This last point is important because big benefits, no matter how compelling, are rarely free. It’s easy to try and undertake a transformation for the lowest cost — it is after all nearly always a major piece of ‘exceptional items’ on a P&L statement (unless your organization undertakes different transformations every year). However, the lowest cost rarely delivers the highest value or greatest future-proofing.
As a consultancy advising on strategic transformations for our major clients, Thoughtworks is purposely transparent about benefits, opportunities and costs for transformations, especially those incorporating data into change thinking. We’ve seen the powerful impact when this is done correctly and sometimes underwhelming reviews when a transformation executed well has not taken the opportunity to maximise on a real data strategy.
As you embark on your transformation journey the critical question to ask yourself is: do we want just a better version of what we always had before? Or do we want to take this opportunity to reimagine the business we can be?
6. To do more, do less
In order to do what you want, what are you going to stop?
Working on too many “strategic” or “critical” things at once is a killer for actually getting anything done. Some of the most successful transformation and legacy replacement programmes we’ve been on have been the number one priority for the business, and almost to a point they did little more than “keep the lights on” for most of the other work during that period. This allowed critical attention, time and budget from senior leadership to be redirected to what was needed to do the job well and successfully. Initiatives at a smaller scale can absolutely co-exist with other small, strategic initiatives, but if you’re finding your business is too stretched to give due attention to these programs, you should likely consider reducing them in number.
Transformation and modernization comes at a cost, which is another reason to reduce your amount of work in progress. You can protect your margin as a business (and allocate the budgets required) by stopping or pausing less important work to fund the transformation. What we tend to see is businesses cutting from the wrong places or making small cuts to lots of different initiatives but the danger is you can spread your people and resources too thinly and expect the same outcomes for less. This just means you end up doing lots of things badly and not actually funding your legacy transformation properly, making it sustainable over multiple years.
To reduce your “key” priorities and programs and realign budgets and teams based on their importance, here are some questions to help you assess your focus:
In part 3 of our series, we will explore the specific lessons on aspects that affect the breadth and depth of your modernization.
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.