What is Business Agility?
Business agility is neither a fad, nor a free-for-all.
What is business agility? In a recent survey, executives were asked how they thought agility-at-scale would enhance their organizational operations. Approximately half agreed it would reduce project derailments and fire drills, improve inefficient processes, increase visibility across functional groups and improve collaboration. If you’d like to see all the results, there’s a great infographic on the survey.
While many people seem to be able to articulate the virtues of business agility, the definition of the term itself is a little more nebulous. Many people think that agility is entirely synonymous with “fast and flexible,” and I guess that’s true–if we’re talking about an obstacle course at the American Kennel Club. But business agility has a somewhat different meaning which, at CA, we define as:
A company’s way to sense and respond to change proactively and with confidence to deliver business value—faster than the competition—as a matter of everyday business.
At CA, business agility is a multi-faceted, relatively new approach to business that certainly does include speed and flexibility. But more specifically, agility means sensing, creating and adapting to change quickly and with confidence. And achieving business agility means rewiring your organization’s DNA so that you capture higher success – whether that be more revenue, improved customer satisfaction, or even creating new markets. Following are a few of the key components of business agility.
In an environment of constant, rapid change, it’s more important than ever that businesses remain laser-focused on giving customers what they want and need. To help ensure success, smart companies are using IT best practices to bring the customer into the core of everything they do.
This isn’t a new concept. Way back in 2015, in an editorial for Forbes, Forrester Research Vice President Kyle McNabb wrote, “We call this the age of the customer. Innovative brands, from Delta to Southwest, T-Mobile to Verizon, Home Depot to Walgreens, and Caterpillar to Rolls Royce, are sharing with Forrester how they are disrupting the way they work to meet their empowered customers’ needs, to become customer-obsessed.”
Since then, things have only intensified, and agile has led the revolution. After all, the first principle of the Agile manifesto is “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.” If the customer isn’t at the center of your business, you’re not agile, and you’re at a serious disadvantage which you should discuss with one of our agile coaches immediately.
Business agility drives value faster by increasing customer satisfaction, visibility, responsiveness, productivity, quality, employee engagement, innovation and revenue.
Execution agility makes speed and performance your competitive advantage. Improving cycle times can significantly impact your bottom line as speed helps monetize incremental value and gets you to revenue sooner. But the voice of the customer must be heard early and often to ensure you’re building the right thing in the right way at the right time—with quality and predictability. Organizations must be able to leverage data and insights to become better, faster and more efficient.
Achieving business agility is a process of weaving resiliency and adaptability into the fabric of your enterprise. That starts by creating deep connections with your customers, stakeholders, market–and within your own organization. Cultural change is key to business transformation, and connecting people fuels that change from within.
The highest level of business agility requires organizing people around the creation of successful outcomes. This means connecting agility throughout your organization by breaking down internal silos and forming value-focused teams.
Most organizations suffer from what I call Functional Silo Syndrome. This is when business functions within a company act as stand-alone entities, formulating their own strategies and work plans in parallel with other business functions, rather than cross-functionally. This leads to a less communicative and collaborative environment, as well as an inability to build cohesive teams, which in turn, results in weak, uncompetitive products.
Breaking down functional silos is imperative to minimizing dependencies, reducing waste, improving collaboration and allowing you to respond to opportunities and threats quickly and confidently.
At the end of the day, business agility is neither a fad nor a free-for-all. It’s an extremely disciplined approach to business that requires a new mindset for everyone in the organization—from dev teams to the C-suite. It can be challenging. But ultimately, it will help your business turn ideas into outcomes—regardless of industry, problems to solve or customers to please. If you’re interested in redefining your business as an agile enterprise, contact one of our agile coaches to see how we can help.