I recently had chance to review a study – conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit and Cagemini – which found that 86% of companies believed business transformation had become a central way of working.
Despite this figure, the number who said they believed their own company was excelling at business transformation, was a paltry 30%.
This research was from 2007, but I suspect things haven't improved too much since then.
In procurement, I've found that many change programmes have had poor results, even when the individuals behind them have tried hard to make them a success. Transformations usually start strongly before fading away.
It's evident that the knowledge levels of many business leaders – regarding techniques to change the interlinked and multifaceted systems that make up contemporary companies – are not always up to scratch.
Plan after plan fails, meaning business leaders are left confused and increasingly frustrated at the lack of results.
It doesn't matter how well a transformation is planned and funded, if those involved in making it happen are reluctant to participate, it's likely to fail.
If the people who are having to shoulder the burden of the changes view them as irrelevant, problems will almost certainly follow. I saw an example of this recently, where a high ranking procurement officer made the decision to begin an SRM (supplier relationship management) initiative.
While it made sense on paper, the management team naïvely failed to ensure their team had the capacity to adapt to the new challenges and tasks that were part and parcel of the changes. A few years down the line, and management was forced to launch the programme again in an attempt to iron out the problems.
It's extremely common for positive changes to be viewed with suspicion, and be seen as a threat by the individuals within an organisation.
An effective change programme needs to harness the loyalty, inspiration and cooperation of everyone within the organisation, not just the internal change agents and procurement leaders. The people who are involved in making the changes and achieving the goals of the plan need to be actively involved in the process.
It's easy to get carried away by the dry facts when thinking about a transformation, but the importance of the heart as well as the head needs to be considered. Individuals at all levels have to be able to work through the questions, worries and doubts they are likely to have concerning any change initiative that comes directly from the management team.
If you're currently considering a procurement transformation, taking the time to mull over whether it makes sense to both the head and the heart might just be the difference between success and failure.