Business and IT transformation can pay off big time, but it often requires big investments. Keeping transformation projects on time and on budget may be just as challenging as figuring out what to transform.
A case in point: the Australian supermarket conglomerate Woolworths Ltd., in August reported one-year business transformation costs of AU$199.1 million, part of a AU$425.9 million strategic transformation effort. The company also announced the same day that its chairman would retire, two months after its CEO announced he’d be out as soon as a successor could be found.
We turned to a business and IT transformation expert for some tips on keeping such projects moving in the right direction.
Joy Taylor is CEO of TayganPoint Consulting Group, which she co-founded in 2009 after leaving the Strategic Six Sigma Consulting Practice at IBM (formerly PWC Consulting), where she was responsible for developing and implementing large scale Six Sigma deployment and implementation plans for global clients.
One company she’s familiar with, but wouldn’t name, wanted to establish a shared services environment encompassing many small companies it had acquired over the years. It brought in one consulting firm to build a business case, then a second consulting firm to do the implementation. The latter did its own due diligence and concluded the project wouldn’t generate the expected multiple millions of dollars in savings and ended up being discharged. Yet another firm brought in to handle the implementation did its own assessment and also concluded the ROI would not match up to expectations.
In cases such as these, says Taylor, “Eventually you’ve put so much money in that the only way out is straight ahead; just keep going. But the sad part is they’re never going to achieve the ROI and, if they are lucky, they may just break even.” The moral of that story: don’t hire an assessment firm if it can’t do the implementation, unless it is in partnership with an implementer.
Other guidelines based on her 20-plus years of experience:
- “Most companies build a roadmap for about 10 years and then start thinking about next steps around year eight; they probably should have thought about it around year two.”
- Be careful about skipping upgrades. “Some companies believe they can just skip an upgrade and plan on going to the second or third major upgrade. I can’t say that’s always the wrong solution, but it had better be a calculated one because if you skip too many upgrades you are literally starting from scratch again.”
- “If there is no clearly defined sponsor who is clearly engaged in the success or failure of the project, please don’t start it.” Also, “you’ve got to have a start and a stop date for the company to have faith that you will do something. A dangling and lingering project that never ends is a failure.”
- Identify a non-negotiable list of what must be done for a project to be successful as well as items than can fall by the wayside if they’re not accomplished by the project completion data. Have a clear understanding of what "perfection" should look like at the end of the project and establish checkpoints along the way to ensure there is agreement that it is being built to that end.
- Finally, unless you want to be a source of the consultant’s perpetual income stream, assign an internal subject matter expert to suck up every bit of knowledge from the consulting team. “Pick a high-potential person who you can look to and say ‘My expectations of you is to become the single most knowledgeable person in this company about what we are about to implement,’” Taylor says. “I mean, what a great opportunity for that person.”
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Co-founder and CEO of TayganPoint Consulting Group, Joy Taylor is an accomplished professional, with over twenty years of cross-functional experience in Lean Sigma, team facilitation, program management, project leadership, and communications and change management. She has a proven ability to manage complex, global programs and initiatives, drive process and productivity improvement efforts and lead change in a fast-paced environment.
Prior to founding TayganPoint Consulting Group, she was part of the Strategic Six Sigma Consulting Practice at IBM (formerly PWC), where she was responsible for developing and implementing large scale Six Sigma deployment and implementation plans for global clients. Prior, she served in various quality leadership roles at General Electric and as a Vice President at Sentient Enterprises Venture Capital.
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