We live in fast moving times. Never before has there been such rapid transformation, and uncertainty, across all industries as in recent years. Technology is advancing at a phenomenal rate, and is having a profound impact on businesses everywhere. How well an organisation is able to adapt and evolve, has become a critical factor for its future success.
Leaders today have to contend with a number of factors impacting their industries. The pace at which we operate is faster, due to our ‘instant’ society, with expectations of one hour deliveries, and smartphone apps eliminating the wait for taxis, public transport and tables at restaurants. In an increasingly connected world, even relatively small changes to an organisation’s operations can have repercussions throughout the business, making it challenging for leaders to manage change. During these disruptive times, with new competitors entering the market at an astonishing pace, it is clear that leaders need to drive transformation in order to remain competitive, whether that means business, digital or IT transformation.
When the publishing industry shifted towards ebooks, Amazon was able to quickly adapt and transform itself as the leading provider of e-readers, with the Kindle accounting for over 60% of all e-readers by 2010. Netflix has successfully transformed its business from posting DVDs to streaming video online. Uber, following its domination of the taxi industry, is now looking to disrupt the food delivery market with UberEATs.
All organisations need to evolve, and embrace new technologies to keep up. Processes that worked in the past may no longer be relevant or efficient. HR departments, for example, are being transformed with the introduction of new approaches to recruitment, training and performance management, as a result of technology advancements in these areas.
The IT industry has also had to transform itself to keep up. More and more businesses are adopting Agile approaches to software development, addressing the need for greater focus on delivering value through closer collaboration with business users. Concepts such as continuous improvement, Lean and DevOps are all born out of the need for closer alignment with the business and increased responsiveness to change.
Clearly, transformation is happening across industries and across business functions. With nearly 40% of CIOs reporting they are responsible for digital transformation in their organisations*, what is the best way for them to achieve this?
Over recent years, there have been many new roles defined as organisations try and address this challenge. Chief innovation officers, chief transformation officers, chief digital officers even chief change officers. Yet, there are still far too many businesses that have failed to transform themselves and evolve sufficiently to survive today’s tough climate.
Many organisations apply change management principles and tools, ensuring they identify and engage with key stakeholders, communicate regularly and consistently, and share early successes. However, traditional change management approaches typically deal with a well-defined project, with a clear current state, and future vision. The world in which we operate today has greater uncertainty, where businesses recognise the need to transform, but industries are evolving so rapidly that the end point is often undefined. Leaders need to make changes at a cultural level if they are going to drive transformation, instilling agility and adaptability throughout the organisation, across its people, processes and technology.
With subscription based services, SaaS and cloud-enabled infrastructures, the technology is already there, which in turn is enabling business processes to become more agile. Supporting people through change, however, is some way off for many.
Those responsible for driving transformation, whether it’s business, digital or IT transformation, must address the needs of the people within the organisation. Cultural transformation should be factored in if any of these initiatives are to be successful.
* Gartner CIO Trends Survey 2016