What is business agility and why is it important today? Learn what agile SMBs are doing to get ahead of their competitors.
Nov 04, 2021
What is business (enterprise) agility and what does agility mean in business? Business agility refers to a company’s ability to adapt to market changes through the use of technology promoting agile organizational processes.
Why is agility important in business? We’ll do our best to avoid using too many buzzwords, but in essence, an “agile” business can respond more quickly to changes than a “rigid” business.
They do this by encouraging a culture within the organization (from the top down) that is receptive to change; and by getting the right digital solutions which can help guide decision makers by providing them with actionable data and reporting through analysis.
Today, we’ll be taking a look at what business agility is and look at some agility examples and how an agile business has a distinct advantage over its peers by putting the right processes in place.
With business intelligence, a company can receive actionable data on an array of processes, but let’s just say that you’ve used BI and the data provided to shows there’s an enormous inefficiency with a worker manually invoicing customers.
Maybe it was going under the radar before, but now you know that there’s an issue, and you can implement an RPA solution to automate the task, allowing the worker to focus on more meaningful tasks, and you can save money on the labor costs of a menial process.
The end result is a more efficient business. While you’ve streamlined a process, your competitors who use their gut-feeling for decision-making are continuing to be wasteful with their resources—often unknowingly.
With successful organizations, only 40% base their decisions on gut feeling. For less successful enterprises, this number jumps to 70%.
While a basic example, this is the defining characteristic of business agility—embracing a culture change of disruption of normal working processes, and using technology to help you improve your productivity, cut unnecessary costs, and improve your product and service.
Real Life Business Strategic Agility Examples
We don’t need to look further than our own clients to find a strategic agility example in the real world.
Let’s take a look at one of our clients, ZMac, as an example of this.
ZMac is a logistics company based in Wisconsin that offers transportation brokering. They sought to establish better business agility by creating an app that would allow them to offer a streamlined process for customers to make orders from.
After their initial provider created a software app that didn’t live up to expectations, they came to Impact to revamp the platform from the ground up.
Impact used low-code development to deliver an app that was functional, fast, and readily accessible for their prospects and customers, giving them a huge boost over their competitors.
This is an example of how technology can be leveraged to create a more agile approach to business processes.
However, once that culture is in place, with executives leading and with buy-in from employees, you have a business that is both able to accommodate new ways of operation and actively seeking out new ways to improve processes.
This is what it is to have strategic agility in the workplace.
To sum up, lead from the front, get the employees on board by proposing value to them, and you’ll be well on your way to having a culture that embraces necessary change.
Agile internal organization
Ensuring agility in your internal operational processes is a key aspect of business process agility.
What do we mean by this exactly?
Well, let’s say a business has just invested in new servers to house all their data and their employees’ work.
That’s great! For now—but what about in a year’s time?
90% of all the data in the world was created in the last two years.
Data growth is exponential, and we need more and more space to keep it safe; this is the same for businesses, just as it is with consumers.
So, while that server stack might do you just fine now, the influx of data over the one, two, or five years means that upgrading it sooner rather than later will become a costly inevitability.
Add into the mix that organizations have to now contend with data privacy laws, like CCPA, which are increasingly demanding in what protections businesses have to give their customer data, and those servers won’t be fit for purpose for very long.
Now, let’s talk about another business which has taken a different approach.
They’ve decided to move all their data to the cloud, and they similarly have run out of space by the time a year’s up.
What do they do?
They scale their cloud storage, which is maintained and secured by another business (such as Microsoft, Amazon, or Google) and continue their business as usual.
The examples here are a good demonstration of how a business which exhibits agility can have a clear advantage on their competitors.
Of course, it’s not just about server space, but virtually everything within a business. Got a slow manual process? You can respond quickly by getting an automation solution from your cloud services provider and implementing it as soon as possible.
With the right process in place, an agile business can react quickly to improve its internal processes on a dime.
The above image demonstrates that the level of digital business maturity increases as the number of years committed to a project increases.
This also applies to your external operations, where business agility allows you the opportunity to see where improvements can be made in your product or service.
One of the biggest aspects of agility is using big data and analytics to help fuel your decision making.
A good example of this would be manufacturing firms dealing with supply chain disruptions.
An agile business can implement an ERP solution, which will crawl data and give you reports which predict disruptions and allow you to manage them as best you can.
Using multiple areas of analysis, it will look at trends, historical data, inconsistencies, and other variables to give you the best chance of mitigating any disruption in the future, whether it’s from a seasonal change or something completely out of your control.
Meanwhile, other businesses are basing their decisions on gut feeling, and effectively throwing darts with their eyes closed because they have not implemented business process agility into their operations.
This is the same for other areas of business too, like using analytics to determine which types customer complaints are the most common, allowing you to address them rather than keep you guessing what your consumer base wants.
This is an example of business process agility. By using a modern ERP, the company is able to become more agile in its operations because it now has a set of working processes that are data-driven and allow quicker and more reliable decision making.
Business Agility Stats That Demonstrate Its Value
An estimated 71% of businesses have low business agility according to a survey by the Business Agility Institute.
For most businesses today, improving their business agility will be a central aspect of any plans for digital transformation.
How do businesses improve business agility?
The best way is first of all to observe how agile businesses approach their operations.
Agile organizations have several things in common that mark them apart from others.
These things are namely organizational agility and business change agility.
If companies want to become agile, it’s important for them to address these two key areas with solutions that facilitate agility in both.
In terms of organizational agility, as we noted above, it’s crucial that businesses have an operational structure that allows them to be agile with respect to scaling—businesses today are able to quite effortlessly shift their solution use when necessary through the adoption of cloud services.
With regard to business change agility, it’s important for companies to have a change management approach that is comprehensive and continuous.
In other words, business agility is not achieved by digitizing one line of business or function, it’s about having a mindset and procedure that looks to implement agility in all areas of an organization.
This can be achieved by implementing a strategy for business agility improvement that can be repeated again and again to refine operational processes.
A change agility system like this will usually involve some kind of periodic review undertaken by a business development specialist (if working with a managed service provider), who will look to identify areas for business growth and recommend how current processes can be improved—whether it’s new automated workflow or a dedicated custom application; how new technology can be leverage to improve processes is limitless today.
The most important element is having a structure and culture that prioritizes agility and the means to achieve it.
How Can Businesses Become Agile?
Business agility transformation will be a key consideration for companies moving forward and we hope these examples of strategic business agility have provided a good understanding of the benefits of establishing an agile workplace with modern technology.
As far as technology is concerned, SMBs must recognize that the solutions that are driving agile businesses are not going away any time soon, and understanding how they can be used to be more competitive in their market will be crucial.
How this recognition comes about is less complex than many might imagine. Companies that are unsure of where they stand when it comes to their strategies for digital transformation should consider getting an audit for any one of the areas they need help with.
Take cybersecurity, for example. An MSP like Impact can be hired to perform an audit of your entire organization’s cybersecurity capabilities.
Cybersecurity professionals will take a deep dive into your processes and make a full review of your business before making recommendations specific to what you need.
Assessments like this can be performed in every area of your business, whether it’s security, marketing, your IT network, your print capacity, or your business processes.
From there, you can adopt and implement the necessary solutions that will give your business the ability to be more competitive, whatever your objective—whether it’s more efficient working processes, improved marketing outreach, or sales capabilities.
Agile businesses can navigate their way through trouble by using digital technology and a change of culture to move forward.
Businesses need to be agile because these types of organizations are invariably more successful than their competitors, particularly those who are reluctant to change.
As we move forward, and organizations continue to digitally transform their operations, it’s imperative for them to build, grow, and maintain business agility in order to tackle future challenges head-on.
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