5 Questions to Ask About Your Business Transformation

Business transformation is the process of transforming (1) how things are made, (2) how things are bought, (3) how things are sold and/or (4) how services are provided. It has been pursued by organizations ever since the first organization came into being and would continue to be pursued in the foreseeable future. It is the way for organizations to know their current state (i.e., know where they are), their future state (i.e., know where they want to be) and their transition (i.e., what steps to take) by considering the people, business processes, services, products and technologies that can help them achieve their objectives. To be clear, business transformation is not merely a “business” only pursuit but rather it is an organizational pursuit that encompasses Information Technology (IT) and digital transformation journeys as well.

While the promise of business transformation is great, it is still something that organizations consistently struggle with. There are multiple factors that can lead to failed business transformation efforts but the number one reason seems to go back to a typical conversation within organizations. In the 21st century, technology for organizations is not just an enabler but paramount to their success. But how many times have you said or heard someone say, “business” wants this and “business” wants that and that “business” does not understand that systems cannot be developed overnight. Ingrained in this sort of thinking is the idea that somehow IT is different from “business”. Somehow there is this “us” vs. “them” mentality.

It is time to change this “us” vs. “them” culture. It is time to think about IT as not something that is outside of “business” but is part of “business”. To have this conversation there has to be mutual understanding that neither should downplay the importance of the other. This requires an understanding that all technical and non-technical aspects of the organization are there to support the end objectives of business transformation and that collaboration works much better than just mere animosity.

When organizations’ bread and butter business models are shattered in light of the new digital and sharing economy, “business” and technical folks have no one else to blame but themselves. As such it becomes imperative that organizations don’t get lost in complacency and infighting. These organizations should view business transformation as a holistic endeavor by paying enough attention to people, business processes, products, services and technologies that directly and indirectly affect them otherwise business transformation is just a pipe dream. In order for organizations to figure out their own business transformation journey, they need to ask the following questions from internal and external perspectives:

 

Currently

In the Future

1. Who is helped by business transformation? Who should be helped with business transformation? (E.g., management, employees, customers, shareholder etc.)
2. What does business transformation teach us? What should business transformation teach us? (E.g., better internal communications, governance, standardization, discipline, branding etc.)
3. Where does business transformation start? Where should business transformation start? (E.g., IT, marketing, operations, customers, vendors, partners etc.)
4. When is business transformation considered? When should business transformation be considered? (E.g., customer-employee conversations, competitors’ disruption/re-imagination of business models, new innovations, new methods etc.)
5. Why is business transformation is being done? Why should business transformation be done? (E.g., optimization, cohesiveness, long-term value, positive societal ripples etc.)

When you ask the above questions, keep in mind that without effective and unbiased feedback loops most business transformation journeys would be just nearsighted one-time initiatives and not something that would make organizations self-improving entities. Smart organizations have realized this and are taking advantage of not only technological changes but also setting themselves up for the future before they themselves get disrupted.

Business Transformation 5Ws

What’s Wrong With My Enterprise Architecture? – a response

Recently, a fellow Enterprise Architect reached out and asked my opinion on his article.  Below is my response:

• Enterprise Architecture has many definitions. Here is one that I tried to create in 160 characters. “EA bridges business and IT via enterprise integration/standardization resulting in people becoming more efficient and effective in achieving their objectives.”

• While there are many reasons behind failures of EA within organizations but as I see it, they essentially boil down to only one thing (i.e., lack of communication in understanding the true value of what EA brings to the organization). It takes effort from everyone (EA, Business and IT) in the organization to use EA for business transformation. Before anything else organizations need to decide:

  • Why they need/want EA? Here is a good video that alludes to this.
  • What quantitative and qualitative values does EA bring to the table?

• Unfortunately EA has turned into merely an information collection activity and moved away from why this information is being collected in the first place. What is the strategic intent? In my observation, most EA is not strategic (e.g., Federal Government’s use of EA)

• My biggest issue with EA these days is where it resides within the organization. These days EA reports to or is a part of IT and suffers the same fate as IT (e.g., reduced budgets, no executive representation etc.). Ideally, EA should report into Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) or Chief Executive Officer (CEO) but not to the Chief Information Officer (CIO) or Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

• EA is a conceptual mindset. In my view, it is not about frameworks, modeling or programming languages. EA is about business transformation that may or may not require IT to accomplish transformation. Blasphemy! I know ☺

• True EA is difficult to do and it takes a long-term commitment from the organization to pursue it.

In today’s business world quickness and agility is often used as a pretext/excuse for a lot of things mostly because the people using these terms just want additional lines added to their resume before they move on. To put in an analogy, what kind of car would you like to drive? One that goes really fast but has bare minimum safety or one that has optimum safety but you might get it a month late? Short answer is, it depends. Mainly it depends on what is the end goal the organization or person is trying to achieve. Same is true for EA. Without measurable end-goals EA just becomes a complacent black hole.