Turning Crisis into Opportunity: How to Make Good on Big Change


The ability to transform a crisis into an opportunity is the hallmark of all successful enterprises that have stood the test of time. Yet today, even the most successful enterprises are facing crises they’ve never faced before as they compete in a business environment that is being radically transformed by digitization. It may be a crisis of cost pressure or limited capacity, or the inability to meet the needs of the rapidly changing market. Many large enterprises face strategic challenges that relate to a fragmented IT environment with too much overhead and portfolio maintenance to allow for innovation. And yet there is no time to waste. Action is expected now.

In many of these cases, an enterprise must make a dramatic change to its operating model, which can distress employees and threaten the bottom line. People are not sure of their roles. Leaders are not sure how to turn their vision into a reality.

Enterprises addressing big change often operate as if there are only two extreme approaches:

  • The methodical approach, which is a step-by-step way to minimize risk but can take a long time with increased cost and transformation fatigue, or
  • The rip-the-bandage-off approach, which focuses on the most important tasks and manages risk in a hyper-care manner. This approach is quick and puts less burden on the organization overall, but the increased risk may cause rework, and—even worse—gaps in service that may come with a high cost.

In the best of cases, the answer ends up in between the two extremes, with an approach tailored to specific environmental and internal factors.

Here are the Top 5 ways an enterprise can turn a crisis into an opportunity and implement big change:

1. Focus on the needs of the business and the customer. Address how the change and its related risks will impact the customer. Identify the most critical roles and activities and develop a more methodical approach in those focus areas, along with enhanced organizational change activities.

2. Define the burning need. If you were in IT in the year 1999, there was no doubt that the priority was “Y2K.” The same clarity can be created today. Identify your priorities and make them known. Build an enterprise-wide understanding of WHY a change is about to take place, WHY it is best for the company and WHY it’s best for the IT organization. Everyone has a role to play in making change. Help make it personal for them.

3. Standardize and integrate processes through an integration platform. Most large enterprises have grown both organically and through mergers and acquisitions. Over time, employees use any number of stopgap solutions to compensate for fragmented and insufficient systems, creating a patchwork of software and manual work-arounds that make for slow and onerous processes. Implement an integration platform that standardizes processes across verticals and train everyone on the same methods.

4. Build a workforce that offers business-differentiating skills. When an enterprise has a highly tenured workforce, it may become lax, doing things the way they have always been done. This workplace culture can make it difficult to adopt the latest methodologies and emerging technologies. Bring in new and diverse talent to stir in fresh approaches and infuse expertise that may be missing.

5. Create a strong cross-stakeholder program team to make it happen. Involvement from key vocal business stakeholders, service providers and other adjacent organizations such as finance and procurement is essential for decision-making and progress. Also, be sure to take advantage of those who have done this before. Use tried and true methods. There is no gold medal for making it up on your own.

ISG works with enterprises to turn crises into opportunities by helping carry out major change programs, including transitioning work from client to provider and redesigning operating models. Contact me to discuss further.

About the author

Lois helps large global companies build innovative and industry-leading practices into their service integration, operational effectiveness and operating model transformation. She works with companies to create a strategy for service management, implement organizational, process and tooling capabilities and mobilize change across their environments. Lois has consulted with Fortune 500 clients across many geographies and industries to design and transform their service delivery operation, achieving the greatest amount of value and service from their Services. Lois offers expertise in IT governance, service provider performance and relationship management, service delivery strategy and design, ITIL service management, transformation and organizational change management and IT portfolio design and management. Prior to ISG, Lois served as Service Delivery Executive and Global Capability Owner for HP’s Multi-Supplier Integration Services.