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Transform is the Norm

Transform is the Norm

Is this a sea change or an e-change?

I have tinkered around the edges of my business and I've fiddled with the middle. Having not seen any great result from my interference, it's time to re-engineer my business entirely on the belief that any change will move me - either forward or in some other direction.

If I'm going to e-transform my business, I need to know what other people are doing so I can copy them, or at least avoid their mistakes. A Gartner survey of 1400 CIOs found a lot of them thought their top priority was to use IT to improve company business processes. There's an argument that this has always been a CIO's job, so it's good to see them fess up.

It's hard to know who to look at first since such a long list of companies have announced their transformation plans, but government seems a good place to start. The federal e-government strategy has just been tabled and will be discussed in Cabinet this month. This will doubtless be subjected to the usual changes, compromises and watering down, so I fear the transformation will actually be e-government strategy becoming a-government strategy. I note their e-health reform proposal appears to have caught a chronic fatigue virus, with its timeline now stretching out to a possible 10-20 years. The "e" must mean eventual.

Perhaps I should focus on big business for my inspiration. A popular transformation method is to acquire a company doing really well in an area they've struggled with. Disney has bought Pixar for animation, Sony bought Konica Minolta for digital cameras and Oracle bought Siebel for CRM. Since the area I'm struggling with is identifying what business I'm actually in, an acquisition might not be useful.

However, I have learned that the areas I need to transform are my business, my technology and my personnel. I clearly need a business transformation consultant who can recommend all the appropriate actions, and take the blame if it all goes wrong.

It wasn't easy finding one. As I have a limited budget, all the expensive people who are worth their money are off the list. Reading resumes of consultants is like reading The Da Vinci Code - it's presented as fact but you know most of it is fiction. I know from personal experience that previous clients always give a glowing report of a consultant's work, even if it's abysmal, to avoid exposing to their management the massive amount of money they've recently wasted. Eventually I made my choice based on the coffee the consultant chose at our interview, which seemed as reliable a method as any other.

Her first suggestion in transforming my business was to know my customers. That was easy. I've got this brand new CRM system and proudly showed her all the automated reports. The consultant asked me some odd questions, like "what's my customers' business?", "what are their biggest problems?" and "what are they trying to achieve?" I thought she was joking, replied that we're working on my business plan, not my customers' plan, and was met with a look somewhere between pity and resignation. I'm rethinking my coffee selection method.

Our conversation turned to outsourcing. It's all the rage at the moment, especially in IT. A Talent2 survey of 200 Australian CEOs said they'd prefer to keep their outsourcing dollars in Australia, which would explain why so many outsource operations have moved to northern Australian towns such as Bangalore, Hyderabad and Delhi. Like these CEOs, I too would prefer to keep my outsourcing in Australia. And like these CEOs, I won't, simply because it's cheaper not to.

My biggest question is what to outsource, and to whom. I've made it my biggest question, as I'm hoping to score a trip to CeBIT next month where they're playing Outsource Perfect Match. Businesses list their details and requirements, and get matched with a suitable outsourcer before being set up together on their first date - with a chaperone I hope.

There's a trend away from large outsourcers like IBM, CSC and EDS to smaller companies who use more than three letters in their name. These companies offer specialized services, so will be more like having my own department but with outsourcing fee overheads. It strikes me I can save these overheads if I run my specialized services in-house.

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