In management it has been said that business transformation involves making fundamental changes in how business is conducted in order to help cope with shifts in market environment.[1] However this is a relatively narrow definition that overlooks other reasons and ignores other rationales.

A better understanding is achieved by considering that "transformation [..] is generally a response to two things. First, there are underlying problems or causes of organisational pain that need to be addressed. They have to be properly understood but nevertheless they are a key component. Second, there is a desire by the top management and other senior stakeholders to use the opportunity of addressing these causes in ways that fundamentally alter the paradigm of the organisation."[2] Others describe Business Transformation as "the process of fundamentally changing the systems, processes, people and technology across a whole business or business unit. As such, a business transformation project is likely to include any number of change management projects, each focused on an individual process, system, technology, team or department."[3]

When business transformation is used

The need for business transformation may be caused by external changes in the market such as an organisation's products or services being out of date, funding or income streams being changed, new regulations coming into force or market competition becoming more intense. This management approach may also incorporate business process reengineering (BPR).[4] However application of BPR does not of itself constitute a business transformation, the outcome should be the deciding factor as to whether any activity is truly transformational or simply improvement. Other methods like Lean or Six Sigma are rooted in incremental improvement rather than paradigm shifts in the way things are done:


Business transformation is achieved by one or more of: realigning the way staff work, how the organization is structured, the core product or service portfolio of the business and how technology is used. Typically organizations go through several stages in transforming themselves:[5]

Business transformation can lead to developing new competencies and making better use of existing competencies.[6]

Transformation examples

Examples of organisational transformation include:


  1. ^ . Harvard Business Review January 2007 Kotter
  2. ^ Wherrett, Rob (10 March 2020). "Explaining Business Transformation".
  3. ^ Cruise, David (14 Sep 2017). "Business Transformation".
  4. ^ McKinsey Survey 2010
  5. ^ Harvard Business Review January 2007 Kotter
  6. ^ Bak, O. (2016). Investigating Organizational Transformation in Automotive Supply Chains: A Case Study on B2B and Extranet. Strategic Change, 25(3), 299-314.
  7. ^ Transformed GM back in the game 2010
  8. ^ BBC website Archived 2018-11-17 at the Wayback Machine October 2011
  9. ^ Box: The Path From Arrington’s Backyard To A Billion Dollar Business "Josh Stein started to connect the dots on doing an SaaS enterprise model. We credit him to being able to shine light for us on something we couldn’t see.” 2012
  10. ^ British Airways simple route to business transformation 2005