We hear Business Transformation (BT) mentioned by many vendors and consultants when they’re selling their products and services.  It closely echos the messaging of SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) transformation of the past decade; and given the challenges we’ve seen in realizing those benefits, it’s fair to consider it in some ways a re-branding.  Or you can think of BT as the current ‘snake oil’ of the IT industry, put simply: “buy a BT project and your problems may go away.”

One definition of business transformation is it attempts to align a business’s people, process and technology to achieve specific objectives, e.g. 10% increase in revenue by March 2012 or 25% improvement in customer satisfaction in 2011.  Which are necessary for the business to achieve its strategy and vision, e.g. become the #1 rated provider in customer service while maintaining their current market position in revenue.  Thought of like this it’s really no more than we’ve be doing in business for decades, just we’ve called it business improvement. 

Given the dictionary definition of transformation, is it really complete change?  It clearly isn’t, so BT is BS, just plain marketing fluff.  However, there is some continuous improvement taking place here, I guess thanks to all those TQM (Total Quality Management – I never understood why it was Total) courses people were subjected to in the 1990s.  Many SOA projects struggled to achieve their aims because they focused principally on the technology, and didn’t treat change in people and processes as equally important.  So we’ve learned (hopefully) from recent history to focus on people and processes and use technology to support change in people and processes.

Yet I see BT being used to push through yet again a number of technologies / business models, for example:

  • Managed / hosted services;
  • Event-driven SOA; and
  • Solution consolidation (a one-stop-shop solution).

So when vendors start talking about BT, firstly, get them to explain what they are going to transform in your business.  Once it’s clear that they are only proposing business improvement, ask them to explain why this business improvement is any different to those of the past.  If they spend more than 33% of the time on technology ask them to leave as they clearly haven’t learned from history.  The business improvement project (as BT should be removed from the lexicon as its BS and marketing fluff) should spend as much time on people, processes and technology; with technology being used ONLY to support the changes in people and processes, not for the sake of the technology.