed, find someone who can provide additional support as a joint sponsor. Two heads are better than one, or none in this case.

Vendors and Clients and Consultants, Oh My

It is a simple fact that large scale transformation change that creates new customer experiences cannot be delivered alone. Here the hypothetical Client is working with not only a Vendor delivery partner but also multiple Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) solution providers and an external consultancy. This is fairly commonplace and strong collaborative relationships at the outset have to be encouraged by the Client.

However, in this example the Client has adopted a very ‘hands-off’ approach right from the start in terms of programme control and third party relationship management which has meant nobody is taking ownership of the ultimate goal and working in a silo towards the deliverable. Third party alignment in any programme that looks to transform the customer journey is paramount, because if the Client does not understand, align and control the relationships of those delivering to the vision then there is no vision to deliver.

Clients must step up and own relationship management within the programme, not abdicate responsibility to one or more third parties to own delivery.

Madness In Your Methods

Waterfall. Agile. SCRUM. Lean. Six Sigma. Water-SCRUM-fall. WaterGile. Take your pick…

The latter two are not made up, they are real and in use in companies around the World who cannot decide how to control the analysis, development and delivery of transformation. This Client has decided to go with one of these hybrid project methodologies with good intentions, trying to satisfy the working practices of all parties taking part in the programme. But the reality of performing transformational work with a mix of methodologies is far more dangerous. Already there are head-to-head clashes from the BPM delivery partner because the analysis of change required to the customer journey are being delivered in a Waterfall fashion, but they want to develop and implement the changes within the tool under an iterative and Agile method. This has led to strained relations, finger-pointing and missed deadlines.

To avoid scenarios like these, it is imperative that the entire programme, Sponsor, Client and third parties involved sign up to a single way of working together and delivery of the improved customer experience. There is no reason that creating an exceptional customer journey should not start with implementing a similar experience within the programme itself.

A Fool With A Tool Is Still A Fool

Software is an enabler to change, and used in the right way it supports the transition. The Client here has not only adopted a well known workflow automation solution to deliver the customer experience transformation but also a number of Agile based tools to capture the requirements and customer journey.

However, this decision makes less sense in light of the above where the Client has taken a hands-off approach to the delivery. Tools have been chosen but third parties have insisted on using spreadsheet based methods, requiring rework to capture change then translate into the actual Client tools of choice. Furthermore, the business process oriented solution also supports the capability of capturing the customer experience and its requirements but that investment is being ignored and not championed by both the Client and delivery partner.

Where tools are chosen to enable the delivery of change, any programme must evaluate the capability of tools, whether existing or new, to record and support the transformation without creating unnecessary work as well as their fit for purpose.

Again, a strong Sponsor would be able to support a decision that is in alignment for the collective parties involved.

A Goal Without A Plan Is Just A Wish

The Client’s own Programme Management Office (PMO) has absolved responsibility of owning the planning of the transformational activities to one of the BPO partners. Taking into account some factors already discussed here this compounds the sense of overall failure. Here we have a programme that is not controlled by the Client, does not have an actively engaged Sponsor and follows a confusing delivery methodology. By relinquishing all planning to another party indicates that the Client is either not prepared from a capability perspective to handle large scale change or they are unwilling to play a prominent role in transformation activities that affect the core of own customer service business.

When this happens, everyone on the programme should have alarm bells ringing.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1….

And there we have it, 5 ways a transformation programme can so easily be stalled, derailed or even come to a complete stop. How many have you seen fail exactly the same way, and how many other ways have you seen cause chaos within such a scenario ?

This article was written by Theo Priestley from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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