Transformation is Dead.. Long Live Transformation!

The death of financial services transformation is upon us.  People are growing tired of the large, cumbersome, bureaucratic initiatives that promise complete a complete shift in business operating models and then deliver either the same capability or even less but with more modern buzz words.

The term “transformation” has become a loaded one in many organizations.  For some, this is a declaration that all internal teams can start sending invoices to the transformation cost centre in an internal billing free-for-all.  I am hearing stories of project management offices that are outnumbering “content provider” resources by twenty to one.  Some projects have nearly toppled under the weight of all of the administrative overhead and the projects have become and endless stream of status meetings about the status of the status meetings.  In some organizations this is creating a transformation back lash where the content providing resources are running away from anything that is labelled transformational because it implies a certain level of inefficiency.

Change is not going out of style:  The gap between what the business wants to achieve and where they are is great.  Financial services is a very information centric business and the systems and information are not currently aligned to business needs especially when it comes to agility and efficiency needs.

At the same time I am seeing new life.  There are programs where small multi disciplinary teams are creating a “cerebral cortex” of design, planning and leadership and then making fast and informed decisions about segments of work.  The initiatives themselves are shifting or the  organizations are moving from one model to the next — and it looks like the next evolution of the transformation program will be a smaller, faster, lighter weight initiative more focused on immediate and ongoing results.  The key ingredient in this new type of team seems to be small, smart multi-disciplinary teams where business and technology ideas are fused with planning and knowledge of the vendor products and systems landscape.  This fusion allows for good design where decisions are made based on a strong understanding of the business need and motivation as well as what is practically possible.

Lessons have been learned and factored into how organizations are thinking about these programs.  Some are avoiding the term transformation entirely and even avoiding the capital budgeting process by funding initiatives from operations.  With a small budget and a big vision, the change is made in small progressive steps.  Instead of declaring the transformation, these organizations are delivering small important changes and then after some time are able to highlight the change as something that has occurred rather than promising things that will occur.

If the term transformation continues to be associated with large bloated initiatives it will need to die.  Nobody wants that affiliation with their business case and on their presentation slides as they are trying to invoke a major change.  Transformation may be able to reinvent itself by being associated with this new wave of fast and efficient teams that are delivering change incrementally — or we may see new language evolve around this world.  Whatever we are going to call it next, we are going to need to keep delivering change and the appetite for change only seems to be growing.



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