Emma Burt Helping product teams to succeed through consultancy and training. www.playinthegrey.co.uk

Business transformation guide: Strategy, process, and examples

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Business Transformation Guide: Strategy, Process, And Examples

I’m probably giving away my age here, but do you remember the video cassette? My parents taught me how to use our video player when I was 2 years old. This meant that I could toddle downstairs at 6 a.m. and pick out my favorite video (Dumbo) unaided, giving them an extra hour of sleep. Smart parenting!

Never heard of a video cassette? Well, you don’t need to be that old to have never had one in your house. Technology and products are evolving faster than ever, and so are the businesses that make them. In fact, businesses today need to transform to survive.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about business transformation, including its definition, goals, and objectives. We’ll also share tips to make your business transformation successful, including using a roadmap, developing a communication plan, managing risk, defining success metrics, and more.

Table of contents

What is business transformation?

Business transformation refers to the process of fundamentally changing the way a company operates to achieve a new level of growth, efficiency, and competitiveness. It usually involves making significant changes to an organization’s processes, culture, and technology to improve its performance, adapt to new market trends, and capitalize on emerging opportunities.

Businesses can achieve a competitive advantage by creating a more agile, innovative, and customer-centric organization. Business transformation can help organizations reduce costs, improve efficiency, enhance the customer experience, and drive revenue growth.

Business transformation examples

Before embarking on a business transformation journey, it’s essential to define the goals and objectives that the organization aims to achieve. These goals should align with the company’s overall mission, vision, and strategy.

If you’ve never heard of a video cassette, you may not have heard of Blockbuster. Back in the day, Blockbuster was a chain of stores where you could go to rent a movie. Yes, go — as in physically visit the shop.

Going to Blockbuster was such a treat! With stacks of shelves containing movie after movie, you could choose one and watch it all weekend. However, if you returned your video late, you’d be hit with a hefty fine.

With the advent of the internet, the movie rental industry faced serious disruption due to the emergence of streaming platforms. Along came Netflix, and Blockbuster’s business model was suddenly antiquated. It did not adapt and, as a result, Blockbuster is resigned to the history books.

On the other hand, Microsoft demonstrates what is possible with a business transformation. There was a time when people questioned Microsoft’s future. However, under CEO Satya Nadella’s leadership, the longtime tech giant shifted from a product-focused company to a cloud-first, mobile-first one. By transforming its business model, culture, and technology to focus on cloud-based services such as Azure, Office 365, and Dynamics 365, Microsoft managed to increase its revenue from cloud services and become a leading player in the cloud market.

Some common goals of business transformation include improving operational efficiency, enhancing the customer experience, entering new markets, launching new products or services, and reducing costs. For Microsoft, it was all of these things and more.

Developing your business transformation strategy

Identifying the areas of the business that require transformation is critical to the success of the initiative.

First, you need to start with your goal. Referencing our example from the previous section, Microsoft needed to pivot most of its product offerings and revive the culture of the firm to support this new direction.

Next, conduct a comprehensive assessment of the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) to see how they align with the goals of the transformation. Some common areas that may need transformation include the organization’s culture, processes, technology, customer experience, product or service offerings, and talent management.

Conducting a business transformation, particularly on a scale similar to that of Microsoft’s transformation, is a daunting task. It is an entire system overhaul, whether it is in a few areas of the business or many. The goals are often lofty and transformative — they need to be to help the business stay competitive, relevant and serve their customer needs as their needs evolve.

To guide this transformation, you need to balance the need to inspire and lead vast and complex change with the need to manage potential risks and unforeseen consequences. Due to complexity of the endeavor, it will be impossible to predict everything that may happen.

What are the 8 phases of business transformation?

Every business transformation process will vary depending on these risks, as well as the unique goals, needs, and deficiencies of the organization and its business units. However, these eight phases are a good place to start:

  1. Define success metrics
  2. Build a transformation roadmap
  3. Build a cross-functional team
  4. Develop a clear communication plan
  5. Identify and manage risks
  6. Leverage technology and data
  7. Continuously monitor progress and making adjustments
  8. Manage change and resistance

1. Define success metrics

What does success look like? Articulating this in a measurable way allows you to be more specific when it comes to monitoring progress.

Identify key performance indicators (KPIs) that are aligned with the transformation goals and objectives. KPIs can include metrics such as revenue growth, or cost reductions.

2. Build a transformation roadmap

When conducting business transformation activities, the vision of the future differs greatly from the current state of the company. It can be hard for people to understand how they are to arrive at point B. That’s where a roadmap comes in.

A business transformation roadmap helps communicate the steps required to achieve your transformation goals and objectives. This document may include rough timelines, milestones, and key deliverables.

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The roadmap could also be accompanied with other documents that identify the resources required for the initiative, such as budget, personnel, and technology.

3. Build a cross-functional team

One of the most crucial aspects of a successful business transformation is building a cross-functional team. Because a business transformation impacts so many areas of the business, it requires a wide range skill sets to design and implement the new ways of working.

The team should consist of individuals from various departments within the organization who can provide diverse perspectives and skillsets. It’s important to recruit individuals who are not only experts in their respective fields but also possess strong communication and collaboration skills. They should be able to work together toward a common goal and willing to learn and adapt to new ideas and approaches.

4. Develop a clear communication plan

Research has shown that effective communication is critical to the success of any transformation initiative.

Change can be both exciting and unsettling. You should develop a clear communication plan that outlines the key messages, stakeholders, channels, and frequency of communication. The communication plan should also include a feedback mechanism to gather input and address any concerns or issues.

5. Identify and manage risks

Business transformation initiatives are often associated with significant risks, such as cost overruns, delays, and resistance to change.

Identify and manage these risks by conducting a comprehensive risk assessment, developing risk mitigation strategies, and monitoring risks throughout the transformation process.

6. Leverage technology and data

Technology and data are essential components of a successful business transformation. You need to embrace new technologies and tools to streamline their operations, improve efficiency and enhance their customer experience.

Data analytics plays a critical role in providing valuable insights into customer behavior, market trends, and internal processes. It’s essential to have a robust technology infrastructure that supports data-driven decision-making and enables automation of routine tasks.

7. Continuously monitor progress and make adjustments

Business transformation is an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring and evaluation. This is where the key performance indicators (KPIs) established at the start to measure the success of the transformation journey come into play.

It’s essential to have a feedback mechanism in place to gather insights from employees, customers, and stakeholders. Based on the feedback and KPIs, make adjustments to ensure that the transformation journey stays on track and achieves the desired outcomes.

8. Manage change and resistance

Change can be challenging, and resistance to change is a common hurdle when embarking on a business transformation journey. It’s essential to have a change management plan in place that addresses the concerns of employees and stakeholders.

As we’ve discussed, communication is key, and leaders must ensure that employees are aware of the changes, the reasons for the changes, and how they will be affected. It’s also crucial to involve employees in the transformation process and provide training and support to help them adapt to new processes and technologies.


Business transformation is a complex and challenging process that requires careful planning, execution, and monitoring. Your ability to build a cross-functional team, leverage technology and data, manage change and resistance, and continuously monitor progress determine the success of a business transformation journey.

By embracing these factors and investing in a holistic transformation approach, you can help your company unlock new opportunities, increase efficiency, and stay competitive in today’s ever-changing business landscape. Be the next Microsoft, not the next Blockbuster.

Featured image source: IconScout

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Emma Burt Helping product teams to succeed through consultancy and training. www.playinthegrey.co.uk

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