What is Agility?By Faisal Hoque | Posted 2010-04-20 Email Print
Conventional wisdom says large, established companies cannot be agile. That's not the case.
Business leaders often use agility to describe their business plans and strategic initiatives, but it’s often little more than just a vision. But what does agility really means to business, and how does it help achieve higher levels of efficiency and success? Most people acknowledge that agility is the key to capitalizing on innovation and achieving success in the fast-paced and rapidly evolving marketplace.
Agility requires planning, processes and structures. Technology-based initiatives have long enabled business organizations to coordinate activities with their business partners. For instance, many companies share their forecasts and plans with suppliers and distributors to extract network-wide efficiencies, while others, such as retailers, have relinquished their decision rights to their suppliers on when and how much to replenish in the pursuit of even greater efficiencies for all concerned.
Although efficiencies can be extracted through the coordination of activities across a business network, such processes do nothing to sense and respond to unforeseen events. Simply put, such business networks, which improve performance in a predictable environment, provide, at best, a false sense of security under rapidly changing conditions. Agility requires the dynamic configuration of processes across a business network. Such efforts allow a company to know what is going on internally and externally, the ability to move quickly to take advantage of the changes it needs, and the imagination to see itself in a different light.
Regardless of where one begins the journey toward agility, a converged management of business and technology often plays a critical role in establishing the strategic position required to adjust or change, based on unforeseen market circumstances.
To do this, agile companies establish formal relationships outside of their walls with customers, partners, suppliers and the public. These relationships act as their antennae or sensors of change on the world, and serve to warn or predict shifts – whether opportunistic or threatening.
Being agile requires translating that information into the ability to sense-and-respond accordingly to each situation. Designing and managing business processes and technology enablers together shape these capabilities. Through this type of structured process, immediate action can be taken. Such actions incorporate agility as part of an organization’s DNA.
Agile organizations have the processes and structures that indicate what is going on both internally and externally, as well as the mechanisms established to act quickly on that knowledge, as needed.
Companies don’t survive unless they’re agile. Even multibillion-dollar powerhouses must recognize when a shift in their original knitting needs to evolve in order to adopt new technologies, products and businesses as the market changes to ensure continued growth.