The Business Improvement Network

Business Transformation: What is it?

By John Bridges

John Bridges

What is Business Transformation? 

Business Transformation is an investment in radical change and restructuring within an organisation, to position and enable it to be more effective and to grow faster in the future. It is normally broader and more strategic than a simpler Business Change programme.

Why do it? 

Organisations normally commit to such a radical programme, either because they are losing the race with their competitors, or because they are ambitious and want to move ahead of them. They may want to cut costs, improve marketing and customer satisfaction, use a great new technology such as a new ERP system, become much more agile, etc.

Who does it?

Since this is a vital strategic change programme for the organisation, it will normally be sponsored by the full board and led by a trusted internal Transformation Director, probably supported by external expertise and consultancy. Most organisation do not have the transformation skills and experience in house, since this is a relatively rare activity for them.

How do you do it?

Normally a Business Transformation programme core team is established, and the programme clearly defined in terms of objectives, budget, timescale, outcomes, benefits, resources, risks etc. Then the programme is split into several projects, designed to deliver what is required, and then those projects are planned and resourced and made operational, normally using people within the organisation. Critical areas like stakeholder management, risk & issue management, and reporting are also put in place and the Transformation Director reports on the programme regularly to the board. Such a programme may take 1-2 years to deliver what is required for the organisation.

Where do it?

Such programmes can either encompass the whole organisation, or a part. Sometimes changes may be pilot tested in one location or country and then rolled out to the others. A global change may be riskier than a stepwise approach but may get results faster.

Key Success Factors:

Some of the main KSFs are board support and commitment, adequate resources and budget, enough senior transformation expertise, clear focus on achieving benefits, good and regular communication both within and external to the organisation, proactive risk & issue management, selecting positive staff to work within the projects and buying in external transformation expertise when that is needed. 


Scoped, planned and managed well, a business transformation programme will have a large positive effect on the organisation and its capability to be effective, satisfy customers and grow quickly (if appropriate). The board will see their transformation vision delivered, staff will enjoy working on the projects and learn new skills, all stakeholders will understand what is being achieved and why, and the organisation will now be in a much better state to survive and thrive.

Business Transformation Case Study:

A few years ago, I worked with a Scottish Utility company, whose internal project delivery department was failing, with large project slippages and cost overruns. They decided to create a new Joint Venture capital project delivery organisation, with its 250 staff selected from 8 mostly English Utilities and key contractors, and a new performance culture. It was recognised that in this sector England was 10 years ahead of Scotland in terms of deregulation and efficiency. 
I worked with staff from all 8 companies to plan and deliver the set-up of the new organisation, including facilities, systems, branding, policies, and governance. Staff were selected to work there for 2-3 years and then to return to their home organisation. Within a year it had delivered its projects on time and for 30% less than its predecessor department and is still going strong today.

It was a novel and innovative way for the client to reap the significant rewards of a more efficient delivery mechanism through establishing an effective joint venture approach across national borders. 

About the author

John Bridges is a successful Business Transformation Programme Director with 25 years’ experience across the UK, supporting boards through business transformation and large-scale change programmes. John lives near Cambridge and enjoys walking and cycling around the flat local area near Newmarket racecourse.

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