What Does It Take to Be a Transformation Specialist?

– Lukas M. Hofmann


In today’s steadily evolving technology landscape, where platforms and digital trends are reshaping business models, processes and ways of working, organisations of all sizes and industries are starting to prioritise fundamental transformations in their technological foundation. Any technology transformation is always an immense undertaking for an organisation and having the right partner in the form of a transformation specialist is a crucial factor for success. Specialists in business IT transformation must not only have technical proficiency and experience, but also possess a thorough understanding of the respective organisation, its underlying business processes, principles and needs. The inputs, guidance and solutions from a technology partner can boost the success of an organisation’s transformation journey and ensure that it is within budget, on time and of a high quality, while also ensuring the sustainability of the transformation. While transformation in times of digitalisation and Industrie 4.0 has been extensively discussed, let us take a closer look at what it takes to be a transformation partner and specialist.

Expertise matched by the right outlook

For a company to be a transformation specialist, it must possess the right combination of competencies— in-depth technology and development capabilities, comprehensive process knowledge and a thorough understanding of the respective industry mechanisms. A transformation project typically entails comprehensive, organisation-wide changes, which, in order to be sustainable, cannot be achieved with template solutions. Therefore, a transformation specialist needs to develop a detailed understanding of every aspect of the organisation’s business processes and technology requirements. Moreover, awareness of current technological trends and simultaneously the ability to offer customisable solutions that address specific business needs within the respective organisation are often required. For example, when looking at an organisation-wide IT transformation for the finance and controlling departments, the technology solutions offered to a customer must reflect existing processes and their desired future layout, consider regulatory boundaries and echo the wishes of the organisation regarding the current and expected performance of its IT system’s day-to-day operations.

Adding value from the outset

When an organisation decides to transform its business IT systems, it needs to seek a transformation partner that offers a comprehensive skill-set and can provide value throughout the entire transformation journey.

At the start of any transformation, a thorough assessment of the scope of the project is needed. An understanding of which processes, resources, business areas, departments and stakeholders should and would be affected by the transformation needs to be established at the outset. This assessment can be undertaken as a joint exercise between the transformation specialist and project team members of the organisation, and together they can explore and define system requirements, suitable technologies and overall processes that need to be adapted. In this way, an initial transformation roadmap can be created. Especially at this stage, it is important for a transformation partner to keep its pulse on the organisation’s needs to be able to add value. I have observed that organisations are often easily swayed by the desire to invest heavily in a certain technology that is currently trending even if it does not match their business requirements or solve their problems. In such a scenario, it is crucial for a transformation specialist to showcase the available options and be objective with the organisation regarding what is really needed and what is not necessary. As a trustworthy partner, it is important to not just simply agree with everything that a customer wants, but to back all suggestions and decisions with facts, information, detailed analysis and above all, to have honest conversations with all stakeholders. Even if this process takes time and requires customisation for a solution to work, it is vital, as spending time and effort at the start to identify and/or develop the right solution saves unnecessary costs that could be incurred when an organisation opts hastily for a trend-based or “hot” technology. Transformation specialists can add value by providing guidance, creating transparency, offering benchmarks and highlighting potential pitfalls and factors for success from the beginning.

Steering the transformation from analysis to implementation

In large organisations, there is often inertia when it comes to the necessity of implementing new technologies into the system landscape or replacing existing business IT systems. To tackle this, a transformation specialist needs to play the role of an advisor and mediate between the available options and organisational needs.

Another key challenge in achieving a successful transformation is getting all stakeholders engaged and openly communicating the need for change. Especially with business IT systems that have multiple users or that feed into several organisational units, the enterprise benefits, transformation schedule and training plan must be clearly communicated to all stakeholders. A transformation specialist must have the ability to reason with and convince sceptical, and sometimes hostile stakeholders as well.

To create the trust necessary for a transformation project, the transformation specialist must be familiar with the processes of the organisation. In this respect, cultivating the ability to speak the customer’s language can help to establish rapport and move projects forward. Such a trust-based relationship becomes vital to maintaining momentum and sustaining progress throughout the different stages of implementing a transformation.

It is important to remember that transformation projects have wide-ranging consequences and cannot be about quick-fix solutions. It is essential to enable organisations to transform their respective technology areas and business processes in a sustainable manner such that the chosen solutions and subsequent organisational and operational changes remain relevant for the organisation’s success in the mid to long term. Facilitating this type of business transformation requires foresight and a clear perspective regarding the scope of the project. A transformation specialist must offer technology and system solutions that cover all relevant business processes and that can be compiled in an agile architecture, which can be adapted to the organisation’s requirements.

Along the transformation process, a transformation specialist needs to have agility and endurance to navigate all the stages, from the initial analysis to its final implementation, while ensuring organisational buy-in and consistent stakeholder engagement in the project.

Consistently delivering the best

In our role as transformation specialists, EXA leverages the expertise and experience of our colleagues as developers of technology solutions. Our ability to offer customisable solutions in the areas of big data analytics (EXA ISA), financial management (EXA GVC and EXA OTP) and connected manufacturing (EXA Process Control) reinforces the trust of our customers. Furthermore, we selectively pool our competencies with other consulting companies to provide the best team and required experiences to our customers, staying faithful to our commitment of being a true partner in the transformation process as we objectively aim to deliver the best results to our customers.

I think it is vital to keep in mind that expertise is not a one-time spark but is accumulated over time with a commitment to the area of one’s focus. Considering that the technology landscape keeps changing, it is crucial for transformation specialists to keep their capabilities and competencies updated and relevant; otherwise, their solutions for customers will be ineffective. This means that there is a need for a constant investment in people and technology development. So, on the one hand, transformation specialists need to keep bringing in new colleagues with different experiences and ensure that all employees get frequent exposure and opportunities to acquire knowledge on new technologies. On the other hand, they also need to invest regularly and purposefully in upgrading and maintaining existing technology solutions while simultaneously creating new ones. This dual-pronged approach of consistently developing both people and technology can help hone the abilities of a transformation specialist to function as technology provider, consultant and true partner for an organisation along its transformation journey.