Sharon leads the Project Foundry Change & Transformation Practice, working with clients to prepare for significant changes and/or transformation of a service, a division or an organisation.

Sharon is a highly experienced transformation professional with over 20 years of experience in leading end-to-end business transformation in Europe, Australia and Asia. Sharon has a master’s degree in Gestalt Psychotherapy with specialist training in workplace systems, organisational dynamics, group facilitation and neural plasticity.

For almost 15 years, Sharon has been leading Business Transformation based on digital technology across a variety of sectors including health, education, care, financial services and technology. Her expertise is in end-to-end operating model redesign based on the customer and employee experience (people, capability, culture, structure, processes and technology).

With a background in both business and technology, Sharon also has extensive experience leading mergers & acquisitions, strategic partnering, outsourcing and offshoring, and partnership remediation.

Sharon leverages her expertise in design thinking, stakeholder engagement, leadership, agile and coaching to support clients through their transformation journey.

Sharon brings a wealth of transformation experience and offers advice and coaching to executive teams and boards, to ensure clients are successful in leading their change and transformation initiatives.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

For over 20 years now, I have been leading business and digital transformations in executive roles across the financial services, health, and education sectors. Some of these include the digitisation of Australia’s second-largest bank (Westpac) and Day One of the largest merger in financial services history in Australia (where I lived for over two decades); for a government health organisation in New South Wales; the redesign of the model of care for patients with catastrophic injuries, from the moment of diagnosis through to their death. Here in Ireland, I’ve led the migration of education and training services from completely face-to-face to digital at Chartered Accountants Ireland.

My background is unique because it is a blend of IT and Business and covers transformation strategy and implementation, end-to-end Operating Model redesign, digital and tech, shared services, strategic partnering and offshoring, culture change and governance. In addition to Ireland and Australia, I’ve also worked in India, Asia and Scandinavia, which has given me great insight into industry trends and best practices. Australia gave me the opportunity to manage large-scale transformation budgets up to €40m Opex, €100m Capex and oversight of programme portfolios up to €700m.

Can you tell us about your role with The Project Foundry?

I lead our Transformation Practice, which works with the rest of The Project Foundry, helping organisations to make their strategy a reality. Often, organisations have a 100-page strategy and then struggle to implement it – we bridge that gap between strategy and execution. The role of the Transformation Practice is to pressure-test the strategy to make sure it is future-proof, then define the new Customer Experience and the Target Operating Model to support it as the first step in implementing the strategy and advising on how to implement it. Sometimes, we oversee the execution of the strategy supported by the rest of The Project Foundry services.

What motivates you to do what you do?

One of my core values is about treating people with dignity and respect. Over the years, I have seen people damaged by the way an organisation implements changes and have seen companies destroy themselves through poorly managed programmes or changes where there is an impact on people and culture.

The second is about making a difference. I learnt that involving customers and employees in the design of a new customer service and product changes the way an organisation operates and ensures the value proposition is hitting the mark, which, in turn, makes the company successful. Later, I learnt that the more people you involve in the changes that are being implemented, the better the outcome will be – both for them and for the organisation.

How have you evolved personally and professionally over the years?

I first learned about Customer Experience Design in Ireland and then went on to train in Design Thinking when I moved to Australia. Australia is a world leader in business and digital transformation and change management, and over time, I built a reputation as a Transformation Leader, which is a recognised profession there.

I started working straight from school and worked my way up to executive roles in global banks and insurance companies, leading teams of 200-500 people. I have worked in every part of IT, apart from architecture and have led business operations and shared services divisions, all of which required large-scale change.

While I was working, I began my training as a Gestalt Psychotherapist and over ten years, I qualified and went on to get my Masters, worked in clinical practice and taught other therapists, specialised in Workplace Systems and Group Facilitation, and trained in Neuroplasticity. This changed me and my life (in ways too big to go into here!), so it is part of what I bring to work, and it is the basis of how the Transformation Practice operates.

What does Culture in a work environment mean to you? Why is it Important to you?

Like most people nowadays, the culture of an organisation is a huge part of my decision to work there. It’s really important for me that the organisation is aligned with my values: treating people with dignity and respect, committed to transforming and improving, and wanting to make a difference. When this is the case, then there is opportunity for me to add value, make a difference, and develop.

How do you maintain a healthy balance between your work and personal life?

I worked in a team about ten years ago where we were asked what it was we needed to keep us healthy (e.g., the gym, time with friends, regular meals, etc), and we made a commitment as a team to keep each other honest on protecting our ‘pets’ as we called them. Like a lot of people, given the type of work we do there are always deadlines, and so I have had to learn to manage my diary so that I can work hard and schedule time to play hard.

For example, my partner Lorenzo and I are mad bikers, and I ride most mornings before work and at weekends. We spend time in both Ireland and Florence, and I speak fluent Italian, but it’s a muscle that needs to be constantly worked, so I must carve out time to study. Having moved back to Ireland from Oz because of family, spending time with them is important, so while they tease me that I never answer my phone during the day, my weekends are precious. Being honest, as this role is still a new role for me and I am still learning and getting the hang of it, I haven’t got the balance perfect yet.

Are there any misconceptions about your work/field that you would like to clarify?

Lots of them!

  1. That Transformation is about implementing technology or a project – it’s not, it’s end to end – people, capability, culture, process, customer experience, and the technology.
  2. That change management is fluffy – it’s the hardest part. How people (customers and employees) adopt and adapt to the change is much more difficult than managing tasks.
  3. That the Transformation Practice is about training – while training is a very small subset of what we do, the kind of things we are working on include Transformation strategy development, future proofing strategic plans, operating model redesign (including designing a new College of Medicine for a major university), lifting the capability of leadership teams on digital in preparation for the digitisation of an organisation and yes … training organisations on how to leverage Microsoft 365 as part of a broader training programme.

Is there a particular aspect of your work that you are especially passionate about?

The customer and employee experience. With the exception of governments, perhaps, if customers have a bad experience, they walk away. Equally, so do employees. In this competitive market, organisations can’t afford to lose either.

How do you deliver value to clients?

  • We create a Transformation vision, strategy and roadmap with buy-in at all levels of the organisation.
  • We build the case for change – for strategy and funding approval.
  • Increased Net Promoter and Employee Engagement Scores.
  • New revenue streams through access to new markets, new products and new services.
  • Reduced costs through efficient processes and automation.
  • Optimal customer and employee experience supported by simplified internal processes.
  • Clear, measurable KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to measure the success of the transformation.
  • Compliance with regulations, for eg., CSRD (Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive) under ESG (Economic Social and Governance).
  • Ability to compete in a fast-changing market.

What are the typical benefits to the client from using our services (for practice leads)

A transformation framework that:

  • Future proofs a strategy
  • Aligns leaders behind the strategic priorities
  • Creates a new customer and employee experience
  • Brings everyone together behind a shared vision
  • Creates buy-in and lowers resistance
  • Identifies quick wins to create momentum
  • Engages all levels of stakeholders – improved collaboration and trust in the transformation
  • Enables the organisation to embrace and accelerate the change

What is the one thing that very few people know about you?

Lorenzo and I hike, and mountain-bike and the family think we are completely mad, which wasn’t helped when I came off last year in the Dolomites and hit an electric fence. It took eight months for the bruises to fade!

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