7 steps for successful business transformation

While transformation or drastic change is becoming a necessity for some companies, transformation for the sake of transformation isn’t the answer either. Knowing when the status quo isn’t working anymore – and when to reinvent your business – is the key to successful transformation. Here are seven examples of companies who have embarked on successful transformation through the use of technology:

1. Recognize what you can – and can’t – control.

Most municipalities in North America exceed their overtime budget at least once in five years resulting in delayed expenditures and even increased taxes. But blizzards, floods and other acts of Mother Nature can’t be controlled.

The City of Grande Prairie in Alberta was faced with this problem, particularly during major snowstorms. It could take workers up to 10 days to clear the roads, and up to a month before the city knew how much overtime was incurred during that period.

It made the decision to deploy a workforce management system from Kronos, which provides the city with access to employee information, such as hours worked and at what rate, by the next morning. If one department goes over-budget, allowances can be made in other departments. While the city will never be able to eliminate overtime, said Susan Walker, the city’s accounting manager, its workforce management system takes the guesswork out.

2. Recognize when technology isn’t working the way it’s supposed to – and change it.

Harry Rosen, a Canadian men’s wear retailer, was using a customer relationship management (CRM) system, but it required customers to make an appointment with a sales associate in advance. This meant opportunities were being missed when customers walked through the door without an appointment, since sales associates didn’t have remote access to that information.

The retailer worked with Cowley & Associates to develop a customized version of Sage Software’s CRM SalesLogix on HP iPAC pocket PCs to provide remote access to client information and real-time inventory information. It’s now able to tailor seasonal offerings to individual customers and, as a result, has boosted sales revenues by 10 per cent.

3. Deal with future problems now.
Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga, Ont. wanted to avoid duplication of information when opening its Carlo Fidani Peel Regional Cancer Centre. VARIS, its radiation treatment planning system, had to integrate into MediTech, the hospital’s existing health information system. But it had a proprietary interface engine, so integration was limited. This meant practitioners didn’t have information available to them when patients arrived, resulting in delays and the potential for error.

But the number of interfaces the hospital requires has been increasing – by 30 per cent just over the past year – due to the deployment of specialized clinical systems.

With partner Cactus Commerce, it rolled out Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006 to transfer patient health records from MediTech to VARIS, and it’s now able to provide up-to-date patient health records. Previously, the hospital had to spend $5,000 per interface, but now it doesn’t have to reinvest that $5,000, which will result in major long-term savings.

4. Recognize that transformation often takes place over several years.

Statistics Canada, the central statistics agency for the Canadian government, provides statistics that help evaluate policies and programs to improve public services. But with 753 servers and 106TB of data, it couldn’t manage its system, which was made up of a jumble of different technologies.

To deal with this growing problem, it rolled out Symantec Data Centre Foundation tools to consolidate its data. The transformation of its IT infrastructure took place over several years and was completed in early 2006. What used to cost $5.74 per gigabyte of data was reduced to $1 per gigabyte, which has resulted in $10.83 million in savings.

5. Align IT with business, and turn IT into a profit centre.

Hydro Quebec had a mishmash of configurations and processes in place throughout 12 departments, including some legacy systems built by the departments themselves. This made it difficult for the IT department to support any changes to the business.

So, over a period of eight months, it rolled out a business services management solution, Atrium CMDB 2.0 from BMC Software, to automate the discovery of people, processes and technologies across the organization. It now has a common configuration between all departments, as well as common terminology. This will allow the organization to better manage customers’ needs and charge departments on services rendered (rather than at an average cost) through aligning IT with the needs of the business.

6. Deal with employees’ fear of change.
Société de transport de Montréal (STM), which operates the city’s buses and Métro, was suffering from server sprawl, so it decided to move to a virtualized environment using VMware ESX Server.

The biggest challenge, however, was the psychological barrier, said Mike Stefanakis, STM’s senior systems engineer. Many people feel uncomfortable using a shared infrastructure and automatically think they’re getting less. Stefanakis started using VMware servers in more of an experimental capacity; acceptance slowly started to creep in as employees saw the benefits of virtualization.

So far, STM has cut costs by 30 per cent – about $200,000 – through consolidating its servers at a ratio of 15 to 1. It also expects soft cost savings in space, electricity, heat and maintenance.

7. Play to your strengths.

The City of Calgary has a $1 billion tourism industry, and last year played host to some four million tourists. Tourism Calgary planned to integrate BlackBerrys into its office environment and develop a mobile strategy to communicate with tourists about upcoming events and promotions. But this wasn’t possible with its aging environment, which had been in place for more than a decade.

The BlackBerrys went down every two to three days, and users were getting frustrated. A vendor was encouraging Tourism Calgary to move over to its Linux platform, but Paul Schierick, Tourism Calgary’s IT manager, didn’t have any experience with Linux.

Instead, Schierick decided to go with Microsoft, which he had some experience with, working with Knight Enterprises to roll out a centralized system that would support its mobile strategy. Users are no longer frustrated with their BlackBerrys and can respond to questions about events and promotions while on the road.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Vawn Himmelsbach
Vawn Himmelsbach
Is a Toronto-based journalist and regular contributor to IT World Canada's publications.

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