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      Category Archives: Management Consulting

      A Disciplined Approach to Business Process Improvement


      process improvements

      Process Improvement, Vamshi Barla,  MSSBTA Senior Engagement Manager, October 2020

      Not long ago I was conducting a pre-sales call with a prospective customer looking for help driving operational improvements to their Customer Engagement and Digital Platform functions. The operational problems were numerous and the need for repairs immediate. What struck me was how the sponsor, a senior executive within the company, seemed to have a defined list of initiatives and was seeking input from us on whether we would use Six Sigma, Lean, Agile, or Business Process Re-engineering (BPR), along with specific tools such as Value Stream Mapping, SIPOC diagrams, etc.

      During the conversation, it became evident that the selected initiatives were either “quick-wins” (those deemed easy to implement), or the “thorns in the side” (the most frequent and visible disruptors). Six Sigma was their methodology of choice, as it had been utilized within their Information Technology function before. No consideration had been given to the possibility that each initiative could be better served by a different methodology based on desired process outcomes. This is typical of many “tactically focused” and “ad-hoc” process improvement projects.

      Successful organizations are always looking for ways to serve their customers better, leverage innovative technologies, remain compliant with regulations, and stay ahead of the competition. To do so, they must continuously manage and improve their core operating processes and ensure any advantages are sustainable. Business Process improvement projects (BPIs) are proven to positively impact the bottom line through better process efficiency, cost savings, and waste elimination.

      While the potential benefits of process improvement projects are undisputed, without a disciplined approach and a solid foundation in leading research, BPI projects are likely to become part of the staggering 54% of improvement projects that fail (InfoTech® Research Group).

      MSS Business Transformation Advisory (MSSBTA) utilizes a customized five-phase approach to process improvement as outlined below:

      business process improvement


      This approach incorporates best practices from:

      Common Improvement methodologies: Six Sigma methodology is used to consistently measure and monitor the process, discover process variation, and identify techniques to reduce variation. Lean techniques are used to analyze processes to identify waste and identify opportunities to streamline a process.

      • During the Discover phase, MSS consultants typically use stakeholder analysis, process maps, and value stream maps to capture the current state.
      • During the Analyze phase, our consultants uncover root causes of variations/errors by performing qualitative and quantitative analyses using techniques such as cause and effect, fishbone, RACI charts, observation, pareto charts, statistical control, scatter diagrams, etc.
      • During the Design phase, it is customary to perform benchmarking to compare company performance against peers and industry. We also focus on monitoring, performance management, and continuous improvement for sustained process gains.

      Project Management: Utilizes MSSBTA’s proven Project Management methodology during the Implement phase, to manage the scope, scheduling, cost, and positive business outcomes of the improvement initiative.

      Organizational Change Management: Incorporates elements from Prosci® Organizational Change Management methodology during the Implement phase, to ensure the new process design is adopted and users are ready to fully utilize the new process from day one.

      The benefits of business process improvements are undeniable when implemented using our 5-phase disciplined approach above. Before very long you will see marked improvements to your organization’s resilience, a reduction in wasted cycles, more efficient processes, and everyone’s favorite, cost savings and bottom-line growth.

      MSS Business Transformation Advisory consultants have successfully delivered numerous process improvement initiatives over the years utilizing this systematic approach. To find out how MSSBTA can deliver your improvement initiatives, email or call us at 602-387-2100.


      Getting Started on Application Optimization


      application optimization

      By Cory TerEick, MSSBTA  Consulting Manager, September 2020

      Without question, the world-wide pandemic has accelerated the need for the Public Sector to more immediately deal with challenges that have been mounting for many years. These challenges include how to engage citizens digitally, how to collaborate across organizations, how to maximize internal productivity, how to secure data, and how to control costs.

      While there are countless vendors touting shiny new software applications that will undoubtedly help you meet these challenges and simultaneously revolutionize how your organization performs its work, we’d like to encourage you to explore something much more pragmatic – namely, Application Optimization.

      Making the Most of Application Optimization

      What is Application Optimization? In the simplest terms, Application Optimization is understanding what you have and making the most of it. More specifically, it is about taking a hard look at your requirements, mapping them against the capabilities of your existing technology stack, understanding any gaps in these capabilities (or lack of user adoption), and taking concrete steps to close these gaps. It is about looking at all three legs of the People, Process, and Technology triangle and ensuring you are fully capitalizing on your current investment.

      Often, we find that Public Sector organizations do not have a clear understanding of their requirements or what their current systems can and cannot do.  Even when they do have this understanding, they are unable to effectively articulate what gaps exist and where their current tools are falling short.  Sometimes, we find these organizations have a robust tool set at their disposal, but employees lack knowledge of existing capabilities.  Occasionally, we even find these capabilities are not leveraged simply because leaders lack sufficient bandwidth to provide expectations on system use or to dedicate resources for training initiatives.

      FREE download: Optimized vs Outdated Applications

      Benefitting from Application Optimization

      The benefits of Application Optimization are plentiful. It is almost always significantly less expensive to leverage existing technology than to purchase and implement new applications. By identifying and articulating requirements (and any capability gaps that might exist), Public Sector organizations can more effectively negotiate with current vendors; and new requirements might be incorporated into future versions or product roadmaps.

      Application Optimization can also be performed on an accelerated timeline. Additionally, support requirements are usually much more predictable and the impact on end-users is typically much smaller than implementing an entirely new system.

      Although performing Application Optimization sounds like common sense, many Public Sector organizations just do not do it. Why? Sometimes, it is a lack of internal capacity as key employees are already stretched thin performing their daily jobs. Sometimes, it is a lack of technical “know-how”. Most often, it is a lack of leadership bandwidth to organize and drive the effort or a perception that the effort might conflict with other organizational priorities.

      As a leader, if you are receiving signals from your team that you need to replace a current application or augment your existing technology stack with a new application, you are probably already thinking about Application Optimization.

      Getting Started

      But where do you start?  At MSS Business Transformation Advisory (MSSBTA), we suggest you start with an Application Optimization Assessment. This Assessment will look at the goals and objectives of your organization and formally articulate your requirements existing gaps in your current technology stack. During the the Assessment, you will develop a plan to guide you through the optimization process.

      Need an extra set of hands? Our Application Optimization Assessment is both thorough and cost-effective. Let MSSBTA help you maximize the value of your existing business applications. Email or call us at 602-387-2100.


      Align People, Process, and Technology for Transformation Success


      application optimization

      People Process Technology, Vamshi Barla, MSSBTA Senior Engagement Manager, September 2020

      Aligning People, Process, and Technology

      If you have been following our series of articles on driving positive business outcomes and achieving transformation goals, you know that we have covered a variety of topics around strategic planning, business-IT alignment, and effective project oversight using Leadership, Governance, and Accountability (LGA). We also acquainted you with our comprehensive and proven approach to gathering future state business requirements that can fulfill or exceed agency goals.

      Successfully implementing and sustaining the desired business outcomes requires addressing the People, Process and Technology aspects of the transformation with equal rigor. To fully achieve business outcomes, you need repeatable and well-performing processes, technology that can effectively support business requirements, and people that are able to utilize the technology as it was intended to be used.

      “Random acts of investment and improvement” in processes, technology/tools, and people will most likely NOT deliver the breakthrough improvement you are looking for. You need a coordinated effort that integrates and synchronizes investments in each of these pillars.

      The next series of articles from MSS Business Transformation Advisory (MSSBTA) will focus on our approach to Application Optimization (technology), Business Process Improvement (BPI – process),  and Organizational Change Management (OCM – people).

      Application Optimization

      Technology infrastructure and business applications are “strategic assets” that need to be current, effective, and evolve continuously to support agency requirements. Unfortunately, while many solutions meet requirements at implementation, they fail to adapt to changing needs and become irrelevant within a few short years. State and local governments run numerous applications that are built on outdated technologies, using hardware and software platforms that are no longer supported. This creates Shadow IT, elevated support costs, redundant workarounds, employee and citizen dissatisfaction, application sprawl, and overall inability to meet agency goals. In the last decade, there have also been major technology transformations such as Cloud computing and Virtualization that can produce significant benefits, but most agencies cannot utilize these due to the patchwork of purpose-built legacy applications currently in use.

      If you believe that a disproportionate amount of your agency’s budget is allocated to IT maintenance and support, we can conduct an enterprise-wide infrastructure and application portfolio assessment. We use our proven methodology to help state and local governments achieve near-term and long-term cost savings while also reducing risk.

      However, we realize that most agencies simply do not have the time and resources to do a complete infrastructure and portfolio assessment. It is reasonable, then, to argue that every major investment in technology should be utilized as an opportunity to assess the suitability of in-house technology against alternatives in the marketplace.

      Our Application Optimization is a rigorous and strategic approach to analyzing your current state application, along 5 key areas:

      application optimization

      This analysis will give you the objective information needed to develop a roadmap to a technology optimized to deliver maximum value to your agency.

      Business Process Improvement

      Without a disciplined approach to Business Process Improvement (BPI) and a solid foundation in leading research, your projects are likely to become part of the staggering 54% of improvement projects that fail. Whether you are designing a process from the ground-up or re-engineering it, the challenges are similar and can be alleviated by following the BPI Best Practices below:

      • Never make improvements at random or in isolation. Integrate and synchronize.
      • Prioritize and select processes that are strategically aligned.
      • Conduct fact/data-based analysis to ensure true root-causes of issues are identified. Do NOT depend on subjective analysis or opinion.
      • Select approach (Lean, Six Sigma etc.) based upon need. Choose fit over standardization.
      • Manage each improvement initiative as a project with effective sponsorship, communication, and Project Management/Oversight.

      Organizational Change Management

      Organizational Change management (OCM) is all about people—communicating with them, getting their feedback, and providing consistent explanations and directives to them. It involves answering the questions: How do we move the entire organization, including our culture and our employees, to the desired future state? How do we remain a cohesive organization in the process? A large part of the answer to those questions is getting employees to buy into the change and the keys to gaining this support are alignment, accountability, engagement and communication, and measurement.

      Consider this: Lack of user adoption is the main cause for 70% of failed projects. OCM has been the Achilles Heel for IT departments and business units, putting projects and programs at risk – especially complex, transformational projects. We believe that the root of this problem is twofold:

      1. Project planning tends to fixate on technology and neglects the behavioral and cultural factors that inhibit user adoption. To complicate matters further, Change Management is often (incorrectly) reduced to a single activity in the Project Plan: “Training”. Training is just one facet of managing the people side of change. This challenge can be addressed by gaining senior leadership support early, ensuring a seat at the table starting at project initiation, allocating adequate CM resources, and effectively communicating change activities.
      2. Accountabilities for managing change and helping to realize the intended business outcomes post-project are not properly defined. In project ecosystems where there is no clearly defined accountability for OCM, it makes perfect sense for the PMO to be the organization-change leader and realize the benefits and accolades that will come from driving successful project outcomes.

      MSSBTA’s approach to OCM is a practical/tactical adaptation of Prosci’s comprehensive ADKAR model, and is customized to each specific initiative, timeline, and other constraints.

      Our Approach to People, Process, Technology

      Successful transformations require an integrated, cohesive approach to managing the impacts to people, process, and technology. It pays to have a trusted advisor like MSSBTA that understands the challenges inherent in each and has the experience and the best practices to deal with them.

      MSSBTA has decades of experience assisting government entities and private organizations modernize their technology infrastructure and applications, rationalize their IT portfolios, re-design business processes, and mange organizational change. Let us show you how we can help you do the same. Email or call us at 602-387-2100.


      Build a Robust Business Case that Measures Project Success


      The Perils of Change Saturation and Steps to Mitigate Your Risk

      Business Case, Vamshi Barla, MSS Senior Engagement Manager, August 2020

      When building a business case it is time we rethink how we measure project success.

      Let us start with some introspection. As a leader, how many times have you heard a transformation project successfully fulfilled the operational and financial benefits as laid out in its business case? Now, think of the number of times you heard that a project was successfully delivered under budget and on schedule.

      If you had difficulty thinking of a single project that measured success as “Meeting business case objectives” and not “Delivered on schedule and under budget”, you are NOT alone.  Almost 50% of transformation projects do not even quantify benefits or draw up a robust business case!  These are literally once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to generate value for organizations. As a result,  two-thirds of those without a business case do not track value delivered once the project is labeled complete.

      Both of those scenarios are squandered opportunities to create true differentiation in the marketplace. Is it really a surprise to hear that ROI on transformation programs is usually disappointing? Almost 70% of transformation programs deliver less than 50% of their targeted value.  That is not what anyone would consider success!

      Download your copy of the Business Case PIJ Checklist

      Build a Business Case

      A well-thought-out business case is a promise of a better future, based on educated, consensus-driven assumptions and projections. At MSS Business Transformation Advisory (MSSBTA), we strongly believe large transformation efforts need to be clearly articulated and thought-out, detailing the operational and financial drivers of value (both qualitative and quantitative). MSSBTA uses a proven, holistic methodology that combines a top-down approach (based on goals, market analysis, and industry benchmarks) with a bottom-up approach (historical performance, leadership inputs, and proforma projections), to formulate a realistic and strong business case.

      Measure Results to Capture Value

      Creation of the business case is only one half of the story. We have documented the targeted value by which success will be measured. In return, leaders owe it to their organizations to ensure that delivered value meets or exceeds targeted value.

      At MSSBTA, we have developed a Value Tracking and Maximizing methodology that can drive effective capture of value. Along with strong, ongoing oversight, our approach enables you to identify and pull the right value levers. Pulling them in the correct sequence can influence desired outcomes and help capture benefits faster.

      For example, in a new inventory system transformation, one possible driver of financial value is working capital reduction.  One of the levers we can pull with the transformation is improved forecasting capabilities.  Ensuring the identified lever is truly engaged across the organization, we can assure the targeted benefits are realized.

      It is high time we stopped measuring project success solely based on schedule and budget. The true test of project success is “Did we accomplish what we set out to achieve?”.

      Keep in Touch

      Are you in the middle of a transformation program, contemplating one, or need to rescue one in distress? Connect with us to learn about MSSBTA’s approach to formulating business cases and tracking value.

      Let MSSBTA show you how to maximize the value of your transformation. Email or call us at 602-387-2100.

      For related content, see:
      Business Requirements Gathering and How to Get it Right
      Validating Business Requirements
      Requirements Management Maturity Review
      Business Case PIJ Checklist


      Business Requirements Gathering and How to Get it Right


      Business Requirements Gathering, Nicole Stevenson, MSS Management Consultant, July 2020

      We have all seen the proverbial tree swing story graphic. Twelve independent framed images representing twelve different outcomes of the same business requirements. While amusing, this is reality for many organizations and has a significant impact on project outcomes. According to the Info-Tech Research Group “70% of projects fail due to poor requirements.”



      Unfortunately, awareness will not provide quality business requirements. You must plan for it. Eliciting and clearly documenting requirements is a skill set. Like any other tool, your ability to effectively use this has a significant impact on the results. Whether you are embarking on an enterprise deployment, or a small cross-functional expansion, the basics need to be covered.

      Business Requirements Gathering Process

      Business requirements gathering is necessary to create a shared vision within your business. The importance of engaging, eliciting, and prioritizing requirements with all impacted stakeholders is critical. Requirements gathering is most effective with a robust process and a strong Business Analyst. The framework below illustrates a comprehensive requirements gathering approach consisting of a Requirements Gathering Process (Elicit, Analyze, Validate) and a Requirements Governance Process (Plan, Monitor, Communicate and Manage).

      The standard approach to gathering requirements includes three core activities: Elicit, Analyze, and Validate.

      business requirements gathering process infographic
      Download a copy of the Business Requirements Gathering Process infographic


      Elicit Phase

      One of the common traps is selecting a technological solution before fully examining the business need first. Prepare your elicitation approach. Identify your stakeholders and elicitation tools such as BPM, SIPOCs, brainstorming sessions, interviews or focus groups. Put in place an elicitation process with a top-down approach, starting with senior management. Take advantage of generating a transformational change by reinventing a process instead of fixing small deficiencies in the current one.

      Conduct the elicitation process to identify the business processes the application will need to support and identify the “as is” process and how to improve upon it.  A strong elicitor will have a blend of industry knowledge, core analytical thinking, and proficiency in BA tools. Who did you bring into the elicitation? Did you bring in the right people? Participants, at minimum, should include customers, end users, business analysts, system analysts, testers, and business sponsor(s). Avoid focusing on just the functional requirements. Make sure you examine all regulatory, business, user, functional, non-functional, and transition requirements as well.

      Confirm the understanding of each requirement using active listening skills, and revise as needed.

      According to Info-Tech Research Group requirements should be:

      • Verifiable – Stated in a way that can be easily tested
      • Unambiguous – Free of subjective terms and can only be interpreted in one way
      • Complete – Contains all relevant information
      • Achievable – Possible to accomplish with budgetary and technological constraints
      • Traceable – Trackable from inception through to testing
      • Unitary – Addresses only one thing and cannot be decomposed into multiple requirements
      • Agnostic– Does not pre-suppose a specific vendor or product

      Analyze Phase

      This phase defines the solution scope. Ensure you organize and prioritize the features based on importance, effort, and resource considerations. Also, verify they address the original business goals. Using the right tools to analyze the information such as flowcharts, context-level data flow diagrams, use case diagrams and scenarios, swim lane activity process flows, and process models, can help represent a meaningful, easy-to-understand business requirements document.

      Organize requirements to eliminate duplicates and identify relationships and dependencies. Creating specific and clear requirements is the end goal. Prioritize requirements using established organizational core values as weighed measures or simply use the MoSCoW (must-haves, should-haves, could-haves, and will not have at this time) prioritization method. Finally, verify all information is captured as it was intended with your SMEs.

      Validate Phase

      Validate the complete business requirements package with the stakeholders. This approval process provides a final opportunity for the voice of the customer to confirm and verify the package represents all their prioritized business needs. It mobilizes stakeholder commitment and minimizes future change requests. In this phase, all requirements are translated into technical requirements. For traceability, all requirements should have a requirements traceability matrix that link back to test cases.

      All testing opportunities should be allocated to the proper team and test scenarios. Identify who will do the testing and at what stage (Functional, UAT, System Integration, Performance, Penetration). Requirements should be verified by domain SMEs to ensure that the analyzed requirements continue to meet their needs.

      Obtain final approval via signature sign-off. Use the sign-off process as one last opportunity to manage expectations, obtain commitment from stakeholders, and minimize change requests. The complete business requirement package should include:

      • Project summary and background
      • Operating model
      • Business process model
      • Use cases
      • Requirements elicitation techniques
      • Prioritized requirements
      • Assumptions and constraints
      • Signature page


      Get a glimpse into the maturity level of your Agency’s business requirements gathering through our Requirements Management Maturity Review.

      This is a condensed version of our FULL Requirements Management Maturity Assessment.


      Requirements Governance Process

      The Requirements Governance Process lays the foundation for how requirements will be gathered, managed, and communicated. The four key components of the Governance Process are Plan, Monitor, Manage and Communicate.

      Setup a structured playbook that outlines a repeatable and scalable process for all requirement gathering efforts across your organization. The playbook should provide guidance on how to Elicit, Analyze and Validate requirements.

      Avoid one-off, autonomous processes that do not capture agreed upon, organizational KPIs. Follow up in regular intervals (every 6 months to 1 year) to check on the effectiveness of the requirements gathering process (average number of reworks, number of change requests, user adoption rate, etc.) to gauge if the playbook is having a measurable effect in the organization as a whole.

      Know that some requirements may change and evolve as the team learns more about a solution, or as the business changes. Do not let sidebar or one-off conversations surface new requirements without the team recognizing and raising them as such. Continuous management of the requirements is necessary.

      Make sure you have a change control process that is visible and communicated to all key stakeholders.  As a result, any new learning and team discovery can be captured, discussed, mitigated, re-estimated and approved.


      Why is Requirement Management Important?
      Effective requirements gathering and management is critical to achieve your organization’s desired business outcomes. This requires a skilled Business Analyst, clearly defined processes, and appropriate tools. The process must involve input from all key stakeholders, resulting in clearly aligned expectations. Use these requirements to test the final solution. Clearly defined requirements serve as a checkpoint to validate the most important question: “Did we accomplish what we set out to do and will it deliver the anticipated outcomes?

      Contact MSS Business Transformation Advisory to assess and validate your business and technical requirements and to build the business case. or 602-387-2100 


      Be the Change Leader Your Organization Needs


      Change Management Alone Isn’t Enough for Digital Transformation


      David Lee, Contributing Author, May 2020

      Change leaders must be developed from within their organization because there is no doubt that digital transformation (DX) has become and will continue to be a primary driver of change in organizations for the foreseeable future. DX is not about introducing a single change. Rather, it is about catalyzing continuous, potentially disruptive change that cascades throughout the organization. True DX effects business processes and mission critical operations changing the way a company functions and thinks. It stretches across business units, departments, and functions. It comes with large capital outlays, and it represents high risk for the organization and the leadership.

      To say that most DX efforts fail to meet their objectives is almost cliché, but unfortunately, it is cliché for a reason. The most recent research shows that only 12 to 25 percent of DX efforts approach the expected level of return on investment, and these statistics do not even take into account the delayed realization from poorly executed strategies. From a return on investment perspective, DX continues to be a high-risk proposition.

      Despite this continued level of failure, the expectations for DX are high. According to International Data Corp, by the end of 2019, company spending on DX will reach $1.7 trillion worldwide, a 42% increase from 2017. At the same time, 59% of companies are stuck at stage two or three of DX maturity, “Digital Impasse.” This illustrates a material gap between investment and realization of benefits which puts IT leaders into a truly precarious situation.

      As a change leader, don’t be a roadblock to change

      The answer is not surprising to anyone who has been involved in digital transformation. According to almost any survey of executives, the top roadblock to successful DX is organizational culture. Companies are just incapable of responding to the changes DX catalyzes. In fact, according to a Gartner survey, CIOs view culture as the largest barrier to scaling digital business over resources and talent. In this age, technology is more than just a tool to improve performance, it is an amplifier of the organizational culture. Technology determines the flow of information, it enhances and changes the ways people interact, and it drives operational behavior. But, investing in new technology does not transform a business alone, it provides a catalyst to transformation. If people behaved one way before the new technology, they will not simply adapt to a new approach. For DX to succeed, making a cultural change is at least as important as implementing new technology.

      As a result, the IT function has increasingly become the driver of organizational change. The application of change management methods is on the increase (Prosci reports that they have certified 45,000 change management practitioners in a 2017 study, up from 30,000 in 2015), and Change Management has become an expectation on major technology projects.  DX requires IT leaders to move beyond the role of a service provider to adopting the role of change leader.  Again, according to a Gartner survey, 95% of CIOs expect their role to change as a result of DX strategies, 78% believe it is about making their organization better prepared for change, and 29% see their most significant future role as a becoming a change leader. While the IT leaders cannot drive change on their own, by its very nature, DX requires integration with lines of business and other business functions that impact people and operations.

      How can change leaders prepare their organization for change?

      At MSS, we believe a core issue is that traditional change management is not sufficient for digital transformation. There is no doubt that when traditional change management methods are applied to projects, it has shown it can vastly improve adoption and utilization. One company we know that provides technology solutions for thousands of organizations saw 5X the uptake when implementing with change management in tandem with the technology. For all of its worth, though, traditional change management is not adequate to address the level of change that DX requires because it tends to focus on step-by-step processes designed for single projects, similar to project management but with different tools and language. These methods are designed for business models operating within the constraints of traditional organizational structures. But as we have discussed, DX is almost biblical in the way it breaks through these barriers and creates change which begets more change and so on, tearing down traditional structures and changing the business model.

      Failure manifests under these conditions because leaders do not understand the full costs of the DX journey, nor are they able to foresee all the potential consequences. With so much uncertainty, they cannot predict the extent of change, so they do not adequately prepare the organization for it.  Delays are incurred, resources are stretched, focus is lost, and resistance behaviors not only go unmitigated, but often expand.  In the end, companies either cut the DX program short or limp to the end failing to improve the company’s competitive position.

      The first step to managing change on a scale that DX creates is to understand that your company is changing its business model and operations, not just its technology and that it is a process that will continue far into the future. The assumption is that change management will drive adoption and utilization of technology, but this mindset understates the immense effect that it has on your business model and operations. At a minimum it requires a multifaceted approach on four levels:

      1. Employing an Enterprise Change Strategy
      2. Developing Your Change Management Framework
      3. Enhancing Your Change Leadership Capabilities
      4. Growing Organizational Competency for Change

      Enterprise Change Strategy & Structure

      While most change methods are designed to drive A to B change in a single project, Enterprise Change Management goes beyond the project level and focuses on building the capacity to carry out multiple, simultaneous changes on an ongoing basis. This means having multiple A to B projects running concurrently and continuously.  At the same time, change management is lifted from a primarily administrative function to a strategic function. Structuring the organization for enterprise-level change means looking at your talent from leadership to front line managers with an eye on their capacity for driving change. How the organization views change moves from an arduous process to a strategic competitive advantage.

      Developing Your Change Management Framework

      Change management is a discipline that has grown up over the last few decades. As a result, there are a number of approaches and methodologies that can be applied to your business situation. As stated above, most are inadequate for DX, but they can provide a basic framework to build on. At MSS, we recommend building a framework that fits your business best, tailoring it to meet your strategy, testing it on a few early efforts then optimizing and expanding it as you prepare to execute your DX strategy. The framework should be holistic and flexible to account for cultural diversity and local requirements in its application, and should include the methods, templates and tools in a central repository that is continuously updated by both change managers and users. Finally, the role of change management is to educate the organization on the framework, coach them through it, and gather feedback on its application.

      Enhancing Change Leader Competencies

      Building change leader capabilities means ensuring your business and IT leaders have the skills to manage ongoing change at the Enterprise level. Leadership is, for all intents and purposes, driving change, but that does not mean that all executives are good at it. Many executives rose through the ranks because they were good at running and optimizing the status quo, but they may be lacking even the most basic change skills required for a sponsorship role. Moreover, DX requires a particular set of skills. Change leaders need to see beyond business requirements to driving desired business outcomes. This requires a combination of strategic, technological, and change management knowledge and experience that is hard to find in most individuals. Change leaders need to build competency for self-awareness, active listening and communication, making the business case for change, mitigating resistance, and driving adoption, while remaining adaptive and flexible to unforeseen consequences. And they need to do all of this at scale.

      Growing Organizational Capacity for Change

      Growing a capacity for change throughout the organization is a long-term proposition, but if done right, leaps forward can be made by taking some simple steps. DX presents a unique opportunity to build the capacity for organizational change and make these leaps. To fully realize and sustain the benefits of DX, a company needs to be able to drive incremental continuous change over time and build an ability to respond to disruptive change that can arise unexpectedly. This means integrating change management mindset and skills into the organizational DNA through training, talent and structure deep into the organization, beginning with your change leader. This also means assessing talent, structure, and information flow to allow for transparency, collaboration and emergent behavior. The more agile and responsive the organization, the more likely it can turn change capacity into a competitive advantage.

      Digital transformation is a massive undertaking but one that sets up an organization to tackle an uncertain but exciting future. To realize the full benefits of the opportunities that can result, organizations rely on their people to not only adopt and utilize new technology, but to see the potential of transforming the business processes, operations, and business model.  Leaders and employees need to be enabled to adapt and respond to incremental as well as disruptive change, and to build the competency for managing it continuously. Simply implementing change management as a project level tool will not accomplish this. Only by thinking of change management as a strategic advantage on an enterprise level and building an organizational competency for change will the full opportunity be realized.

      Be a change leader. Contact an MSSBTA expert today at or 602-387-2100 to discuss a change or transformation initiative.



      Change Management Strategy for Today’s New Normal



      Change Management, John Wieser, MSS Senior Consulting Manager, April 2020


      COVID-19 has disrupted nearly every aspect of business-as-usual, with one notable exception: your people continue to be the most vital factor in the success of your business. As you continue to transition and support your organization to a more remote work environment, you need to keep in mind that this is a significant change for them and their work dynamic, even if their roles on paper don’t change. As a leader in your organization, you should address this change appropriately with a structured change management strategy and approach.

      Have a Change Management Strategy

      This does not have to be anything formal (though kudos if it is!), but you and your leadership team should at least have a conceptual understanding and go through the exercise of developing a light version of a Change Management Strategy for your workforce. This strategy should try to address the following questions:

      • Who is being impacted? – Be sure to address both your internal team AND your external stakeholders (contractors, suppliers, customers, etc.)
      • How are they being impacted? – Recognize that different stakeholder groups may be impacted in different ways and in varying degrees
      • What specific changes are your teams and stakeholders being asked to do due to the changes?
      • (And here’s the important one…) Why are these changes going into place? – This should include what benefits will come out of this. As an example, if you’re holding daily Skype video chats with the team, the “why” would include to ensure that camaraderie and momentum isn’t potentially lost through less personal modes of communication like emails and phone calls, exclusively

      A lot of this may seem like common sense, but going through the exercise of establishing this Change Management Strategy is as critical now as it would be for any massive project or implementation. First, it helps to ensure that every stakeholder group is accounted for – no one is left without clear instructions on what they’re expected to do. Secondly, it forces you, as a leader, to take a moment to develop greater empathy for what is being asked of your team and partners. This is a critical moment for establishing your team dynamic and setting the tone for your organization – not only during a pandemic, but also for setting the stage for a successful return to “normalcy” (whatever that may look like).

      Download our FREE 5-Step Checklist for Change Management During COVID-19

      Don’t Forget About External Partners!

      Yes, this was already mentioned, but make sure that you do not forget about your partners that are external to the organization. You would be forgiven if your attention has been spent on keeping your internal team operational during this turbulence, but your external partners can be just as critical to the long-term success of your organization. Maintaining proactive communications and expectations with your contractors, suppliers, customers, and other external partners must be a big consideration for your continuity plan – remember, they are in the midst of drastic changes in their organizations, as well, so if you want to maintain your supply chain, sales pipeline, and other critical components of your operations, this is your opportunity to provide leadership to your partners.

      Reinforce Change Management At All Levels

      Communicating expectations, critical updates, and words of encouragement are all critical pieces of transitioning your workforce to the “new normal” for the foreseeable future. This, however, is just the beginning – as a leader in your organization, it is important to reinforce these communications with actions. Publicly recognize those that quickly and effectively jump into the remote workplace. Be sure that if your policy is to use video chat as much as possible that you’re not relying on phone calls and emails (and please do everyone a favor by remembering whether your video and microphone are on).

      When the social distancing measures have subsided and the world returns closer to “normal”, your teams and external partners may not remember each of the emails that you wrote or the meetings that you held. They will, however, remember how you engaged with them during this time of uncertainty and disruption. Appropriately recognizing and addressing the impact this is having on your stakeholders by developing your Change Management strategy will go a long way in establishing yourself as a leader that stepped up to the plate when you were needed most.

      Contact a Change Management expert today at or 602-387-2100 to discuss a change or transformation initiative.


      10 Red Flags That Your Change Management Program is at Risk


      10 Red Flags That Your Change Management Program is Poor


      By David William Lee, Contributing Writer


      One of the greatest challenges of helping organizations with Change Management is that they often believe they are already doing it. After all, if you have a good leadership team that communicates with employees, they must be capable of leading change.

      But when you dig down and ask the leaders what they are doing to ensure their organization is prepared for and executing change strategies, we often find clear indications either they do not truly grasp change management, they do not understand the risks, or that their program is not robust enough for to handle the change.

      Here are some of the top red flags that indicate an at risk application of change management:

      Red Flag #1 – We are doing change management, we have a communications plan: One of the most common red flags, this answer is indicative of two potential issues.

      1. The organization may be mistaking communications for Change Management. True, communications is a primary output (and input) to the process but it does not stand alone. A lot has to happen to ensure it is effective.
      2. Perhaps more importantly, a Change Management communications plan is vastly different than what most communication departments are used to creating. Communications departments, often part of marketing or public relations, are most often used to communicate broad corporate messaging. Change Management is about driving communications to the individual level. This means coordinating across possibly large numbers of divisions, groups, and functions and rallying the management to aid in the process while ensuring that feedback is being collected and reported back to the Change Management team. This is a plan that communications departments are not typically prepared to develop or staffed to carry out.

      Red Flag #2 – We are doing change management, we have a training plan: Another common red flag that will often turn up and indicates the potential for two more issues:

      1. Here again, we have an indication that leadership is mistaking training for Change Management. Training is a part of the process to ensure that people have the knowledge they need to make a change. That does not mean they have agreed to the change or have adopted the change. Change management ensures that people not only are capable of making a change but willing.
      2. Another issue is that the organization is relying on the Change Management team to deliver training. This is a common error that can be catastrophic. In most cases, an SME on the change should deliver the content and ensure it is understood. The role of the change manager is to make sure the training is delivered well, that logistics are managed, and that the training has been effective. Relying on Change Management to be experts in the specific change is too much to ask (unless the change is implementing Change Management).

      Red Flag #3 – We have hired a change manager: This is typically a good sign that shows some enlightenment from leadership, but it also rings a major alarm bell that requires a number of follow up questions:

      1. Is the change manager experienced? Often, we will find that the change manager is a person who has been reassigned from a department without training or previous experience. This means a huge ramp up time and a lot of mistakes that could be avoided by hiring an experienced person or consultant.
      2. Is the change manager also the project manager? These are different disciplines requiring different skill sets and with potentially competing aims. Each is also a large amount of work. Only a rare person can manage both simultaneously.
      3. Is the change manager solely responsible for executing change management or do they have the authority and resources to implement throughout the organization? If by having a change manager, we think the process is covered, we have a major problem.
      4. How many changes is this change manager in charge of? Often this becomes a role that is quickly overwhelmed and ends up managing reporting rather than actually implementing change management. The result is reporting failure to make changes.
      5. All of the above are at issue: This is so often the case and indicates a looming catastrophe.

      Red Flag #4 – We have Change Management as part of our project team: This is not necessarily a problem. It depends on the structure. If the Change Management is subservient to a project leader, then the messages that need to be heard by leadership are often suppressed or watered down. Ideally, Change Management is at least at the same level of the project lead and has direct access to the leadership. The change manager’s role is to ensure that leadership knows the issues and helps coach them on how to mitigate them. They cannot be required to work through a funnel and expected to achieve results.

      Red Flag #5 – Change management is part of Human Resources (or any functional area): Where the change management function lies is not necessarily the issue here. Since change management focuses on the people side of change, HR may seem like a logical fit. It may also be in operations, innovation, or other change related areas where people are the focus. What we would seek to understand is whether the function Change Management reports to is also integral to the part of the organization where the change is happening. Is the functional area engaged in the project planning and implementation, do they have change management training, and do they have access direct to leadership that is sponsoring the change? If the answer to any of these questions is “no” then the structure needs to be reassessed.

      10 red flags OCM infographic

      Download: 10 Red Flags Your Change Management Program is at Risk infographic


      Red Flag #6 – Everyone supports the change: This one always makes me shake my head because it is never true. I remember a particular client who announced that they were doing a system upgrade at their global meeting and the announcement received a standing ovation. The reaction convinced them that everyone was on board. “We don’t need a lot of Change Management,” they said, “Everyone supports the change.” Two years later they were staring at major implementation issues due to resistance, low adoption, low utilization and short timelines. Even assuming that people are genuine in their initial support for a future state, resistance can grow over time as people learn more and are affected by the change. Anticipating and monitoring resistance is a key activity of Change Management to make sure that support is maintained.

      Red Flag #7 – The change is a small one, we don’t need change management: This can be true if the change is entirely seamless and no people are affected. In any other case, it is worth the investment even on small changes to make an assessment of the change implications, how disruptive it is, and where resistance may occur to scale your change management efforts accordingly. The organization is making an investment and such an assessment is good due diligence.

      Red Flag #8 – We have assigned a sponsor: This answer is one of the scariest I get. There is a lot of research that shows that without proper sponsorship changes will fail to meet objectives. Often, we will find that the leader who conceived of the change is not the sponsor but rather has assigned an underling. This is major red flag for several reasons:

      1. The leader may have decided to distance himself from the change and created an option not to be responsible for results. Even if this is not the case, the perception is can be devasting to the process.
      2. The person assigned may not have the traits (influence, knowledge, skills, commitment, etc.) to be a good sponsor. This means a major learning curve is in front of her.
      3. The person assigned must have the standing to lead the change particularly with other leadership, the authority to remove roadblocks to the change, and to adapt the strategy as necessary. If not, the resistance they encounter may be insurmountable.

      Red Flag #9 – We have several sponsors: Oi… this is even worse than assigning a sponsor. Now we assume that a group is leading the change and is cohesive in their level of agreement and approach. While there are strong cases for a coalition of sponsors, driving a change without a primary sponsor, leads down long winding roads of dysfunction, finger pointing, miscommunication and passive resistance.

      Red Flag #10 – We will focus on Sustainability at a later stage: Many practitioners of change will still look at the process as linear and consider how to sustain the change only after the initial phases or even toward the end of the project. Sustainability starts at the outset when creating the change strategy or early in the development of the future state itself. Determining expected outcomes, understanding how to measure against those outcomes, developing how to report progress to the organization, and identifying the meaning of outcomes at the individuals at all levels are all items that should occur at or near the beginning and should be carried out throughout the change process. If your team has not thought about sustainability early, this is a huge red flag that they do not have a proper understanding of change management.

      Over the last decade or so, change management as a discipline has become an expectation of organizations that want to succeed with their investments. That does not mean, however, that everyone has an equal understanding of how it should be implemented. By understanding the red flags, leaders can identify if they need specialized or outside assistance from people who have experience driving the change process. Leaders can also look at what they expect of themselves. If you are leading an organizational change and one or more of these red flags rings true to you, it makes sense to take a step back and do a quick assessment of your efforts. The organization is making an investment in the project you are leading. It is your responsibility to see that every effort is made to see the return on investment is realized.

      Note: This article focuses on Change Management for a single intervention. All trends indicate that change is now a constant and that a sustainable competitive advantage can be had for organizations that make leading change part of their DNA.


      Improve your organization’s performance and change management practices.


      Is Your Change Management Building a Building, or Planning a City?

      In a previous article, we discussed the level of change management required for a company to achieve true transformation. Just as a reminder, the mutually inclusive elements include:

      • Employing an Enterprise Change Strategy
      • Developing Your Change Management Framework
      • Enhancing Your Change Leadership Capabilities
      • Growing Organizational Competency for Change

      Thinking in terms of these key elements, we can see how organizations mature their change management competency from immature or nonexistent through institutionalizing change management, to making it a strategic advantage of the company.

      This progression is not necessarily linear. Many companies start off quite capable of responsive change, but with growth become siloed and less agile. At some point, however, realize their position and begin the long road back to responsiveness.

      Most companies we encounter in our DX practice are somewhere in between “Isolated Application” and instituting “Project Level”. And, the difference between “Project Level” and “Enterprise Level” change management is the difference between building a building and developing an entire city.

      So, how can an organization move to “Enterprise Level’ maturity, and fast? Before we can answer that, there are other questions that need answers first:

      What is the scale of the organization?
      What is the level of expected disruption?
      What is the leadership’s attitude toward change management
      What investment are they prepared to make?
      How independent are your advisors?
      What tools and measures are in place?

      Read the full article for answers to these questions

      10 Red Flags That Your Change Management Program is Poor

      One of the greatest challenges of helping organizations with Change Management is that they often believe they are already doing it. After all, if you have a good leadership team that communicates with employees, they must be capable of leading change.

      But when you dig down and ask the leaders what they are doing to ensure their organization is prepared for and executing change strategies, we often find clear indications either they do not truly grasp change management, they do not understand the risks, or that their program is not robust enough for to handle the change.

      Learn what are the 10 red flags