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It’s business transformation, Jim...but not as we know it! - CITI
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It’s business transformation, Jim…but not as we know it!

Its business transformation Jim...but not as we know it!For very many jobs and workers there has been business transformation, particularly those in knowledge-working businesses, and the world of work has fundamentally changed since the 23rd March.  Strangely, nearly eight months on, many seem to be looking forward to a nostalgia-based future of ‘life as it used to be’, “when things return to normal”; this surely won’t happen.  Yes, of course, some form of normal will arise but we shouldn’t expect, or wish, it to be very closely akin to what we had before March 2020.

Much of the enforced business transformation has proved valuable; reduced stress and less wasted time commuting, significant environmental and financial wins from reduced transportation, costs and down-time saved in terms of travel and accommodation, more productive work-time and so on. The top 20 business transformation successes from the past decade can be found at Harvard Business Review.  But, of course, every ‘silver-lining’ has its cloud – not all the change has been positive or helpful.  Staff demoralisation over persistent uncertainty and its impact on mental well-being are a significant toll.

Focusing, as we do at CITI, on change and looking for the direction in which our clients, or business at large, are progressing raises some interesting potential scenarios.  One of these is the parallel between what many businesses are now facing and what the retail high-street has been grappling with for over a decade.  It will be news to few that the High Street based retailer is under immense pressure from the internet.  Not simply retailers like Amazon but even the web-presence of many stores who still retain physical shops, are experiencing the purchase of goods from the internet and the shop front is becoming literally that, a front (a showroom rather than a sales area – the sales area [where people actually pay for the goods that they are acquiring] is out in the ether).

But here is where the news is both good and bad; it is bad to pay for a shop that doesn’t achieve sales but customers still want or need an environment, for many purchases, where they can see, touch and discuss the goods that they propose to buy, even if they will ultimately make the purchase on line – and it is good to provide them with that environment.

This has led to an increasing trend in retail, of making ‘shopping’ (the leaving of the house and going to a physical retail environment) an ‘experience’ rather than a chore.  Providing conducive surroundings such as in-store cafés or coffee machines, sitting areas, and less obtrusive commercial infrastructure (tills and epos systems), is part of this.  So too is coaching the staff in social skills and facilitation rather than selling and processing transactions.  The trick is to engage the client in such a pleasant, relaxed and positive way that the purchasing decision and brand loyalty are achieved in the ‘shop’ whilst the purchase and fulfilment are done on the web – but, the bond built in the shop must be strong enough to endure at the remote point of placing the order.  So the shop is not redundant; it is just being re-purposed.

The question this leads to is, is the office redundant?  Or should we look at the change of re-purposing that too?  Of course these are not universal positions, some work has to be done co-located and some is better or more productively addressed in isolation and remotely.  And, for many jobs, some functions are the former and some the latter.  But, for many organisations, building and maintaining a cohesive and resilient work-force beyond Covid is likely to depend on how well they rise to the challenge presented by the balance of maintaining commercial properties, human needs and the attractions of remote working.  We have a view at CITI of how such a balance might be achieved and have helped others, such as Tesco with business transformation programmes, but would welcome alternative perspectives; what do you think?

Nick Dobson

Nick Dobson, Principal Consultant

Nick is one of CITI’s most experienced practitioners with over 25 years of experience. He has been involved in delivery at every stage of the change lifecycle and has developed particular expertise in the sponsorship of projects and programmes and their pace of delivery / agility. Nick can be contacted via email at