The tools of smart transformation

Managing and promoting change within an organization is never easy, so what are the common threads that tie together a successful transformation project?

Leading organizations share one thing in common: a flair for reinvention. While no two organizations are alike, businesses that successfully manage and promote change have certain common traits that tie together a successful transformation project. Whether expanding rapidly and entering new markets – such as Accenture in the early 2000s – or changing to meet new customer needs and market dynamics – as in the case of US software giant Hewlett-Packard, which
recently announced its decision to split into two listed companies* – any business can be aided by a common approach to organizational transformation.

IBM went from being less of a computer manufacturer to more of a software developer in the 1990s and later embarked on a strategy of transformation that reshaped the business in fundamental ways. It outlines some guiding principles in its report The Road to a Smarter Enterprise.**

For example, it advises businesses to start a movement within their organization to gain buy-in from management and employees. “Successful transformation requires the active engagement of employees, for them to participate in the creation of what your organization truly wants to become.”

Others agree. “Being influential is more powerful than being in control,” explains Peter Cochrane, former Chief Technology Officer at telecommunication services company BT and an IT advisor to international industries and government. “If the board and managers are not leading change, then their workforce will drag them along.”

In The Road to a Smarter Enterprise, IBM goes on to recommend establishing clear transformation governance. How often does a big transformation project kick off with a big bang and lots of enthusiasm, only to gradually fade into the background? Projects need a clear structure to help oversee them and ensure long-term success. “Governance not only helps to shape your strategy and prioritize investments; it is where the overarching metrics are debated and decided and where business value ultimately gets measured.”

At the heart of any transformation project is the need to better align the organization’s IT operating model with its market strategy. As such, the chief information officer (CIO) has a key role to play in supporting business transformation. Business processes must be simplified, standardized and centralized. But new technology on its own doesn’t transform a business or fix a flawed process. It can, however, accelerate progress and support people as they work in new ways.

“Technology is about the empowerment of the individual, doing more with less – or, better, doing far, far more with the same,” says Cochrane. “If a particular technology does not benefit you or your organization, don’t adopt it, but do look for others that do.”

The CIO must:

  • Define an IT strategy that includes strong, central IT governance
  • Align their company’s IT operating model with its market strategy, running IT like a business based on a managed-services approach
  • Strengthen IT performance measurement processes

“IT should now be core to the business success and vital to ongoing operations and transformation,” emphasizes Cochrane. “It has to be at the core of any business transformation driven by competition and empowered by technological advance.”

* S. Mukherjee and E. Chan, “Hewlett-Packard to split into two public companies,” Reuters, October 2014,, accessed November 2014.
** The Road to a Smarter Enterprise: IBM’s transformation journey, IBM, 2010,, accessed November 2014.

The article was written by:

  • Jonathan Harden

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