Real change is about delivering a business outcome, not just a technical solution

Many change programmes deliver a technical solution, but fall short of making a real and sustainable change to the business.

With depressing frequency, the original vision either isn’t understood, or gets forgotten, with the programme focusing on the wrong outcomes.

Many organisations fall into the trap of mobilising a change programme as an IT delivery programme – and then, having spent a great deal of time and money, realise they’ve delivered an IT solution, but no lasting business change and little or no business benefit.

To avoid this, it’s important to recognise that every change is a change to the business and therefore, has to be treated as a business change, one that is focused on clear business outcomes, not just technical solutions.

“We’ve invested in giving the business the best set of golf clubs we can (new SAP system) but not taught them to play golf any better. Guess what. We’re still crap at golf”


– Change Director

To establish and keep the right focus, the seven questions in this article are useful in making sure that any programme is correctly aligned with the business and focused on delivering business outcomes.

Try them on your own change programmes and where necessary, use them to improve the confidence that you’re delivering real change. Change that makes a defining difference to your business.

1. Is your change programme set up as a business-change programme?

Every real change programme is intended to deliver a set of business outcomes.

So every programme needs to be set up to deliver those outcomes. Not just an IT solution.

Even if 90% of the cost is associated with IT, the programme is still a business programme, and must be led and managed as such. If the programme is set up to deliver an IT solution, that’s all it will do.

If your organisation is frustrated by the lack of return on the investment you’re making in change, then this question is a great place to start.

Ageing core systems


An organisation was re-platforming their core system, as it no longer met the needs of the business, was an ageing solution and future support was becoming a significant issue. Set up as an IT Re-Platforming Programme, it delivered a new platform but made little change to the way the business worked. Customers still bought the same service and it was delivered in largely the same way.


All the cost of a massive technology change but no real benefit to the business.

2. Do you understand how the business you are changing works today?

Having made the decision to invest in a significant change programme, it’s natural to want to get started on defining how the business of the future will work, looking at areas such as:

  • The requirements that must be satisfied
  • How new processes will operate
  • What any system needs to do

But if you’re trying to change a business you must start with how it works today because without this, you cannot define a really strong vision, get people behind it, define what you need to change, and drive out real benefit.

If you’re replacing a system, you don’t want to spend too much time on creating a very detailed understanding—that can create its own problems – ‘analysis paralysis’ being one we’ll all recognise.

So the ‘knack’ is doing ‘enough’ to understand where you are today, knowing what to focus on, and when to stop.

3. Are you looking at the change ‘outside-in’, from your customers’ point of view?

To a surprising extent, many organisations don’t do this very well, and the view of the end-customer is often not given the focus it needs. Looking at the business outside-in is not always easy but is always worthwhile. Think about:

  • What constitutes a brilliant customer experience?
  • Does every customer want that experience
  • How would we delight our customers?
  • How many of our customers actually get the experience they want?
  • What gets in the way?
  • How do we recover things when they go wrong?
  • How do we learn from our mistakes and improve?

We worked with an organisation whose metrics were on call handling time, lead time to service call visit, repeat call rate, failed services, number of invoice queries, customer satisfaction survey scores etc. Individually the metrics looked good, but looked at from the customer’s point of view, the result was vey different.

How many customers got through to the right agent, got the right solution, got a timely service slot, had the engineer turn up on time, got their issue resolved, were delighted with the service and never had a need to call back?

By looking at the end-to-end process from the customer’s point of view, the programme drove a very different debate and ultimately, a very successful outcome.

Operating costs


All the initial focus in this programme was on driving down average handling times in the contact centre.


But by looking ‘outside-in’ the programme discovered that the biggest cost drivers were a high number of cancelled customer appointments, a high number of repeat customer calls and field personnel not being fully utilised. Knowing this, the programme invested time in understanding why these things were happening and what therefore, needed to change.


The resulting IT changes were then focused on leveraging technology to resolve the real issues.

4. When it comes to the future business, are you thinking beyond the usual people, process and technology?

How many times have you heard the term “People, Process, Technology”? Lots we assume. It’s a standard way of looking at how the business will work in the future.

But building a picture of how the business will work and how a vision will be brought to life, is not just about mapping processes, organisation structures and systems. Go deeper:

  • Do we have the right people in the right roles?
  • What do we want our managers focused on?
  • How do we want people to behave?
  • How will we reward people?
  • How will we measure performance?
  • What will everyone be doing differently at 9:00am on a Monday morning?

Two techniques to tease these out can be very effective.

  • Describe the customer experience if it all “just works”
  • Describe a “day in the life” for each employee involved
5. Are you exciting and motivating the people in the business?

Try to go beyond the usual:

  • Training,
  • Communication and
  • Cutover

Aim to get the people really engaged, and start this process early. The ‘Field Operations’ example below got this right.

Field Operations


In a programme transforming field operations, the team undertook “ride-outs” with technicians, interviewed customers and sat with call centre agents to understand the end to end customer journey. They defined a new operating model and got everyone signed up to it.


They ensured their teams had the right tools to do the job, pulled together when problems occurred, and would be rewarded in the right way. Bonus and reward mechanisms were changed, exemplars identified, managers coached, stories shared and successes celebrated. The team became the change and the change was successful.

6. Are you clear what the programme is ‘throwing’ and what the business is ‘catching’?

It’s useful to think about who is throwing the change and who in the business is catching. With this thinking, the business implementation becomes real.

  • What is the programme throwing at the business?
  • Who is catching which changes?
  • When should this take place for maximum effect?
  • Are the catchers ready and eagerly pulling for the change?
  • Is there an active business-engagement forum in place where details are ironed out and issues resolved?
  • Can the catchers deal with all the change being thrown at them?

The changes may be the most important thing to the programme, but it might not be to the business. People only have a certain level of attention and capacity.

The concept of throwers and catchers resonates easily with people. It helps to bring the change to life and deal effectively with the most complex of changes.

7. Are the right business people at the heart of the programme?

Of all the points made in this article, this is possibly the easiest to achieve and the most important.

Real change requires strong, hands-on leadership; getting the right people from the business around the table keeps the focus on the business outcomes and real, sustainable engagement with the people that will make the change a success.

Steering groups exist to steer change toward the outcomes of the business. As such, it’s is absolutely critical that the right people from the business sit on this group. It’s normally the case that the sponsor (who is ultimately accountable for the outcomes) will be there, but those representing the different business areas should also be attending and actively contributing.

POSTED BY: John Howarth - Consulting Director


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