When organisations are facing a period of significant change, business transformation experts can prove critical in the planning, progress and implementation of that change – but what exactly does the role entail?
We spent some time with Tisski’s Business Transformation Consultants, Harwinder Ghag and Ruth Walker, to discover their day-to-day responsibilities, what skills and traits you need to achieve success and more.
H: Business transformation is not a straightforward thing. If we look at our technical colleagues, nine times out for ten, they have a problem and they solve the problem by delivering a solution. Business transformation supports that change. Ruth, Sanjeev [also a Business Transformation Consultant] and I are there to take the non-technical view of whatever is being delivered and sit on the ‘other side’ with the customer.
Business transformation has various elements to it and different methodologies focus on different aspects. For example, Prosci focuses on the people side of change, and while the Tisski business transformation team are Prosci-certified, we focus on three areas: people, organisation and value. From a people perspective, you look at what impacts your users and the impact a change could have, even at an individual user level. We help to mitigate things like lack of communication. From an organisation perspective, we make sure those changes are aligned with their strategic objectives; it may be that they want a customer relationship management (CRM) system, everyone knows they want a CRM system, but no one has taken the time to ask them why. That’s where we come in and ask, ‘is this answering the need of our customer’ – we will even challenge our Tisski colleagues to make sure we’re heading down the right path. We also make sure that any changes we make or any additional work we do adds value, and that’s quite a skill because with value add, you often think of money, but a lot of what we do is non-tangible, and we have to demonstrate value addition.
R: It’s aligning all of those things, but it could also be something as simple as making the people embrace the change. If you can get staff within the organisation to really embrace the change you’re making, this will mean the take up of the new product is more effective more quickly, which helps the client to achieve their return-on-investment objectives quicker, too.
H: It’s a bit of the latter, customers ask for it, but we’d love to be involved in every major project. Sometimes there’s a challenge in getting the customer to understand they need this as part of their engagement with Tisski because it’s not always easy to see the value of what we do; it’s non-tangible and consultancy based, whereas their budget is focused on delivering a set solution. And this is something that’s definitely more apparent in the public sector because when we onboard a customer, they normally know what they want. When we engage in the private sector, we tend to go through more of a discovery phase.
R: We’re engaged in a few projects currently, in terms of envisaging ideas that people have had and helping them define what a potential roadmap might look like.
H: While we support Tisski projects, we position ourselves on the customer side and we try to be agnostic about what we do. Business transformation is not just about Dynamics 365 or a CRM system or a finance system – you can apply the principles we use to any change, even something like making the move to an open plan office.
H: It’s so varied and, ultimately, each day is different. I know that’s a bit of a cliché, but you can leave on a Friday afternoon thinking you know what next week is going to hold and then that can completely change by Monday, mainly because what we do is almost defined by our customers. Carrying out readiness assessments, hosting envisioning sessions, assessing our customers’ organisational complexities and putting together training or communications plans are just a handful of the things we could find ourselves doing. Just today, I’ve done some paperwork, I’ve spoken to Microsoft on behalf of a customer, and I’ve joined another meeting to resolve an issue for a different customer – it’s this diversity in my day that I think I find most enjoyable about this job.
R: Today, I met with data analysts about setting value indicators for a project to gauge employee and customer satisfaction; I’ve helped the communications and change management teams on a particular project as well, in terms of defining plans in those two areas. The thing to remember with business transformation is the hat you wear can depend on the customer you’re engaging with. To some we might be business consultants or analysts, to others we could be change managers or project managers. You can be working with two or three customers in the same week, switching between those different roles, and I quite like the mental challenge of slipping between customers – that, I hope, keeps me mentally alert and of course brings that variety, as Harwinder said.
H: When you’re working with multiple customers, you can spend an hour focused in on the detail and then drop straight into a meeting for a different customer and you’re expected to be on the ball at the same level. Being able to switch is really key.
R: The role really feeds my curiosity. I’ve worked in FinTech and EdTech for over 20 years, but we work with such a wider range of clients; the Ministry of Defence, the NHS, the Met, for example, they all work in different environments and it widens the scope of your own experience.
H: I’ve already talked about what I like most, so I think the most challenging thing can be not being engaged at the right level. Essentially, what we do is stakeholder level – it’s senior responsible owners and above, that’s the conversations we need to be having. Sometimes we find ourselves at project level, which is great for getting the detail, but actually some of the strategic stuff we need to know to be able to effect change is layers above and that can be the challenge. It can be difficult when you need someone in a decision-making to back you and they’re not part of those conversations.
R: I think it’s also when we’re there to facilitate and you may get people who aren’t so enthusiastic about sharing opinions. That can be quite hard work, getting people talking. The challenge is managing a group of people where the roles are diverse – for example, if someone’s got their line manager’s line manager in the room and they’re a bit intimidated by that… it’s the personalities involved in group activities that can be a challenge. But when you overcome that hurdle, you get a buzz out of that, so it goes both ways in that respect and it pushes you to work harder.
H: I think some tenacity, somebody that doesn’t mind asking the difficult questions. And it’s not just asking them for the sake of it, but knowing when and how to ask. You can be in a room and just throw in a question and all of a sudden it changes everything, and we’ve experienced that. You can’t be the wallflower; you have to jump in and say, ‘I really want to challenge you and ask why you are doing this’. You’ve got to have that ability and not be scared. For me, that’s one of the most valuable things and comes with a certain level of experience and maturity.
R: I think the ability to build good rapport, as well. Very often, you might have met two or three people, but then you’re invited into a room of seven, eight or more people and to just be able to do the ‘hi everyone, you don’t know me but I’m leading the session today’, you’ve got to have that level of confidence and be able to read the different personalities in the room. Building rapport really helps with that.
H: We work with the technical teams and like to do that. What we don’t do is get into the solution building and the development part of it. We’re interested in the impact of change and the processes and impact of those. We need the technical people there to tell us what a certain change will actually mean and what will happen to the end user. We rely on them for insight. Do we need to be technical? No. I actually do come from a technology background but completely different to what we do here as our bread and butter – the key is adaptability.
R: I think it helps if you’ve got an understanding of the terminology and an understanding of the language is quite important. However, our customers understand that it’s not our role to be advising them about the tech. That’s why we’re part of a wider team, we’ve got the technical architects and functional consultants who are experts in the technology. It’s a much broader remit than just looking in isolation at particular technical developments.
H: And actually, relating back to the question about skills and traits, you really need that ability, when a customer has gone down a technical rabbit hole to go, ‘actually, you know what, I don’t know, but I know someone who does’. That takes confidence.
H: For me, it was one of our large public sector engagements. I came on board with this organisation and by the time I left, Tisski had taken the CRM system that was not being used, people were avoiding using it, to one that has become the go-to CRM. We had other departments knocking on the door saying, ‘can we get onto your CRM?’. What that means for us is that we won the support contract and also, when other areas come knocking, we are now the go-to company that delivers those changes. When you put a lot of work into something, it can definitely be hard to let go, as well. It’s almost your baby.
R: I’ve really enjoyed a discovery project that I’ve recently completed with one of the sizable UK housing association. They are exploring the future of their internal IT systems, including Dynamics, and had engaged all of the teams in the business to gather views. It was a big group, but they were all very enthusiastic about the potential for improvements. We uncovered the pain points they were experiencing and gave everyone exposure to the work of their colleagues, which led to some really productive discussions about what they value about their business and how that affects the technological priorities. It was a lot of fun, but also produced some real insight for those stakeholders, so it felt like a really successful engagement.
H: I would also point out that Ruth joined Tisski in lockdown – the engagements we have were initially designed for somebody to be on site and even though Ruth hasn’t been able to get on site, she has still managed to build that rapport within her customers’ organisations, which is fantastic.
R: Joining in lockdown, Tisski have been super. So many people message you, it’s really nice. It has had its challenges, of course it has, but it’s gone really well.
H: That’s a testament to Tisski, I think. We keep saying about clichés and I’m full of clichés about Tisski, quite frankly. It’s great.