Transformation Projects: How to Go From Idea to Execution

Logan Mayville
January 2, 2018
minute read
How to Go From Idea to Execution
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The thing that keeps business leaders up at night isn’t a lost account or a hitch in a single process at work—it’s the feeling that even though things are running OK, the whole thing is somehow wrong.

Where do you even start to solve this issue? Hire new staff, buy new infrastructure, sell part of the business?

These are all tactics that may bring about the change you need, but at the strategic level, perhaps it’s time to consider a transformation project. According to an Oracle/Forbes Insights survey of 534 global executives, 48% believe their organization is only somewhat or not at all prepared to successfully execute a business transformation today.

In this post, we’re going to tackle this lack of confidence in executing a transformation project with tips for avoiding mistakes, best practices, and ideas you can use.

What is a Transformation Project?

Change is constant, but there are different levels of change within an organization.

The first type is developmental change, which happens frequently with little challenge. This encompasses activities like improving a process, updating skills, or upgrading machinery. Everything at the organization is mostly the same, only slightly better.

The second type of change is transitional, which is more rare. After transition, the organization is in a different state. Examples of this include mergers, reorganizations, and new product or service offerings. While the change can be dramatic, it is expected and can be measured somewhat quantitatively.

Transformation is the third type of change, and it’s a whole different ballgame. Similar to a transition, the organization is in a different state afterwards, but the main difference is that the state is unknown at the beginning. This can lead to radical differences in the pre-transformation organization, such as culture, products and services, revenue models—you name it. While a transformation project is clearly the most difficult, it also has the greatest potential for game-changing success at work.

In this post, we’re going to focus on the last type of change in the form of a executing a transformation project.

Stages of Business Transformation

Transformation projects need structure, planning, and a budget to go from idea to execution. Here are the different stages during transformation.


Start with your motivation and establish a rationale for your transformation. This statement can function as a line in the sand when somebody eventually asks why the business is putting so much time and energy into the project. This will also establish an endpoint, a destination for when you know you’ve accomplished your goal.

Additionally, think about what type skills and or people will be necessary to not only to lead the transformation, but to function on the other side. Do they have enough time and bandwidth to take on this project in addition to their day-to-day activities, or do they need commit their full time to the project?


No transformation project even has a chance at success without an effective leader to rally the troops, navigate the obstacles, and deal with objections. As of late, this role is increasing going to the CIO. In fact, according to the 2017 State of Digital Transformation report from Altimeter, more than 28% of respondents said that the CIO or CTO is responsible for digital transformation, compared to CMOs at 23%. CEOs came in third place, at 20%, followed by chief digital officers at 13%. Clearly, this will vary depending on your organization, but be mindful of the trends.


Project management, GANTT charts, and communication—your transformation manager needs to live in this world and make sure there are plenty of resources to execute. Since you’ve already established your endpoint, and likely some data points to let you know if you’re on target to solve for the original rationale you established in the planning phase, you should have an idea if your activity is moving the needle in the right direction. Stick with it, don’t let your team be pulled off to fight other, likely external fire, and make it to the management phase where you can strive for continuous improvement.

Tips for transformation project implementation

To pull off a corporate project you’re going to need a solid strategy, but also some tips and hacks to help grab the low-hanging fruit and keep the momentum going.

Here are a few quick hits to help you generate success with your transformation project.

Raise awareness early

Digital transformation is not something you want to spring on the entire company through a memo or a last-minute all hands meeting. An honest, transparent letter from the CEO or change management leader explaining the rationale for why the change must occur can go a long way to get people feeling that they’re involved in the process, or at least cheering it on.

Identify stakeholders and hold them accountable for support

As we mentioned, these types of projects are generally lead by the CIO or CMO, but that doesn’t mean they should be the only executives involved. Investors, advisors, board members and the rest of the executive team should have regular and planned communication in support of the transformation. And don’t just expect them to do it—make a communication plan.

Assign a project manager

Sounds obvious, but a solid PM to oversee the actual execution of the work is crucial to the transformation. All the leadership and the support are for naught without solid project management tactics.

Build a communications plan that shares mutual benefits

As you’re looking for evidences to support the metrics you’ve put in place to gauge the status of the transformation, don’t forget to communicate the benefits. Everyone at the company should benefit from a transformation, but in radically different ways. Gather those up and see what they look like in the context of how the company will benefit as whole, which is a more compelling message than a bunch of metrics (which you’ll still need for the change management team).

Plan for multiple releases

Is there a specific day you’ll know the transformation is complete? An hour? Or do you have it down to the minute? Likely not. Yes, there may be a deadline for new software implementation or a product launch, but in reality you’ll likely have several different things roll out a different intervals.

Plan for continuous improvement after transformation

Your transformation project was a success? Great! Plan to iterate and work on continuous improvement for the rest of your life. Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but the whole reason for the transformation project was because you fell behind—stay on top of your change metrics and plan to continue to move the needles in the right direction.

Transformation projects at work are inherently fraught with lots of challenges and obstacles—if it was easy, everybody would do it. The organizations who understand their rationale, plan for the change, and execute at a high level will be the ones better prepared for shifting marketing demands and advances in technology.

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