Transformers? Projects in Disguise!

 

When is a transformation not a transformation?

Well, how about: if things are not much different afterwards than they were before. The trouble is, that by that simple measure, few (if any) of the vaunted transformations of the last 10+ years could be said to truly be a success.

Instead, telecom has been offered (and signed up!) a succession of massive systems integration projects, justified by the latest generation of sofware or (more likely) hardware technology.

Meantime, Netflix, Apple, Hulu, Amazon eat the telcos' lunch.

The latest rallying cry is for "Digital Transformation", necessitated by disruptive technologies like IoT, SDN and NFV .

But is this really different from the Transformation we have been discussing for the past 20+ years?

The Transformation family tree includes members we've lost touch with over the years, and some relatives we just don't talk about any more. Transformation of legacy to support data; Transformation for support of new technologies like IMS and SDN; Transformation of processes for cost competitiveness and facilitation of outsourcing; Transformation for improved customer experience, etc.  We have even seen different flavors of Transformation: Strategic Transformation, Subscriber Centric Transformation, Evolutionary Transformation and most recently, “Digital Transformation”.

Yet, the business of the carrier marches on more or less the same way it has for years.

So where did all this effort on Transformation go? Did carriers realize business value? Did they monetize it and change their bottom lines? Sadly, they did not.

The path of Transformation is treacherous and the chasm of failure is widening. Vendors tout numbers like 90% success rate, but peel back the PR and it becomes quickly evident that the intended objectives of these Transformation programs were hardly achieved. Projects are cancelled, or indefinitely put on hold.  Others are significantly de-scoped and what started as a strategic initiative become skeletons of their former scope.

Time to Rethink Transformation

The problem lies in our approach to what a Transformation program is, how these complex programs are structured, how accountabilities and ownership are assigned, and ultimately the timescale for transformation.

We need to change our perspective on what a Transformation program is. These are multi-year, multi-phase projects involving dozens, if not hundreds of internal and external players.  They cross domains of process, technology, systems and people.  They bisect organizational lines, both within the organization and outside.  But, most importantly, they are focused on the “end-goal” of a New Era where life in the carrier is “Transformed”.

But does this really work?

A multi-phase Transformation program could span 2-5 years and yet IT and network technology change is moving at a much faster pace.  Even careers and positions of key sponsors and stakeholders change every 1-2 years.  So can we really build a 2-5 year plan for a big deliverable at the end of it, on this moving foundation?

Right Destination, Wrong Journey

To use an age old cliché, we need focus on the journey, not the destination.  The destination is still very important as a lighthouse, but the perils lie in the journey.  The journey itself also has to, in and of itself, be fruitful.  This means, we continue to deliver value throughout the process, not simply a few years out at the end of it.

The net result is generation of business value very early in the program, continued stakeholder and sponsor interest and commitment, and the inherent agility and ability to rapidly change course and direction.  One thing we know for sure is that the only thing bigger than the Transformation program itself, is the sum total of change orders that will be executed against it!

In summary then, many transformation programs have been built on the wrong foundations and we need to correct this.

We further explore the challenges of transformation in our blog at virtualizedworld.com

Francis Haysom, CTO at Virtualized World

Published as part of BossFest16

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