Transformation Programs: Are They Missing the Mark?


When I looked up the definition of transformation, I was surprised by its potentially limited nature and scope:

  • a change in form, appearance, nature, or character
  • a wig or hairpiece for a woman (???)
  • linguistically, the process by which deep structures are converted into surface structures using transformation rules

Where was the sweeping breadth of a true transformation that can change the foundation of an organization, person, process, and/or thing? Where is the definition underscoring transformative change that expands our view of what is possible beyond the status quo? I was only reassured once I read the genetic definition of transformation: the transfer of genetic material from one cell to another resulting in a genetic change in the recipient cell. Here it was: a fundamental change that impacts the building blocks of an organism, but was the transformation to the benefit or detriment of the hosting body?

For the past decade, countless asset management firms have entered into a transformation program that moved from the front to back office and everything in between. In each instance, the organization encountered the question of how to transform their operating model to meet their vision for future growth. Unfortunately, most programs are constrained by the realities of resource availability, timelines, and budget, which serve to provide a barrier to what can be accomplished. If reality can be managed, a true transformation program should define what can be achieved in the five following areas.

Product strategy

Ask yourself: what differentiates our organization from others? In which products do we excel? How can we align our product offerings and future products in the market? Which product offerings do not align with our future state, are not cost effective, and should be sold or discontinued?

Organizational and operational models that align with how you will conduct business

Are we a global organization acting in a regional manner? Are we a regional organization that aspires to be global? Should we restructure the operating model to better align with our future state business model? How can we create a culture that provides learning and growth opportunities to our employees to remain competitive in a tight market? Tom Secaur’s blog on Winning the War for Talent emphasizes the importance that should be placed on resources.

These questions should not be ignored, or your organization will have difficulty addressing the organic growth desired to support your vision of the future.

Re-discovery of the current and future state business needs

Take this opportunity to review your current state and future needs to ensure that your transformation program is addressing the delivery, accessibility, and timeliness of information required by internal and external users. Are you just recreating what has been delivered in the past via a new tool set or should you be re-evaluating what is actually consumed by your users and what they would like to have for the future?

Systems architecture review and rationalization

How can you simplify your system architecture? Why do we have three order management systems, two investment management systems, and five data warehouses? What does each application lack that requires us to duplicate applications? In your rationalization, do not focus on the systems that have been popular in the market the last five years, explore opportunities to partner with vendors and outsourcing providers that have the fundamentals in place and are focused on partnering with your organization to support your future vision.

Normalization of data models and delivery mechanisms

Do we have an opportunity to examine our existing data models, to normalize across datasets, simplify our data architecture, and reduce costs? Can we create a one-stop shop for our consumers, the Buc-ee’s (a nod to my southern friends that swear by this store) of data models with 24/7 accessibility, clean data, and a user-friendly experience?

Most firms only have an appetite to conduct transformation programs once a decade as they are costly and often exhausting efforts. Make sure you take the opportunity to truly transform your organization rather than just convert to a new system. In the end, ensure your transformation program is a true transformation at the cellular level and not just “a wig or hairpiece” on your current environment.