The Challenges of Transitioning from Start-Up to Grown-Up

Those of us that have experienced the full spectrum of company type; from Early-Stage to SME, to Mid-Market and on up to the Global Enterprise will realise that there are three distinct phases that companies pass through. Initially, the focus is on figuring out what we are going to sell and to whom? Once this is crystallised into a product or services set and the go-to market strategy has been identified, the company moves on to building repeatable and scalable propositions in order to build revenue, profits and market share.  The final phase is about sustainability and diversification. As a company grows it needs to seek new markets with new offerings in order to continue its expansion.

Concept → Build → Sustain

The biggest transformational issue for companies comes during the shift from stage two (Build) to stage three (Sustain) because this is when they need to move from product focused management to people and process focused management.  This transformation, and the potentially exponential growth that occurs simultaneously, can induce an overly bureaucratic, highly political culture that exacerbates the formation of the individual silos that naturally occur within large enterprises. Indeed, from my time at British Telecom and Sony, I have first had experience of the difficulties that arise from attempting to coerce, cajole and encourage various departments to put aside their individual interests and work together to solve a common problem.

A direct result of the frustrations caused by a failure to handle this transformation adequately is that key staff will leave for greener, more exciting and generally more intellectually challenging roles rather than waste their energies trying to navigate the quagmire of such a complex corporate culture.

The current growth in take up of Business Process Management solutions by larger mid-tier and enterprise scale firms is testament to recognition that this transformation to people and process focused management warrants significant investment. BPM, however, is not a panacea. Until your new BPM suite is in active production and generating tangible benefit to your business you can be sitting of some very expensive shelf-ware.

There is a clear need to bring the BPM skills and experience together with the methodology designed to drive process improvement and the clarity of communication to ensure your staff are carried along with the programme to ensure your transformation is successful.

Skills + Methodology + Clarity of Communication = Success

Implementing BPM is about changes to business process, and invariably to culture. It is not just about implementing a new technology stack. This is a complex challenge and I find the best way to approach it is to adopt a holistic approach.

People

  • The core team must include people strongly experienced in analysis, design and implementation from a process perspective. It is a false economy to do otherwise.
  • Since this is as much about change management as software development, it helps to have positive, passionate “change people” in the project team, and a sympathetic business champion.
  • It often feels like herding cats, but it is essential to obtain considerable input from business experts. This should be clearly explained, requested and planned well in advance.
  • The agile, iterative approach is deeply ingrained in the concepts of BPM. Using a waterfall method is not impossible but will increase the project risks and most likely result in lower quality and a less flexible solution
  • Process decomposition and design is best done in a group workshop format, rather than in one-on-one interviews.
  • Long projects are prone to high expectations and more likely to fail. Don’t wait until the end of a vast transformation exercise to deliver something of value, but actively seek short-term wins. Think in weeks, or months, not in years.
  • Active stakeholder management helps align objectives, improves the quality of the solution and promotes acceptance.
  • Most people are worried by change. Regular, transparent communication helps alleviate these concerns. The absence of communication creates an “information vacuum” to be filled by rumours and fear.
  • Give people the chance to actively drive the change, rather than letting change “happen” to them.

Methodology

  • The agile, iterative approach is deeply ingrained in the concepts of BPM. Using a waterfall method is not impossible but will increase the project risks and most likely result in lower quality and a less flexible solution
  • Process decomposition and design is best done in a group workshop format, rather than in one-on-one interviews.
  • Long projects are prone to high expectations and more likely to fail. Don’t wait until the end of a vast transformation exercise to deliver something of value, but actively seek short-term wins. Think in weeks, or months, not in years.

Communication

  • Active stakeholder management helps align objectives, improves the quality of the solution and promotes acceptance.
  • Most people are worried by change. Regular, transparent communication helps alleviate these concerns. The absence of communication creates an “information vacuum” to be filled by rumours and fear.
  • Give people the chance to actively drive the change, rather than letting change “happen” to them.


About Peter Borner

Peter is an entrepreneur and successful business leader. Currently leading a consultancy firm specialising in technical diligence for M&A and advising global firms on IT consolidation and migration to consumption based costing through the use of Cloud Technologies.

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