Enterprise agility is the ability of organizations to rapidly respond to internal changes — as well as changes in the market — without slowing down or losing sight of their goals. From decision-making to execution to problem solving, organizations must take on a new mindset and a new way of doing things to stay competitive in today’s market.
The importance of agility in driving business success is backed by research: McKinsey researchers found that the most agile companies ranked higher for organizational health — the best indicator of long-term corporate performance. Rather than seeing agility as a stretch goal, enterprises must focus on agility as a basic operating standard, and encourage employees across the organization to stay agile and innovative.
“Employees across the organization should see innovative thinking and creative problem-solving as everyone’s job – not a side project or a privilege reserved for a select few,” says Kevin Baril, national managing principal of innovation for Grant Thornton.
“Agility is a required core competence for organizations and individuals due not only to the underlying architecture and infrastructure that drives modern businesses, but more importantly, the expectations of increasingly digital native or digitally fluent customers, clients and trading partners,” adds Baril. “Compressed product cycles, near real-time contextual, high-quality customer care expectations, and the ability to effectively address changing competitive dynamics is essential in a data-driven, software-driven business landscape.”
But this imperative is being neglected by many businesses: in a recent annual survey of global CIOs, more than half of enterprise IT leaders reported that they were “slightly” or “not at all” effective at scaling agile methods across their organizations. This failure can slow product launches and hinder the resolution of customer pain points, leading to a loss of market share, weakened employee morale, and other negative consequences.
Yet the survey, conducted by Harvey Nash and KPMG, also showed that digital leaders have confidence in technology to drive agility in their organizations:
- 68 percent of CIOs polled said they believe digital is “extremely,” “very,” or “moderately” effective at improving business efficiency
- 60 percent said digital is “extremely,” “very,” or “moderately” effective in helping them develop new products and services
- 62 percent said digital is “extremely,” “very,” or “moderately” effective in promoting employee collaboration
“Clear alignment between people, culture, service delivery platforms and operational model is critical. The ability to make quick, well-informed decisions and incorporate them into the business model will increasingly be a differentiator,” says Baril.
Here’s how CIOs can obtain those crucial objectives:
Get the Right Digital Tools in Place to Align People and Operations
Whether it’s video conferencing to foster ongoing face-to-face brainstorming and cooperation, a work execution platform that ensures employees have real-time and up-to-date access to the information they need where and when they need it, or industry-specific apps and services, it’s vital to ensure that everyone has access to the right tools and platforms they need to move quickly.
But to ensure maximum effectiveness, it’s also important that CIOs take a holistic, enterprise-wide approach to digital services. The CIO survey found that shadow IT – technology used outside of IT departments’ purview – has been on the rise for four years running. This trend poses a direct risk to the promotion of enterprise agility, as the discrete adoption of technology and digital platforms within teams and departments can contribute to disconnected data and operational silos. These, in turn, decrease the likelihood that all employees will have the tools and information they need to operate with maximum agility.
CIOs must turn to tools and platforms that are flexible and easy to use — platforms that work for business users and curb their need for outside technology.
Leverage Data for Faster and Better Decision-Making
Another component of agility is the organizational ability to make fast and effective decisions. New and emerging technologies such as machine learning, a subset of AI, help enterprises make decisions with unprecedented confidence because they allow businesses to leverage vast and highly complex amounts of data to a greater degree of accuracy than manual analysis or making gut decisions.
As with other technologies, to fully reap the benefit of AI, it’s important that organizations take a holistic, enterprise-wide approach to the utilization of such innovations, both to drive better decisions across business lines and to increase the pool of data upon which automated insights are based.
Corporate agility doesn’t happen by accident – it’s based on everyone within the enterprise having the tools and information they need to make fast and confident decisions quickly take action. Considering the ability of technology to assist on this front, CIOs are uniquely positioned to drive this make-or-break corporate trait.