A Beginner’s Guide to Business Transformation Strategies

A Beginner’s Guide to Business Transformation Strategies
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If you’re beginning to feel that your company’s growth has plateaued—or that maintaining a competitive advantage is a struggle—it may be time for a business transformation.

A business transformation process can involve making cultural, managerial, organizational, and technological shifts that improve the way your business runs. While transforming your business is an involved process, it’s one that can have long-lasting benefits.

In this guide, we’ll cover all the basics you need to know when considering undergoing a business transformation, including:

What is business transformation?

Business transformation is the process of making strategic, often bold, changes to the way your business operates and delivers value.

Undergoing a transformation initiative is more than making a few tweaks here and there. It’s an intensive, intentional overhaul of existing processes or services—and the act of making fundamental changes.

A successful business transformation can deliver many benefits, including::

  • Revenue
  • New customers
  • Customer retention
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Market share

The path toward higher revenue and more customers doesn’t always necessitate a full transformation. Sometimes, all that’s needed is a fresh approach to your marketing strategy or finding ways to cut costs.

When it appears there are multiple potential issues holding your company back from achieving its goals, though, you should definitely consider whether or not you need to explore a transformation program.

Types of business transformation

Business transformation can take many forms, but often falls into one of these four categories:

  1. Cultural transformation
  2. Management transformation
  3. Digital transformation
  4. Organizational transformation

There are aspects of each type of transformation that overlap, so you may find that you begin undergoing an organizational transformation and wind up exploring digital transformation, too.

Let’s take a closer look at what each of these types of business transformation entails—and why or when you may want to consider them.

Cultural transformation

Business culture encompasses the way your team:

  • Works
  • Makes decisions
  • Measures success
  • Communicates and collaborates with others (internally or externally)

If you’re finding friction in day-to-day operations, or aren’t seeing the business results you want, it can be time to take a look at cultural transformation.

To undergo a cultural change, you’ll need to:

  • Look at your company’s current mission statement and values
  • Establish if you’re happy with those values or if you plan to change them moving forward
  • Determine which, if any, parts of your business are not working toward the same mission and set of values
  • Create a strategy for rolling out your new mission and values (or changes to processes that are in misalignment with the current values)
  • Provide cross-functional training so that all team members understand the decision-making frameworks, measurement metrics, and communication styles that your company will use going forward

For a cultural transformation to work, you’ll need to get buy-in from all team members and stakeholders. This way, your company’s efforts will be cohesive and aligned—further reinforcing any positive cultural shifts.

Management transformation

Sometimes, it isn’t your company culture that needs an overhaul—rather, it’s the way culture is interpreted and implemented by your management team.

If there’s one group or department in your company that’s having a hard time collaborating or working cross-functionally, it may be time for a management transformation. This type of transformation can involve:

  • Giving leaders additional support for managing large teams
  • Auditing and aligning internal processes for better efficiency
  • Implementing decision-making frameworks
  • Bringing in a management consultant to work with team members to identify leadership needs
  • Providing leadership or communication training to managers

Organizational transformation

While cultural and management transformations are often—though not always—driven by a desire to refine internal processes, organizational transformation is frequently the result of external factors.

When you undergo this type of transformation, you overhaul the ways in which your company does business and serves its customers. You may:

  • Restructure your departments to improve efficiency in working toward a new product or service
  • Remove silos and improve cross-functionality across the company
  • Move from in-office requirements to a distributed workforce that can do their jobs from anywhere in the world (also opening up the field of talent you can source new hires from)

A complete organizational transformation can involve reassessing your company’s mission and managerial style, as well as its marketing, product development, internal structure, and more.

You may need to bring on additional staff or consultants with specialized skill sets as part of the transformation process.

Digital transformation

A digital transformation strategy (DX) often goes hand-in-hand with the other transformations discussed in this guide. It involves the adoption of new technologies that enable your company to do business faster, more efficiently, and with a broader customer base..

Every company’s digital transformation efforts will be different and based on their current tech stack as a starting point.

A small business that maintains paper files will likely find that the transformation to cloud-based document management gives them a big productivity boost.

Meanwhile, a larger company that’s already using cloud-based digital technologies—but that fail to integrate well with each other—could find success in migrating to a more comprehensive, all-in-one enterprise system that meets their various business needs.

Transformation types graphic

6 core drivers of business transformation

Six core elements are often driving factors behind a company’s transformation. You’ll likely find that a mix of two or more drivers—and perhaps even all six— are influencing your transformation project.

1. Company mission

Your company’s mission influences both:

  • The culture at your organization
  • How you define and produce value for your customers

If it feels like your customers are no longer responding well to your products and services, or that your daily operations are a struggle, it may be a misalignment between your mission, culture, and audience.

As a result, you may need to undergo a cultural transformation to become better aligned with your mission. Or you may need to take a closer look at whether or not your mission is still applicable to your audience and how you will do business going forward.

2. Costs

Cost changes can be a driving force behind transformation—or the result of it.

If your company’s revenue and profits are decreasing, or you’re having trouble competing with other companies that are able to offer a lower price for similar products or services, it may be time to consider a transformation.

Perhaps you need to evaluate the cost of manufacturing goods, work with different vendors, or make internal process improvements.

However, you may also find that pursuing transformation for other reasons—such as embracing new technologies—can wind up having a transformative effect on your company’s costs as well.

3. Innovative technologies

Embracing new and innovative technologies is part of a successful digital transformation, but it can also be an essential part of other transformative processes, too.

Tapping into the power of new or improved technology can help you better meet your company’s mission, improve customer communications, optimize internal processes, and more. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Can artificial intelligence help your teams write code faster?
  • Would a new customer relationship manager (CRM) with workflow automations help your sales team close more deals?
  • Could scannable tags allow you to better track products through your supply chain?

Being open to new digital technologies can also enable you to gain ground as a market leader, improving the rate at which customers adopt your products and services.

4. Customer expectations

If customers aren’t satisfied with the value they’re getting from your company, it can indicate the need for a business transformation.

You need to understand:

  • Who your customers are
  • What they want
  • The problems they face
  • The answers and value you can provide

You’ll also need to be clear on any potential gaps that can form between what you promise and what you actually deliver to your customers.

Customer-driven transformation often goes hand-in-hand with other drivers including your company’s mission and available tech stack. Your mission is an important part of how you communicate value to customers, and new technologies can help you better measure customer satisfaction going forward.

5. Market disruptors

When your market experiences a significant, abrupt change—such as the entry of a new business competitor or the development of digital tools that change customer expectations—it can require quick and swift action on your part.

Think about the last time you hailed a ride to the airport. There’s a good chance you took an Uber or a Lyft instead of a traditional taxi. These two companies are a great example of market disruption.

The taxi industry in the U.S. has been around since the 1800s—but within seven years of Uber’s launch, taxi drivers’ salaries had dropped as much as 10% and the number of self-employed drivers increased by up to 50%.

That’s a pretty quick change for such a venerable industry.

If you’re keeping an eye on developments in your industry, you can be ready to pivot and transform if a similar type of disruption happens. (Or you may be the disruptor yourself, discovering an untapped market or technology with new and transformative potential!)

6. Talent acquisition

Sometimes, your mission, operating model, and tech stack are all in place and well-aligned with customer expectations … you just don’t have the necessary staff on hand to effectively meet demand.

If you determine that this is an issue at your company, then talent acquisition can be a big driving force behind transformation.

However, talent can play a big role in any type of business transformation, not just organizational. You may decide that you need new talent to help you implement programs as part of a digital transformation, for example.

Regardless of the type of transformation you plan to undertake, you may want to:

  • Hire more full-time talent
  • Work with independent professionals on a short- or long-term basis
  • Bring in consultants with specific competencies related to your transformation goals
  • Establish partnerships with agencies that can provide an array of necessary services

5 Steps to business transformation

Following a clearly defined, methodical, measurable process can help you have a successful business transformation experience.

Use these five steps as a guideline—and don’t be afraid to bring in experienced business consultants to help if needed.

Transformation steps

1. Have a clear vision

First, have a clear and well-defined vision for the changes you’d like to make, and the end results you expect to see. Make sure you know:

  • What about the current business model—your status quo—needs to change?
  • What business processes can remain the same?
  • Do you expect to see any short-term changes while working toward long-term objectives?
  • What are your business goals post-transformation?

2. Develop and scope a plan of action

Next, come up with a plan of action. Work through the whole scope on paper and make sure that you’re catching any interdependencies and potential roadblocks.

While unexpected events may happen during the process of implementing your transformation, careful advance planning means that you can be better prepared to handle these surprises.

3. Establish program management guidelines

Once you have your plan of action in place, define the guidelines you’ll follow to implement new programs throughout your company.

You may want to have a designated program manager in charge of the rollout, deploy change management software to help monitor the process, or create a task force of leaders to oversee the transformation.

4. Prepare your leadership team

Make sure that your entire leadership team and all managers are aware of your transformation plans.

This is particularly critical when implementing a mission-driven transformation, but you should keep lines of communication open in all transformation scenarios.

Having business leaders and managers aligned on changes and new processes will help create cohesive messaging and keep your rollout moving smoothly.

5. Execute and integrate new processes or platforms

Finally, remember that change doesn’t happen overnight. A defined plan to integrate changes into your existing operations can help make adjustments to processes feel smooth and natural.

However, you don’t want the integration process to go on indefinitely. Set a timeframe, build a roadmap with milestones, and create benchmarks to hit along the way so that you know progress is moving forward in a timely fashion.

Top 5 business transformation tips

Whether you’re pursuing a digital transformation, a management transformation, or another process, these tips can help make the process smooth and effective.

1. Identify industry headwinds

Make a point to remain aware of changes happening in your industry. By staying ahead of trends, competitors, and other developments, you can continue to:

  • Evolve your operations
  • Capture market share
  • Prepare for market disruptions
  • Be the market disruptor

Transformation doesn’t have to be a once-and-done experience. You may find the most long-term benefit by continuing to reevaluate your process, operations, and customer experiences.

2. Create new value for customers

You don’t have to wait for a market disruptor in order to reevaluate the services, products, and value you provide to customers. Continually exploring new ways to satisfy your audience can help you grow revenue and market share between major transformation efforts.

3. Keep up with the latest digital trends

By remaining aware of new technologies that impact your business, you can work more effectively. You can also potentially leverage new platforms to connect with new customers and meet their expectations.

4. Engage in consistent, effective communication

Communication is essential before, during, and after the transformation process.

Talk to your team members about what is and is not working in their daily operations. Chat with your customers and find out if they’re experiencing the value you intend to provide—or if they’re looking for something else.

Don’t forget to clearly communicate any transformation plans and changes to your team.

If your customers will be directly impacted (such as through the implementation of a new ordering system during a digital transformation), let them know when to expect a new experience.

5. Go all in

Finally, commit to the transformation! Have a complete plan in place and be ready to execute it with help from consultants and other professionals.

If you don’t see your transformation plan through to the end, you won’t know if your efforts were successful—and you may even wind up with a team and customers who feel more disconnected and disjointed than before.

Hiring top talent is the key to successful transformation

Sometimes, the best way to learn what does and does not work in a business transformation is through experience. Rather than waiting to see which of your attempts succeed and fail, though, you can bring in an independent consultant who’s experienced in the transformation process.

Whether you need help figuring out which kinds of transformation can best help your business, want support for deploying a new tech stack, or could use some additional hands-on-deck during times of change, Upwork can connect you to the right professionals.

It all begins with a Talent Marketplace™ job post. Explain what you’re looking for, or the problem you’re trying to solve, and we’ll show your request to experienced business consultants and other professionals who can help.

See exactly how simple it can be to begin strategizing and executing your business transformation this week—just log in to or create an Upwork account to get started.

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Author Spotlight

A Beginner’s Guide to Business Transformation Strategies
Emily Gertenbach
B2B SEO Content Writer & Consultant

Emily Gertenbach is a B2B writer who creates SEO content for humans, not just algorithms. As a former news correspondent, she loves digging into research and breaking down technical topics. She specializes in helping independent marketing professionals and martech SaaS companies connect with their ideal business clients through organic search.

A Beginner’s Guide to Business Transformation Strategies
B2B SEO Content Writer & Consultant

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