A warm welcome to everyone visiting from the Human Times and LinkedIn

Please see below a summary of the 10 step Transformation Scoping Checklist or click here to download the full 12 page PDF article.


1. Programme Sponsorship: The golden role and the hard yards of the programme sponsor

Being the sponsor of a transformation programme is one of the most rewarding, challenging and potentially career defining roles of your professional life. But what is a project sponsor? Has anyone ever properly described the role to you? 

Effective sponsors ensure that transformational change is fully aligned to business strategy, and that funding and resources are in place. They actively participate in progress reviews, set clear direction and objectives and hold their teams accountable for delivery. They make timely decisions and help overcome obstacles and resistance to change. They communicate directly with people affected by the change, in person wherever possible, and they put themselves out there to answer the difficult questions.

Leading transformational change is the essence of emotional labour, neatly described here by Seth Godin. If you’re an executive sponsor, be prepared to do a lot of this.


2. Problem Definition: Seek opinion, gather data, ask the audience

A common mistake when managing transformational change is confusing the reason a transformation programme starts, and the problem it’s trying to solve.

Any successful transformation needs to have a solid understanding of ‘where we are today’, clarity of ‘where we want to be in the future’ and a plan to get from one to the other. Understanding the time, effort and cost it takes to deliver your business processes today, and how this benchmarks against other organisations, gives you a solid fact base to work from.

However, input from a broad cross section of stakeholders is also needed when defining the problem. You can’t possibly know all the answers, or even all the questions to ask. Successful transformation means asking the audience.


3. Preparing for Change: Plan early, find your champions and engage

On far too many occasions, the first business users hear of new functional initiatives is when they receive an invitation to mandatory training.

Time must be invested during scoping to identify which groups of people will be impacted by your change. Then you need to consider how they will be affected, and who the best people are to engage with them and the best communication methods – Hint: it’s not always a group email from the programme sponsor!

Effective change management is a two way, ongoing conversation that informs and updates everyone involved about the path and progress of the transformation. Inviting business users to share their frustrations, wants, and needs ensures that change is done for them and by them, rather than to them.


4. Requirements Gathering: Beyond implementing new technology

In many transformation programmes most of the changes made are to existing systems or potentially buying and implementing new technology.

It’s very easy to get fixated on technology, especially if it’s new, shiny, and expensive. However, effective transformation is about much more than implementing new systems. At its core, it’s about three things people, process and then the technology. Who’s going to use it, how and why, and what is the actual technology?

Using a ‘Capability’ approach that captures people, process and technology requirements can ensure that you gain a holistic view of the needs of your organisation and avoids a narrow systems-focused view of the world.

Not every requirement captured will be valid, desirable, or aligned to your vision. But it’s still worth capturing as much as you can. Capable, empowered process owners and a well-defined design authority will help to decide which requirements to accept into scope.


5. Vision, Objectives and Design Principles: Strategic objectives, design principles and dangerous deviations

So many aspects of transformation are unknown and unknowable when you begin. Your vision, objectives, and design principles provide guidance to your team, helping them to make decisions that will ultimately get you to your destination.

Your Vision is a description of your destination. It should be clear, concise, compelling, and engage people at an emotional level.

Strategic objectives provide detail about the outcomes that must be delivered. They act as a touchstone during design and they define progress and success.

Design principles act as a compass, focusing more on direction than defining the destination. Ideally they should be in the format of four to eight simple, unambiguous statements, each with a brief description of the philosophy that will guide how decisions are made.


6. Governance and Decision Making: Destructive forces, burn rates and protecting scope

The question of who makes decisions is often a vexed one in programmes that get into trouble. Effective governance is essential to avoid the most destructive forces in any project or programme – indecision, delay, reversal, and rework.

A pre-requisite for successful transformation is having clearly defined process owners and design authority.

Process owners should be accountable for the efficiency and effectiveness of a defined set of processes. They must be empowered to make decisions about the design of future processes and supporting technology.

Your design authority should be a team of five to eight people drawn from your functional Leadership Teams, IT, Finance, and ‘Business Operations’. Their purpose is to collaboratively resolve competing design priorities and objectives, then make decisions that deliver the best possible outcome.


7. Methodology and Approach: Project, programme and portfolio

Transformation invariably runs into trouble when it’s treated as a project with a simple objective, such as implementing a new ERP System.

True transformation requires changes to your operating model, team capability, processes, systems, and potentially culture. The changes involved are heavily interdependent on one another with tasks and activities running into the thousands. Taking a programme management approach enables you to manage this complexity and ensures adequate attention is given to coordinating the output of the various projects and activities, as well as managing the overarching business change.

For more information on project and programme management training and techniques, please click here.


8. Programme Management Capability: Who’s best at doing what?

Assuming you are adopting a programme approach to transformation, getting the right team in place is essential.

Good programme managers focus on the bigger picture, the benefits promised in the business case, interdependencies between different projects and activities, stakeholder management, and business change.

Good project managers focus on delivering their projects on time, to specification, and on budget by solving problems and managing risks and issues. Their focus for change management will be on adoption, rather than overarching business change.

It’s not an either/or choice, transformation needs both effective programme and project management to be successful.

Functional teams seconded to the transformation can be unfamiliar with project and programme concepts, language, and methodologies. Providing them with an introduction to project management can be invaluable in reducing stress levels and greatly increasing your chances of success.


9. Solution Design Capability: NOT business as usual, please

Solution design needs to deliver your vision, strategic objectives, and business case benefits, all within the constraints of your agreed design principles. These solutions must also work in the real world with people willing to adopt the change.

People who have been successful in managing business as usual can often find the demands of designing solutions challenging. Visiting other organisations, group training and coaching sessions on problem solving, innovation, and design can also be of great help in shifting from an operational to an ‘architectural’ mindset.

Critical areas to focus on during scoping are data architecture, systems architecture, Target Operating Model, and high-level process design.

10. Business Case: Where the rubber hits the road

Transformation programmes are set on a path to success or failure by their business cases.

Too much focus on easy to measure, cashable benefits risk underplaying the changes required to deliver the organisation’s strategic objectives. The result can be an overly simplistic cost cutting exercise and an underinvestment in change management.

Whereas a business case too focused on strategic, value based, non-cashable benefits can lead to unintended increases in future operating costs, poorly contained programme costs, and a lack of measurable benefits.

Your business case needs to strike a balance between ‘hard’ cashable savings and non-cashable ‘value’ benefits.

Ultimately, it’s the executive sponsor who asks for the investment and is accountable for delivering the promised outcomes and benefits. So, if you are an executive sponsor, make 100% sure you’re comfortable with the business case. Your career may depend on it!


Find out more

We really have just scratched the surface of this very large topic. Look out for future checklists covering the phases of Build, Transition and Sustain. To access the full 12 page Transformation Scoping Checklist, please click here.

If you’re interested in discovering more, have an opinion on what we can collectively do to improve the outcomes of transformation programmes, or just want to learn from others, Underscore will be holding the first of a series of transformation learning events in London throughout 2019. We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Please register your interest below if you would like to receive further information about the event.