The Fog of War: Winning the battle for clarity in business transformation

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Original certainty around your digital or business transformation can disappear when faced with the reality on the ground. Decisions taken around competing priorities by multiple work streams neglect to effectively engage and consult the business, let alone feed back the impact of these upcoming changes. This is guaranteed to isolate your transformation from the business and customers it was originally designed to serve. As the people within your business eagerly anticipate the glowing vision delivered by Execs at conception, the MVP is becoming more MVP – you are in the fog of war. In this article, I discuss the importance of impact assessments in gaining clarity during business transformation, enabling you to make decisions faster, gain business acceptance, drive adoption, and increase stakeholder engagement.

Intelligence is used to deliver real time clarity during a mission where previous unknowns could not originally be planned for or mitigated. Similarly, your transformation needs to create a loop with your people on the ground – an impact assessment will close this gap.

HBR cites the rate of digital transformations failing to meet their original objectives ranges from 70% to 95%. That is astonishingly high, but also strikingly evident within enterprise businesses. The company’s ambitious – and often necessary – initiative was marketed as a dream destination, rather than an iterative journey.

With ambiguity around what is coming and expectations not being managed, a cycle of mistrust and lack of adoption can quickly take hold. Completing an impact assessment will regain this trust and enable you to move forward, providing a base to:

  • Make decisions faster – with commitment and follow through.
  • Gain business acceptance at demos.
  • Remobilise a delayed transformation.
  • Drive adoption to enable your strategy.
  • Increase stakeholder engagement and advocacy for change.

So often the transformation will continue unmitigated, hoping that the next demo or guiding coalition will hold the answers, or provide the direction – but the clarity never comes.

Building a bridge through impact assessment

It’s time for you to bridge the gap between your transformation and business.

Undertaking an impact assessment will allow you to assess, prioritise and focus on preparing employees. And the all too often forgotten customer. This clarity will enable you to build a change plan appropriate for your business and can significantly de-risk your transformation.

This value cannot be understated.

A recent impact assessment completed with a FTSE 100 helped to avert severe reputational damage – two days before going live. The transformation, including implementation of a new CRM, was being delivered to 140,000 customers.

High customer segmentation and siloed support teams had inadequately differentiated and planned the future change for a subset of 20,000 customers. This risked alienating and confusing a significant proportion of customers.

By targeting this subset of customers with an impact assessment we were able to capture nuances around their existing processes. Simply applying the same set of change activities across the transformation would encounter high levels of resistance.

And all too often it can also uncover icebergs. We were able to identify that this subset of customers were going to be prompted to sign into a new customer portal without the migration of their existing credentials. Almost unfathomable gaps become all too real in the fog of war.

But it’s easy to unearth these impacts in three simple steps.

Step One – Theme the expected changes

Review the epics and user stories, to develop themes around the change. For example, new ways for customers to log in, introduction of a new channel, route tracking for engineers. The key is to get a full overview of the activities at a broad enough level for interrogation.

Step Two – Validate the as is, to be

It’s essential to include business SMEs in the conversation to articulate the actual change. Developing a picture of the change can only be completed when you combine this with process owners from the transformation team.

Step Three – Talk to the impacted people

Assess the impact of these changes with the people, and customers, directly impacted. This step is critical and so often skipped. Only by talking to the people on the other side of the change will you be able to gain their perspective and unique insight.

This simple technique will surface, generate and succinctly articulate the intended changes, impacted roles/personas and relative impact of these changes. Having tangible clarity for the first time will provide you with the intelligence you previously lacked.

Whatever stage of your transformation – large or small, agile or waterfall – this will remove ambiguity. Complete the assessment, and share your findings widely. With this clarity and guidance, your people will re-engage and support the transformation.

Want to know more?

At Sullivan & Stanley, we break the mould of traditional consulting models, helping you overcome transformation failure and successfully bridging the gap between investment and value realisation. If you’d like to understand more about how we can help you deliver real-world outcomes fast, please get in touch.


Peter Tingay
Written by Peter Tingay
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