About the Author
Nicholas Quattrocchi is an Executive Transformation Consultant for IMPRIVA with deep expertise in Business Process Management, Process Improvement & Operational Excellence, Global Program Management, Enterprise Architecture Management, Organizational Change Management, and Leading High-Performance teams.
During his tenure at IBM, Software AG (IDS Scheer), Accenture, and IMPRIVA, Nick has led and consulted on numerous large-scale SAP transformation programs at some of the world’s largest companies. Nick has also led process and non-SAP IT transformation programs across a variety of industries, varying sized private and publicly held companies, and non-profits using the same repeatable process-centric approach to transformational change.
In addition, Nick is passionate about professional development and giving back to others what was so generously give to him. Nick provides coaching and mentoring to a network of professionals seeking to build new or refine existing skills, advance in their careers, and align their passions with their day-to-day.
Transformation has moved from a corporate watchword to a buzzword to the latest strategy for businesses to remain relevant in a fast-paced, volatile, and unpredictable market.
A quick Google search elicits a litany of definitions for the word transformation. Add the word digital in front of it and the screens is flooded with articles, images, ads, and quite literally, the who’s who of the management consulting firms, advisory groups, and software companies – all offering their advice, solutions, approaches, and methodologies for executing a digital transformation.
Transformation sounds important and feels daunting. Throw in all of these different flavors of transformation and a person undoubtedly feels overwhelmed, confused, and desperate for direction and answers.
So... to level set for this discussion and to hopefully help make sense of it all, transformation is the fundamental change in how a business operates in response to market changes.
Breaking this down further, ‘how a business operates’ refers to the intersection and combination of people, processes, and technology.
Conventional wisdom about people, process, and technology defines technology as the applications that support and manage the operations of a business. However, this definition of technology is not broad enough to do justice to the complexity of modern technology. An argument can be made to differentiate applications from technology.
Where technology refers to a business’s:
Core IT infrastructure - servers, cloud storage, phones, networks
Data analytics and Business intelligence
Artificial intelligence and Automation
Remote devices - laptops, tablets, smart phones
Collaboration tools - Slack, Zoom, FaceTime, Office365
Information Security – Network security, monitoring, SSO, endpoint encryption
Where applications include:
Enterprise Solutions including CRM (Customer Relationship Management), ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), and HCM (Human Capital Management)
The distinction is important, and necessary, as companies reflect on the impact of the pandemic on their business, employees, and customers. In order to survive, a business was required to fundamentally change how they operated. As society moves toward ‘a new normal’, it is important to reflect on the impact COVID-19 had on companies and how they were able to transform regarding people, process, technology, and applications.
During the early stages of the pandemic, core applications that supported a company’s business may not have fundamentally changed for a plethora of reasons (constraints on time, cost, and/or effort). However, the underlying technology used to connect with customers, collaborate with co-workers, and to allow operations to continue unencumbered was where the real transformation occurred. People learned new ways of communicating, collaborating, and connecting with their coworkers, customers, and families. New styles of communication, new soft skills, and new work patterns and styles were created, followed, and continuously refined. The new use of technology forced a revolution within the workforce and workplace.
A major shift to a remote, mobile, work environment occurred and drove a massive shift in the corporate landscape, challenged traditional C-Level executive thinking, and empowered a struggling workforce. Prior to March 2020, a 100% remote workforce seemed unimaginable. The amount of transformation needed to make that transition possible seemed nearly impossible. However, thanks to COVID-19, companies were able to quickly pivot to remain viable and avoid extinction. The pandemic was the catalyst for so much change from a people, process, technology, and application perspective.
People are experiencing a fundamental shift in where and how companies chose to attract, engage, and retain them. The pandemic forced individuals and families to coexist in new ways under the same roof. Remote work and remote school created a shift in the technological needs of homes across the world. It also forced families and working adults to reprioritize their own personal goals and values. Companies proved they were able to successfully operate and even thrive in this new remote work environment. Shifts in personal priorities and the success of work-from-home has forced companies to focus heavily on improving the employee experience. ‘The Great Resignation’ – people leaving jobs in record numbers at a record pace - and ‘Quiet Quitting’ – people are setting personal boundaries in their current roles and not going above and beyond their assigned responsibilities - are both a direct result of a workforce that is no longer is okay with the status quo and are exercising their voices and their freedom of choice. This has created a culture in which companies need to be more mindful, proactive, and empathetic to changing employee sentiment or risk losing valuable talent and invaluable institutional knowledge.
The impact of a shift in an individual’s values and priorities also extends into the marketplace. With labor shortages, rising costs of goods and services, and the hyper-immediacy of literally everything, companies require a heightened focus on the customer experience. This renewed focus is directly at odds with a renewed focus on the employee experience. Finding the right balance has proven challenging to organizations. The solution lies within the processes, technology, and applications of the organization.
Inevitable changes to processes were a direct result of the introduction of new technologies, new work environments, and the new distributed workforce. What worked in a physical office environment, simply wouldn’t work in this new virtual, remote environment. Core operational processes needed to be reviewed, changed, and/or replaced to fit the new ways of working.
However, process changes were made quickly during the pandemic – maybe with lots of thought or maybe with none at all. These process changes may have required changes to technology, applications, and people. New technology may have been needed and old technology deprecated… changes to core applications may have been required in order to meet new demand… and changes to the workforce may have been needed to support those changes. But, for some organizations, keeping pace with changing consumer behaviors and the volatile economic conditions proved too difficult while also performing the right amount of due diligence prior to making decisions. The lack of due diligence allowed for the introduction of application redundancy, increased tech debt, creation of duplicative processes and duplicative support of those processes.
Some companies are still catching up with the rapid change from the last 2+ years. While other companies are continuing to transform in preparation for the future by identifying opportunities to improve infrastructure, to refine their enterprise architecture, to adapt to an ever changing workplace, to redefine corporate culture, and to design more nimble products and services. This requires investments in solutions, approaches, methodologies, and processes that allow for a faster response to new industry and market trends, changes in consumer behavior, and uncertainty from a global political, ecological, environmental, and economical perspective.
To reiterate the point from earlier, changes to people, process, technology, and applications have a ripple effect on each other. Balancing fast-paced change with the right amount of due diligence to understand the current state is critical for long-term, sustainable transformation and growth.
The word transformation is attached to so many different types of initiatives and programs with words like digital, business and process thrown in front of it. Some examples of the types of transformation companies are referring to include ‘moving to the cloud’, ‘moving to an Agile delivery organization’, or ‘moving to a Hybrid work environment’. Whatever an organization chooses to call it, at its core, transformation requires enterprise-wide strategic planning, coordinated execution, dedicated responsibility, and strict accountability.
Which means that Process Transformation CANNOT be solely owned and delivered by the Business without participation and coordination with IT. Similarly, ‘moving to the cloud’ or Digital Transformation CANNOT be solely owned and delivered by IT without collaboration, accountability, and coordination across the enterprise. Application and technology changes will impact how the Business operates on a day-to-day basis.
For organizations that have difficulty embracing change, especially those with complex processes, products, application portfolios, and locations, it can be difficult to pull off this type of transformational change.
As a company embarks on this journey, it is critical that there is a baseline understanding of existing processes, current state IT application architecture, current organizational structures, and existing support systems.
Companies, especially in the US, are challenged with taking the time to understand their current state environment and processes. There is recognition that change needs to be made, but to fully grasp the magnitude of the impact, an understanding of the current state is critical. Taking the time to layout and understand the current state, at times, sounds and feels counterintuitive because it requires putting effort into understanding an environment that presently may not be meeting the needs of its customers, vendors, and employees… but the time spent understanding the current state is key to identifying organizational pain points, opportunities to streamline operational processes, and to identifying application redundancies, underutilized and unused applications, outdated software, and outdated technology in order to reduce tech debt. Additionally, from an people organization perspective, understanding the hand-off of responsibilities between roles, departments, and organizations are critical to decision-making as new applications, technology, and processes are rolled out and for discussions related to on-going support of operational processes. This effort will also foster a more collaborative work environment which will drive faster transformation, innovation, and adoption of change within the organization.
To summarize, transformation is a cross-functional and cross-organizational effort. As organizations start their transformation journeys, it is critical for businesses, leaders, and individuals to transform their ways of thinking and their ways of working in order to drive the adoption of innovative, long-term, iterative, transformational change.