Business Agility Defined

The term ‘Business Agility’ gets a lot of airplay these days – but what does it actually mean?

Much as the term agile has been increasingly used (abused?) in the IT industry to describe a high-performing software development team, Business Agility is now also becoming a term that is increasingly heard in business circles.  Like the term agile, however, people often find it difficult to be specific when describing what business agility actually means.  Responses are usually of the kind: “being flexible”, “capitalising quickly on new opportunities”, etc. – which is fine, but how does an organisation actually do this?

The following diagram depicts six key components of an organisation that exhibits Business Agility:

  • Adaptive Planning: Above all, the organisation needs to be able to plan and execute simultaneously.  Sequential planning leads to a very rigid implementation approach, whereas adaptive planning allows (indeed, encourages) many course-corrections along the way.
  • Focus on Time to Value: There is an almost obsessive focus on getting new products/services/features to market as soon as possible.  This enables a shorter feedback cycle and, equally importantly, an quicker timeframe to earn a return on the investment made.
  • Decoupling: This is where a lot of businesses (particularly larger enterprises) find it very difficult to move quickly to exploit new opportunities.  The more each business process is intertwined (coupled) with others, the harder it is to implement change quickly.
  • Low Latency: While this attribute could be consider an underlying theme, it is worth calling out as a specific component.  The quicker a decision can be acted upon, the sooner the business knows whether the decision was right and what else needs to be done to achieve the underlying goal.
  • Economic Efficiency: A lazy, bureaucratic organisation will protect its turf at the cost of progress and innovation.  Lean operations that minimise waste have the added incentive of promoting new and innovative ways of doing things, and being able to implement them quickly.
  • Rapid Adaptation: While similar to Adaptive Planning, this component really refers to the mindset of continual monitoring of, and adaptation to, changing market conditions.  It is the ultimate feedback mechanism that ensures the product/service offering is continually refined to best meet the needs/constraints of customers, suppliers and partners.

Focusing on how you can introduce/expand the above disciplines in your organisation will bring real meaning to the term Business Agility.  As a result, the business will be better placed to exploit new business opportunities in today’s rapidly-changing competitive marketplace.

© Eric Jansen 2012. All rights reserved.


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