Why human factors cause your transformation programmes to fail

May 16, 2021

Written By

Tommy Mortberg

Head of Pre-Sales

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A core system change presents a huge opportunity to transform and digitalise every aspect of your business.

These digitalisation opportunities range from customer interactions to business functions, and individual processes.

With transformation completed successfully, your business will benefit enormously. Success comes in the form of improved data and insights, reduced failure and operating costs, a step change in customer and employee satisfaction and engagement, and improved responsiveness and capacity for ongoing continuous change.

Transforming the core system as a CxO

Embarking on a core system transformation is one of the most significant decisions a CxO has to make.

Clear vision and commitment is needed not just from the leadership team, but everyone involved in the project.

Avoiding transformation failure

Here we explore 4 ‘human factor’ pitfalls that cause transformations to fail, and how to avoid them:

1) Failing to be clear on the ‘why’

The impact of this:

  • Lack of coherency and alignment across different business disciplines.
  • Conflict across the project team, and/or with sponsors and suppliers.
  • Prioritisation challenges and significant scope creep.

Mitigations to make sure the project stays on track:

  • Align around the purpose of the company, ensuring all project stakeholders are clear on the objectives in the short term and long term.
  • Leverage the purpose as the ‘north star’ in decision making and prioritisation.
  • Rethink KPIs for measuring, claiming and rewarding success to drive the right outcomes. Measuring outcomes that don’t clearly align to your purpose could result in prioritisation of the wrong tasks or them not being delivered in the right way.

2) Recreating ‘old’ processes in your new technology stack

The impact of doing this:

  • There is a lack of articulation and understanding of the problem each process should solve. By transforming the core system, this also involves transforming everything that comes with it to make it a success.
  • Limits the opportunity for a step change in performance and quality.
  • Inefficiencies and waste are built into the new solution. You want to start fresh and build sustainable foundations to grow from.

Mitigations to make the transformation a success:

  • Use user stories to be clear on the outcomes a process should deliver, rather than describing the process itself.
  • Invest in project team training – writing user stories, design thinking, lean, inspiration from other sectors. Investment in your people will help drive the behaviours, decisions and outcomes required to make the transformation a success.
  • Engage a multidisciplined team to participate in detailed requirements gathering, to offer diverse perspectives.

3) Lack of challenge of the status quo

Impacts of this:

  • Assumptions, risks and blockers aren’t identified or clearly called out, reducing team’s ability to reinvent.
  • Poor decision making and ‘groupthink’.
  • Time and scope creep through trying to please stakeholders with as-is equivalents.

Mitigations to get the best from the project:

  • Leadership to lead by example and invite critique.
  • Use test and learn / pilot of reduced customer numbers to create safety in doing things differently.
  • Ensure clarity on your risk appetite and have an accountable person for decision making.

4) Failing to adapt to ‘minimum viable product’ (MVP) thinking

Impacts on not having MVP thinking:

  • Failure to understand the core value drivers within an experience or process.
  • The committed scope is too large to facilitate changes in direction for future iterations.
  • Incur an opportunity cost, as the breadth of feature delivery causes lengthier time to market to secure your first learnings and benefit realisation.


  • Recognise the mindshift to MVP is hard! Encourage, challenge and debate across the team on the breadth and depth of scope of features and their prioritisation to gain learnings.
  • Create safety in ‘getting it wrong’ and supporting processes manually until needs are better understood, to invest in solving the right problems. Fail fast, and importantly, learn quickly!
  • Champion and elevate lessons learned and the changes they resulted in.

There are many ways in which a transformation of your core systems can fail through human factors.

However, with the right preparation, guidelines, and delivery partner, it’s easier to turn a complicated migration into a smoother process.

Guest author: Zoë Warner, Digital Transformation Consultant

Zoë Warner helps businesses drive customer focused digital transformation, to improve customer satisfaction and retention, make operations more efficient and secure commercial growth. Zoë’s known for securing investment to drive step-change innovation and transformation in FTSE 100 companies, including within a well-known UK energy supplier.

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