Why do so many digital transformations fail? 70% fail according to a Boston Consulting Group report. 

They fail because they don’t have the commitment from the Senior Responsible Officer (SRO). They fail because they don’t have the commitment from the delivery teams. They fail because it’s simply too difficult to manage transformation whilst also managing BAU. 

And the failure isn’t an outright failure, it’s more of an inability to deliver what was set out to be achieved. 

And that’s because they didn’t get the transformation balance right. 

Transformation isn’t linear; it’s always going to have peaks and troughs depending on the demands being placed on delivery teams. But there is an art to getting the perfect transformation balance, that balance between delivering business as usual (BAU) and transformation.  

These are the words of our transformation expert, Louise O’Leary, who in this blog sets out her advice for achieving an ideal transformation balance, something many of the local authorities she’s speaking to right now are striving for.  

Challenges with transformation 

1. It’s going to be a bumpy ride 

Acknowledging early that transformation has highs and lows is important. Most councils will be delivering transformation and BAU from the same team, with the same people, so setting expectations that transformation will slow down and speed up at different times is key. BAU might take priority at year-end or if there’s an issue going on in the business for example, and that’s ok, transformation isn’t a perfectly smooth path. 

2. Capacity to deliver BAU and transformation 

To do transformation well you need to do it from one team, and it’s likely that that team will be managing BAU work as well as transformation. We know this can be problematic. Staff can become fatigued delivering an end service and striving to achieve KPIs, whilst also coping with the pressure of trying to do transformation, whether that’s to implement a new digital service or back office system.  

So it is a good idea to look for support from a change partner. Appointing the right partner will ensure your team is supported with additional skills and capacity, to augment it not replace it. 

3. Change fatigue 

It’s possible transformation hasn’t worked in the past because staff haven’t been able to balance BAU and transformation, and that can cause challenges with buy-in for future change. Getting that cultural change right to enable effective change is important. 

Striking the right balance 

Within a council, you’re likely doing the transformation piece already. You’ll have made that decision to do whatever that transformation is, whether it’s a new digital service or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, you’ve made that decision to transform. 

To get the transformation balance, consider getting these key fundamental foundations in place; 

1. Consider change management from the start 

It’s essential to ensure change is considered at the beginning of any transformation programme. Instead of throwing yourself straight into the transformation and just expecting people to transform, get your change plan in place.  

Put people at the heart of that plan, not technology, and make sure that every decision you make around transformation is putting the user at the heart of it. That way you will ensure user needs are understood from the outset, you will be getting your people ready for change, taking them on the change journey. 

2. Establish SRO role 

Make sure that you’ve got the SRO on board. They should make time available for people in the BAU team to be able to think about transformation and discuss how it will benefit them. This is key to taking people on the journey, instead of just doing it to them. This role is also key to the programme governance. The SRO will give the programme direction and with the programme board around it, will be able to make swift decisions about the programme. 

3. Choose the right transformation partner 

You will need a partner who’s going to support your transformation, not do it for you. You need to be involved in transformation for it to actually work. It is likely to be unsuccessful if a partner comes in, does the work and then hands it over to the team as BAU, simply because the team is not bought in. 

A good partner will understand the pressures of the BAU team, empathise with them, and augment that team in some way, which enables the team to be able to spend time on transformation. 

They will understand when you need to slow transformation for a while when you have to concentrate on BAU, and speed up again afterwards. They will bring understanding of your market and similar programmes, and share their experience and expertise with you. 

Your supplier should be a partner who acts in a partnership. A partner who is helping your team to continue their BAU whilst also supporting the transformation piece too. 

4. Support skills development 

You should acknowledge that some people don’t have the skills to transform. So it’s important to do analysis upfront to understand where the skills gaps are and then prepare to fill those gaps in the short term.  

Consider creating groups or communities (of interest, for example) for staff to get involved and scale your teams. Perhaps for staff, even if they are not doing that job right now, are interested to learn about that function. Possibly lunch ‘n’ learns and giving them opportunities to get involved. Staff will be building those skills up and they will see its importance. 

Help people adapt and adopt change so it becomes easier for them and show you care as an employer. 

Support from Socitm Advisory, a change partner

“We’ve got to deliver this ERP programme, but everyone is so busy doing their day jobs, it’s just impossible”

It is possible. Socitm Advisory has transformation experts across the UK who have helped hundreds of councils to deliver successful change programmes.

We can help you get those key fundamentals foundations in place, so you do strike a better transformation balance. You will be able to deliver your BAU and transformation in parallel. Transformation doesn’t have to fail.

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Want to discuss with more with Chris to get the perfect transformation balance for your organisation? Book a meeting with Chris here.

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