Over the last three to four years, as the concept of digital transformation took hold and the Cloud continued to redefine business ecosystems, I began to see that we needed to change our traditional approach of servicing our customers. The tools we used, the skills we needed, those things needed to change because our clients needed more – they needed a partner who could break down the barriers to business innovation rather than defaulting to technology as a standalone fix.

So I embarked upon a transformation journey, telling our teams that we needed to do things differently, and that we needed to bring a totally different perspective and value proposition to our customers. With the excitement of redefining our to-customer value, we didn’t really take the time to change a whole lot of other things, like how we measure our business or how we redefine our structure or how we change our processes to align to our new vision. As a result, as we went through the transition we realized that we were having some challenges with creating the success we wanted. As I reflected upon this I kept coming back to, well we’re asking a lot of people to change, but we as the leadership – me, in particular – were not changing. I wasn’t thinking about how I should manage and measure the business differently or how I could cultivate the culture in the business in the context of what might be needed in this new world, versus what worked really well for me in the past and helped me to be successful.

I realized that one of the very first things I had to do was educate myself. That meant setting aside time every day to read white papers and perspectives from thought leaders in the industry on transformation in technology and how to enable it. I dug in and leveraged the collective knowledge of my peer group and where they were on their transformation journey. I committed myself to knowing and understanding what we were trying to bring value to at a much lower level than I have in several years. Then I challenged my team to do the same, so we would have conversations about the kinds of things we were trying to accomplish rather than relying on what we used to do. The goal here was to create a team of leaders that transformed themselves before we started telling everyone else they needed to transform. The change had to come from the top down, not the bottom up.

Once we had a handle on what we needed to do to bring services to our customers in a new way, we looked at how we should measure the business. We needed different key performance indicators (KPIs) that would allow us to not just measure performance, but the outcome of this journey as well. We kept in place the traditional KPIs – our financial situation, health and cash flow – because they all still have value. But we had to re-think key business metrics in terms of progress and how we positioned and measured business success. Our primary concern was not allowing ourselves to fall back into the old ways when we started to feel tension in the system, which is a natural tendency. This a constant battle that we still find ourselves struggling with today.

Looking back, we started out by telling everyone in the organization to change, but it couldn’t really happen until those of us at the top changed first and formulated the vision for the rest of the organization. It was critical that we didn’t change things in silos. In this new era, everything is about a highly collaborative and integrated approach, from recruiting, to sales, to our service lines and our partnerships. It had to be a collective experience and our job as the executive team was to bring all of it together to facilitate a lasting and holistic transformation.

Transformation starts at the top, but where does it go from there? It’s a journey. Read part 2 of this series, “Transformation is a Journey, Not a Destination,” here.