The urgency of delivery during the early days of COVID-19 prompted firms to adapt quickly, ensuring that they could maintain operations in unexpected conditions. Firms were able to overcome these obstacles, but at the same time some elements of process and governance were sacrificed to produce fast results.
As we look to establish post-pandemic ways of working, many firms are considering how they can react to external drivers and deliver change in a manner that produces the same outcomes, at the same speed. Due to the constantly changing environment, reacting and being agile in the prioritisation and delivery of change is key. Assurance helps firms ensure that their actions are helping them reach desired outcomes.
The emergency re-prioritisation when the pandemic hit meant that changes were delivered at pace to ensure operational continuity. Projects that enabled remote working, collaboration, as well as different customer engagement models that were previously moving along steadily, were fast-tracked because there was no other choice. While they were broadly successful because of the focus on delivery, the sacrifice in governance created internal tensions. There were many instances where the defined process was not followed and risk appetite in change delivery was exceeded.
Coronavirus remains, but a lot has changed. Customers have different needs; the regulator has evolving requirements, and technology for both customers and businesses is continually updated. This brings both risks and opportunities – particularly for first movers. If firms can efficiently and effectively service their customers, they can keep up with, and get ahead of the competition. However, firms must also be able to respond to the regulator to avoid damage, both financial and reputational. You cannot afford to sacrifice one for the other.
A perfect storm is brewing. In addition to ongoing change requirements caused by the pandemic, the drive for digitalisation is generating challenges in the complexity of untangling legacy systems and processes. Inter-dependencies within the change portfolio are becoming more difficult to identify and manage, while getting data right, understanding the customer journey, monitoring the systems underpinning services and defining the operating model are all areas of focus. Firms must structure the change portfolio differently and there is a need to have the discipline of different business functions looking at the change portfolio in the same way.
Many firms are now carrying out strategic reviews, reprioritising projects and asking how they can leverage the lessons learned during coronavirus to deliver at pace and with agility. This raises several challenges that are frequently overlooked.
Firms should be looking at what enabled successful change, at pace, during the early stages of the pandemic. There should also be consideration of questions around the ownership, and empowerment of teams to drive their own workload when aligned to business-as-usual commercial priorities, and the governance and process required to enable this.
Many firms are aiming for more agility in the delivery of their change roadmap but need to build robust foundations in process and governance to enable it. While this may appear contradictory to the term ‘agile’, to deliver transformation effectively they need to develop the correct change delivery framework first. Risk appetite and governance requirements must be challenged, and automation needs embedding into delivery to relieve some of the burden that has previously prohibited pace.
The historical vehicles for change, such as projects and programmes, need to be examined – are they still effective to enable change or are more pervasive organisational changes required to embed change delivery into day-to-day activities?
Firms should seek to refresh strategies in a holistic way. One way to do this is to understand what industry peers have done in terms of making inroads into innovation and new offerings that are gaining market share. You must be clear about what the strategies are in creating stakeholder value, whether that is increasing revenue, growth, or existing customer focus, etc.
External analysis is important because a range of factors can cause stress for companies if they do not pay close enough attention. For example, customer loyalty is likely to be challenged by future developments. Some regulators are focusing on the treatment of new customers against existing customers, and this could drive different behaviours from customers.
Our experience across a range of organisations at different stages of transformation allows us to provide assurance that the change portfolios are aligned with strategy. This gives your board comfort that the decisions they are making are being embedded by the change functions within the firm.
We can provide assurance that your strategic or transformative outcomes can be achieved, whether it affects the whole portfolio or individual projects or programmes. To prepare for a new normal of constant change, firms should ensure they have clearly presented the direction they want to go - and have the right processes in place to do so.
To find out more about how we can help you leverage assurance to prepare for, manage, and deliver change and transformation, contact Paul Anthony.