19th November 2020
We’ve all been told that, to survive in the 21st century, and after 2020 specifically, we need to have an agile business. That we need to be prepared to pivot, to embrace disruptive technology and reinvent our business models to meet ever-changing customer needs. Some would argue that any business that has made it through the last year has proven that they’re agile – after all, you’d be hard pressed to find a company that hasn’t had to make some pretty big changes really quickly since Covid-19 struck.. But simply working from home doesn’t make your team agile. And reinventing your business during a pandemic doesn’t mean you’ve become an agile organisation either.
Even if your organisation has started adopting agile processes by embracing innovation and employing test, fail, learn, repeat methodologies, you’ve probably stopped short of complete transformation due to internal resistance to the organisation-wide changes that becoming an agile business requires. So, what are the critical components of agility and how can you start transforming your organisation?
1. A customer centric mindset
The business benefits of customer-centricity are well researched and documented. According to Deloitte, customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies that don’t focus on customers and Dimension Data reports that 81% of organisations use their CX as a competitive differentiator.
So, it’s not surprising that customers are at the centre of every decision made in agile organisations. In fact, the main purpose of becoming agile is to enable your organisation to respond quickly to changing customer needs, so that you can provide products, services and customer experiences that keep your clients coming back.
While putting the customer first may seem like an obvious approach to business, most companies actually focus on promoting internal capabilities rather than meeting their client’s needs, so becoming client-centric represents a major shift in both mindset and operations.
Restructuring your teams around customer journeys or needs, rather than by channel or capability, is a good place to start. Customer journeys span channels and your internal departments – an agile business should adapt to having multi-disciplined teams work in a matrix orientated model, with dotted line management into team heads rather than siloed departments. Data around your customers and their journeys are your key to driving change - ask yourself, how much has your customer behaviour changed in this year alone?
2. Being proactive and unafraid
While traditional businesses focus on tried and trusted approaches, agile organisations constantly try new things so that they can identify innovative ways to keep their business ahead of the competition. Agile organisations accept that not every idea is going to be great and embrace failure because they understand that testing and experimentation are vital to identify opportunities that are worth investing in.
Being unafraid to experiment is fundamental to how technology businesses, such as the FAANG corporations have grown. None of these are afraid to fail, they try things that might not work but will constantly use the data to inform and validate their thinking.
What bets can you make? Rather than larger projects that might take too much investment and time to see any learnings, invest time into smaller experiments that might show value earlier, or at least provide validation that the idea has legs or needs more investment.
3. A different approach to management
Agile organisations are utterly focussed on getting tasks completed. As such, multidisciplinary teams are often organised by project rather than by department and are empowered to work independently. The manager’s role is to guide teams and provide the tools to enable them to achieve a defined set of outcomes, rather than to instruct or authorise their day-to-day activities. Matrix management structures are more common than hierarchical structures and most employees have one official “boss” but are accountable to various people and projects.
This is a massive departure from traditional business leadership models which normally requires extensive training and/or recruitment.
As service organisations move to remote-first models, due to the pandemic, we have had to adapt to new forms of management. Organisation structures that use matrix models mean teams from inter-departmental teams work on a project together rather than the traditional handovers between departments. Encourage your teams to work together, move from traditional, hierarchical line management to dotted line management - and use 360 feedback and reviews from the team. Matrix models and flatter structure will mean teams work better together, faster and with less bureaucracy.
4. Technology-enabled and data driven
Agile teams can only deliver rapid results if they’ve got access to the right tools and technology. Agile organisations use integrated technology to communicate more effectively with their customer base and gather and share data about their clients so that they are better equipped to meet their needs.
But technology changes at an incredibly fast pace and maintaining an up-to-date technology stack requires constant effort and investment.
The pandemic is accelerating the transformation of the workforce and the IT infrastructure to support them. Every business that provides services has had to adapt and provide staff with technologies that can enable remote working. We have all had to use video meeting software on such a frequent basis that ‘zoom-fatigue’ and ‘zoomed-out’ have become new phrases in our digital lexicon.
The most successful businesses that adapted quickest were already cloud-first organisations whose core infrastructure allowed for work-from-anywhere, and scaled easily and quickly. Businesses that allowed the use of communication tools such as Slack and Teams, were comfortable with teams that communicated wherever they were working from.
There’s more to be done, but continuously investing in your technology, and adopting more ‘as-a-service’ technologies enable your business to adapt quicker, to be more flexible and to have the competitive advantage.
Microsoft compressed two years of digital transformation into months - and this is a technology focussed business who provide some of the technologies businesses use to power their organisations.
Every business has had to adapt and become more agile and flexible. Adopting the principles of agile and applying them to your business can help you to become less rigid, be more innovative, with a mindset where many smaller bets rather than a few bigger bets can help shorten time to value and allow the flexibility to pivot.
ORM can support your business to adopt a more agile approach to innovation and your digital business, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.