Business transformation: how to successfully unlock the true value of your project

Workforce transformation The future of work Thought leadership Workplace research Management and leadership
Tim Hird, Executive Vice President, Enterprise Optimisation at Robert Half and Protiviti, discusses both the opportunities and challenges in business transformation and how to maximise the return of investment. Business transformation projects are proven to deliver enhanced performance and profitability…if executed successfully. Unfortunately, we regularly hear about business transformation efforts that don't necessarily reach the anticipated return on investment. There's a lot at stake, especially as many of these business transformation projects are complex, multi-year, cross-functional initiatives that impact all aspects of the organisation. What does a successful business transformation project look like? How are they planned, and who should be involved at any given stage? Here are some considerations you'll need to make before embarking on your journey to enhanced profitability and productivity.
1. Protecting your investment – People and Technology   Companies continue to struggle with attracting, hiring, and retaining talent. Companies are racing toward technological advancement to stay competitive, automate to create efficiencies/reduce cost, but also address the “people” issue. As such, protecting investment on people, process and technology initiatives is a priority in any business transformation initiative.  Lack of efficiencies, process documentation, and ongoing business process improvements can drive employees away. Employees want to feel like they are working in a productive and efficient environment. They want to know that their work is making a difference. And they want to know that their company is committed to continuous improvement. When these things are lacking, employees can become frustrated and disengaged. They may start to look for other jobs. And if they do leave, it can be costly for the company to replace them. Creating a workplace where employees feel valued and productive, will help to reduce turnover and protect your investment in your employees. Not too long ago, investment in technology modernisation was considered a luxury reserved for those with the budget. There's been a significant shift in the last 18 months. Organisations now realise that technology modernisation (which is a big part of business transformation) is the quickest path to competitive advantage through cost efficiency, bottom-line cost savings, and the ability to do more with less – as well as attract and retain the best talent  2. Changing customer expectations The second driving factor in business transformation is a huge change in customer expectations, particularly around customers’ expectations of businesses anticipating their needs and how they want to engage with vendors or suppliers regarding products. To provide that customer experience, you must invest in world-class technology that can provide the world-class customer experience through leading data and systems   3. Close The Skills Gap - achieving more with a leaner “future ready” workforce Another rapidly changing element is talent. In almost every survey we do, we hear the same thing from our clients — “I've got talent, but I don't have access to the skill sets I need in order to build a future ready workforce and be competitive for the future.”  Because they desire to build a 'future-ready workforce,' organisations are undertaking big transformation exercises and investing in technology because they know they won't be able to rely on the skillsets they have available today in three, four, or five years, maybe even sooner as the pace of change and expectation accelerates. For this reason, business transformation becomes a way for employees to embrace the learning continuum and for employers to invest in developing the skillsets of their workforce for the future. Upskilling and preparing employees to adopt and utilise the technology that will not only make them more productive, but also enhance their CV and career options. There’s also the issue of declining talent in the workforce — we’ve seen Baby Boomers retiring at a record pace, taking knowledge and intellectual capital with them. This, combined with a decline in graduates in some disciplines such as accounting & finance coming through the college systems creates a drive for lean efficiency through technology.  4. Leveraging Business Transformation to attract and retain top talent with meaningful work The hiring market has tightened for accounting and finance professionals, remote and hybrid work are blurring the lines between personal and work life and new employee expectations will become the norm. Understand generational differences and fierce competition to hire skilled talent and retain top performers.   Business transformation strategy allows for employers to develop career and professional development opportunities for a multigenerational workforce that can appeal to rising talent. It can map out a plan to reduce low-value, time-consuming tasks so staff can shift their focus to more meaningful work. Read more: Why 'talent on demand' hiring models are the gateway to growth
Are all stakeholders aligned? Broadly speaking, some of the most common transformation project pitfalls are lack of clarity on objectives or outcomes and lack of alignment around executive stakeholders. In our experience, the best way to avoid this is to ensure all stakeholders have clarity and agreement on the project’s purpose and objectives and that they’re actively involved in scoping it from inception.  Do we have the talent/resources?  From an execution perspective, organisations should be clear about whether they have the data, processes, technology and people to help them on the journey. Identifying early on in the planning stages where there may be gaps in skills or bandwidth will lend itself to plans that need to be made for hiring, training, leadership development and succession planning. What can we learn from others? It’s well worth benchmarking what other organisations have done, including use cases, successes, and pitfalls. Much of that comes down to whether your organisation has access to the people that have prior experience – successes and challenges - and have been through similar projects previously. To that end, engaging with third party companies can help provide that valuable perspective and experience. 
There's often an expectation that you'll come to the end of a transformation project, press a button, and everyone's lives will instantly improve. Technology, market conditions and business demand is always evolving. In many cases, users need to be flexible and accepting of the fact that the technology may not be perfect when it launches. But that's all part of the journey. Ongoing communication, willingness to adopt the technology and/or process changes and consistent feedback to fine-tune the product is vital to enhancing the experience and final product. It’s vital for stakeholders driving business transformation to set realistic expectations up front. This requires a strong communication strategy from executive leadership and stakeholders, as well as partnering with the project management group to strike the balance between getting the buy-in and adoption for a better future with the expectation that it will take time to get it right.  Read more: How to successfully navigate the benefits and challenges of a hybrid model
Equip for change management Change management is an essential component of any business transformation strategy. You’ll need support from individuals with the ability to influence, rally, and unite people from different groups and different departments that may have conflicting objectives.   Support with tech adoption One of the big challenges organisations always have is adoption. For example, if users are used to working in a certain way, using a certain system, or working in a certain process, they may struggle with drastic upheaval. It's not necessarily that people don't want to change, but that they often don't see the value or benefit in the new technology – or have fears in their own ability to use the new technology.   It's vital for the people driving the transformation to get feedback from users so they can identify where adjustments are needed and why. This can be achieved through steering committees, working groups, or feedback channels which directly connect transformation teams with the people using the technology.   
Engaging an external solutions provider or business transformation consultant for your project offers numerous advantages. Their wealth of experience, as we've mentioned, can be invaluable for benchmarking. They can also assist in creating a more accurate project plan, potentially attracting more investment and increasing returns.  Managed solutions providers not only bring in essential skill sets that companies may not have internally, but they also work alongside your permanent staff to help execute the transformation plan. They're adept at creating transformation roadmaps that they'll embed into teams, working alongside permanent staff to help implement them (while developing your team's skill sets along the way). We've witnessed a significant shift in the evolving landscape of business transformation. Third-party firms are no longer just building roadmaps and strategic directions. They're rolling up their sleeves and becoming integral to the organisation's team. This external perspective and support truly make a difference to the success of a transformation project in today's world of work.
Prepare your workplace for the future of work with insights on AI, business transformation and hybrid working models. Unlock these strategies and stay ahead in the evolving work landscape.

Visit Robert Half to learn more about business transformation, contact the team for project staffing support or visit Protiviti for world-class digital transformation consulting