Why Now is the Time for Business Agility

Posted by Rick Davidson on August 10, 2020

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Many business leaders today face the challenge of transforming their organizations to compete in a world that is defined by increasing levels of uncertainty, chaos and complexity. A global pandemic, social justice concerns, rapidly evolving customer expectations, the changing nature of work – these and other factors are driving the need to create new business models that are both agile and responsive.

Relying on static business processes and the software that enables them just doesn’t work anymore. Implementing large enterprise applications that encompass all elements of the business are fraught with long delivery cycles, high costs and uncertain business value. Command and control structures that require rigid adherence to standard operating procedures have also become obsolete. These once popular approaches to managing a business have become liabilities in today’s rapidly changing business landscape.

So, now is the time to consider becoming a more agile business. To do this, a company must accept that the underlying system that enables their business to operate successfully – the proverbial “pillars” of people, processes and technologies – will need to be updated more frequently than what has been done historically. The good news is that these updates do not need to be done all at once, but can be accomplished incrementally over time. Start with the problem areas, those that affect the customer and employee experience, and work out from there.

 

Business Agility

People

Getting people to change what they do and how they do it on a frequent basis is probably the most challenging of the three pillars. The irony is that the people, as consumers, that are demanding innovative products and services at an increasing rate to meet their needs are the same people, as employees, that struggle with change – adapting to new roles/responsibilities, learning new skills, performing new tasks – within the companies where they work. However, tapping into what people do best – engaging and collaborating with others, creatively solving problems, dealing with business nuances – and giving them the latitude and responsibility to manage their work can “grease the skids” of change.

Process

Too much process and an organization’s agility will be diminished by rigidity and a false sense of stability and control. Too little process and an organization can’t scale effectively, run its operations efficiently and chaos ensues. So, how does an enterprise determine what is the right amount of process definition – not too much and not too little?

One approach involves segregating processes into those that are relatively static (e.g., financial: record-to-report or HR: hire-to-retire – although my Finance and HR friends may debate me on this) from those that are driven by a dynamic marketplace (e.g., sales: prospect-to-order or product/service: concept-to-offering). Static processes, by definition, likely only need major updates every 2-3 years. These processes can be defined fairly rigorously and often require a high level of conformance for regulatory purposes. However, the closer a process is to the customer, the more frequently it will need to change, sometimes as often as every 3-6 months. Entertainment and social media companies have had to deal with this phenomenon for at least the last decade.

Technology

Finally, technology is the most straightforward of the three areas to address. The classical waterfall approach, Agile Scrum or even continuous integration/delivery are well-established practices for the gathering of requirements, design, development, testing and delivery of software solutions. Generally, technology by itself does not provide a sustainable competitive advantage. However, when combined with market-differentiated and customer-aligned business processes and an empowered, informed and skilled workforce, companies can dominate their market.

So, how does an organization adapt its business in each of these areas with the agility and responsiveness that it takes to compete effectively? Cimphoni has identified three areas of competency and some of the enabling technology platforms that address this question. These three areas are: sensing, responding and adapting.

  • Sensing – providing timely and accurate business insights. This is mostly about providing people with information on the external and internal environments in which they and their company operate. Understanding the past, managing the present and predicting the future are all part of sensing. Technologies that support this area include:
  • Responding – optimizing business processes through rationalization and automation. Some processes are well-suited for automation – those that are rules-based, relatively stable and manage a high transactional volume. Technologies that support these processes include:
    • Business Process Discovery, Modeling and Management
    • MicroServices, DevOps, Event-Driven Messaging Brokers, Containers, Orchestration
    • Omni-Channel Platforms
  • Adapting – empowering and managing employee performance with enabling technologies. For processes that are dynamic and not a good fit for automation, the focus transitions to enabling people to manage business nuances and variability within their “sphere of control,” providing augmented context for their task at hand, and then holding them accountable for their performance.
    • Workforce Optimization
    • Robotic Process Automation
    • Personal Analytics/Dashboards

Additional information can be found on our website regarding the role of these and other emerging technologies in optimizing business performance.

If you are interested in improving business agility and responsiveness, Cimphoni can guide your team through the necessary steps. We can start with a “SnapShot” capability assessment across the business to discover and prioritize improvement opportunities. Or, if you have a specific area of the business that needs attention, we can start there as well. In either case, we take into account the people, processes and technologies relevant to your business and industry.