‘Transformation is a battle and communications are too important to leave to chance’

Leaders of business transformation programmes are recognising that a professional, structured approach to good communication between all stakeholders drives any successful change programme.

Traditionally, at the start of a major business transformation programme, a project management methodology is chosen. Structured business transformation plans are drawn up based on this. And then on paper everything looks like it should slot into place, with comfort given to the client that specified actions will take place at given times.

Boxes are ticked and a variety of charts document the progress made. The methodologies selected, such as Prince 2 or Agile, have their own relative strengths and weaknesses. Yet, what is often forgotten is that in real life, traditional project systems can fail to show how much those involved buy into the transformation vision.

A critical piece is often missing from the business transformation jigsaw. Too often, the communication between the various consultancy firms and other stakeholders is disjointed and needs a better approach.

A true understanding of the transformation goals and a commitment to the cause is worth a mountain of graphs depicting milestones being reached. In the absence of any formal communications flow to the contrary, people fill any information vacuum with their own version of reality. Often incorrect, this harms any transformation programme, and where it especially hurts – costing both time and money.

Vast amounts can be spent on ensuring different IT systems can talk to each other. However, I am always amazed that much less is spent on ensuring the various consulting firms and stakeholders working on a programme share common values and understand their relative roles. This results in misunderstandings and easily avoidable inefficiencies.

It is, therefore, good to see this situation is improving. Successful business transformation is a battle of both hearts and minds, and the communications dimension is too important to leave to chance.

Business transformation programmes need to instil shared values and agreed objectives using a set of co-ordinated, planned communications. It is something that is increasingly recognised as a missing dimension in the past and is where systematic communications play a key role.

And for all programme management traditionalists, the good news is that a process of robust communications does lend itself well to a formal, systematic project methodology. As a starting point, the Barcelona Principles, agreed in 2010 and updated in 2015, focusing on effective communications, are a good way to underpin this approach. For transformation directors, the fact that these were agreed across 33 countries, guarantees a common understanding even across multi-national projects, different cultures and across all sectors.

If, on top of this, transformation directors add an evaluation process for their communications and engagement such as OASIS – a methodology adopted by the Government Communication Service – a comforting rigour is applied to programme delivery. A new skillset based on engaging and communicating properly is therefore systematically brought to the table.

Formally adding communications best practice to transformation teams helps to connect and glue together the different parties. It ensures everybody is pointing in the same direction and working towards the same goal. Important resources are saved by plugging information gaps that otherwise lead to delays, unnecessary costs, misunderstandings and failing projects.

These are exciting times for business transformation professionals. With this extra dimension added to a team’s toolkit, the many opportunities for transformation emerging in areas as diverse as banking, technology, public sector transformation and digital development will increasingly see success secured by using skills drawn from effective employee and corporate communications.

Manage your communications, sell the vision, bring people along with you and business transformation will flow better than ever before.