Transformation Competency: It’s Time to Get Good at It

Transformation Competency
Transformation Competency: It’s Time to Get Good at It
This is the third of three posts covering the core aspects of the next-generation integration competency center that we’re calling Enterprise Data Competency. In previous posts, we started with integration competency—the basic but increasingly challenging task of making all your data streams play nicely together—and then moved to information competency, which is the ability to position and manage the business context and value of information. This time, Rob Karel, David Lyle and I look at the third pillar: transformation competency.

“Transformation” is not just about changing your business in response to a market condition. It’s about the process and framework by which you arrive at—or respond to—that change. At the lowest level of organizational maturity, when a challenge or opportunity arises, the business asks, “What are we going to do in this situation?” In a more mature, better-prepared organization, the question is, “How do we get everyone from multiple business and IT functions all pulling in the same direction?”

Because the pace of change has accelerated dramatically in the digital age, and organizational complexity has skyrocketed, knowing how to change and adapt is an essential discipline for any business. If you’re a global hotel chain, you consider a response to the arrival of Airbnb. If you’re a well-established restaurant chain, what do you do when a young upstart franchise offers fresher food, simply by leveraging more modern data technologies to improve supply chain logistics? If you haven’t established a competency around the very idea of transformation, what you probably do is have a lot of unproductive, increasingly urgent meetings with costly management consultants while your competition literally eats your lunch.

Change how you change

The necessary response to disruptions including sudden competitive pressure, changing macroeconomic market dynamics, new regulations, or enticing innovation opportunities may require significant changes to your business processes, your corporate culture and human behaviors (always a big challenge), your products and services, your supply chain and distribution models, and your go-to-market strategy, to name a few. And by the time you’re managed all of that change, say hello to the next disruption that will require you to change it all again. The only way to not only ensure survival, but to help grow your business is to make that process of change repeatable.

We held a roundtable about transforming data governance a few years ago and asked the dozen attendees whether this was their first such effort, or the latest in a series of unsuccessful attempts. Every hand went up for the latter. Change is hard. In all our work with customers on instilling successful, data-driven transformation, three top-level lessons stand out:

  1. Business transformation is a big deal. You must focus on the management of the change itself—not just the desired results—as a major undertaking, or you’re going to fail.
  2. You need a methodology and a framework. All business success is based on doing a thing well, repeatedly. To make change faster, smoother and sustainable, you need an effective plan for progressing from the newly recognized challenge or opportunity through smart planning, to effective execution.
  3. A plan is not a victory. Planning is good, but success comes from executing the plan—both the ability to bring it to fruition, and to react in flight to new challenges and opportunities. Organizations must avoid both the analysis paralysis that keeps them from ever getting started and the rigid orthodoxy that won’t let new information improve and guide the strategy throughout.

Operation: Goldilocks

Approaching a transformation plan is worthy of a book in itself. The plan can’t be too high-level, or it won’t provide enough substance for governance and control. But if the transformation plan is too detailed, it will take too long to create, cost too much, and will have been micromanaged into obsolescence the moment you start.

You need something that, as the story goes, is just right. You want to understand the impacts of proposed change; you want to identify the highest-priority systems that will be affected by this change. Take a holistic view, identify scope and areas of focus—but don’t engineer the details of implementation.

We champion the BOST framework. It stands for Business, Operations, Systems and Technology, and it walks you through the steps to identify changes in all views; whether the change is a top-down vision or a bottom-up technology innovation that can impact the business strategy. The intention is to provide a business-centered approach to transformation, a modular, scalable toolkit to move from need to plan to result. Of all the approaches you could take, the key is to adopt a repeatable methodology that is fast, thorough and effective.

The adaptable enterprise

The larger your business becomes—and you’re trying every day to make it larger—the more complex change becomes. Knowing how to tap the data that will drive opportunity to change, and how to move on that information to stay ahead of savage competition, is perhaps the most vital element to long-term survival. Any lemonade stand can do good business on a sunny day, but you’d better be able to see—and react—to a change in the weather.

For more on developing change as core competency, see how Data Powers Business in the one of the upcoming Informatica World Tour events or learn more about how BOST links enterprise architecture to strategy to enable revolution business transformation. And keep an eye on this space, because we’ve got a lot more to share about the next-generation ICC.