On being good Digital Neighbours: Transformation vs. BAU

Angry little boy glaring at the camera, fighting with his brother who is screaming

Having worked as a consultant and contractor on both sides of the Transformation/BAU fence, there is often present a divide in ethos, ego and perception. In digital, People who work in the BAU arena typically optimise and maintain live websites, apps and software. BAU teams are predominantly made up of permanent members of staff because it often requires a lot of specialist training and continuity. As employees, they feel more a part of the fabric of the organisations they work for.

And often, there is a sense that those brought in to “transform” their organisations can pose a threat to the way they work.

Because transformation of an organisation is a cycle of work that typically has a beginning, middle and an eventual end, a Consultant and Contractor workforce almost always populate it. They come in as lone wolves or self-organising groups often working apart from BAU teams, as their purpose is to move at a significant pace employing their own design methods – and then move on.

Most transformation programs will include:

  • The development of a People Culture program to help permanent teams organise to receive the output of the transformation programs
  • The development of a strategic vision that will guide the transformation teams in their work

The strategy is often the domain of C-level executives and an external consultancy involved in the transformation. People culture programs are often comprised of HR, selected members of the permanent staff and an external consultancy versed in the design of Culture programs.

These efforts usually run in parallel. And often, unsurprisingly, they are not fully connected efforts.

Though they share the same physical and cultural spaces for the duration of the transformational effort, they can lack the ability to be integrated in a way that ensures a sharing of knowledge, of ways of working, of understanding the direction and intended outcome of the process.

In what way are the BAU teams – the teams who will eventually inherit the outputs of the transformation process – made to feel a part of the process for which they will ultimately become responsible?

Transformationalists would say they are engaging with the organisation. They engage with senior executives and form multi-function teams bringing in people from product areas within the organisation. They bring strategic design methods to their work, engage with Customers and work towards delivering against the agreed roadmap of transformational activities.

In the meantime, BAU teams have to keep the organisation running. They are more operational than transformational. They are focused on responding to changes in the organisation, governance, regulatory, Customer complaints, and rolling out new products and services.

How engaged do they feel in the organisation that is changing around them?

At some point these two things must intersect. The transformationalists must do more than just pass their work to the BAU teams who will own the maintenance and optimisation of these newly transformed products and services.

Good transformation projects should integrate these groups from the beginning. They will understand that the hoards of transitory consultants and contractors will one day leave the organisation and take advantage of their “temporary” involvement to invigorate, up-skill and challenge their BAU teams.

Running these groups in disconnected silos is not good transformation.

What can you do to avoid this?

  1. Communicate a clear strategic vision for transforming the business to everyone
  2. Understand that Cultural change is a journey. Your culture today will not necessarily be the same as your Culture in 3-5 years. Today contractors and consultants are a part of your culture – so don’t ignore them, make them a part of your journey
  3. Make BAU teams a part of the journey from Day 1. BAU teams shouldn’t “inherit” the output of transformation – they should be a part of the process
  4. Permanent team members can be Intrapreneurs and change catalysts too. When their heads are down maintaining or optimising other peoples’ initial work, they may not feel they have time or permission to pursue improvements to your products or services. Use transformation as an engagement vehicle and to create advocates within the BAU teams
  5. And taking the idea of being good neighbours literally, remember that everyone shares the same functional and physical working spaces. Encourage Consultants, contractors and permanent staff to “be good neighbours”. Well-integrated transformation efforts will help with this – poorly integrated ones will create silos of culture that can conflict with one another.

Transformation programs and BAU teams can be successful when there is mutual respect, integration and sharing of knowledge. They can become the kind of good neighbours that look after and support one another. They can keep their respective Cultures, yet for a time, share a Culture. They can be disruptive in a way that enables them to create great organisations – or great chaos.

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