Is agile the future of competitive businesses?
Did you know that businesses that embrace agile methodology have been able to increase efficiency, customer satisfaction, employee engagement and operational performance by 30% and have also made their organisation five to ten times faster? Such leaps in performance give businesses a major competitive edge and word is spreading fast.
Improvements of this magnitude can’t be ignored even though it involves using a methodology that in many ways contrasts with how businesses have been run for decades.
So, is transitioning to agile methodology worthwhile?
What is agile methodology?
Initially applied in software development, agility has grown into a cross-industry business approach. Its principles don’t just influence project management and operational processes but culture and strategy too. In contrast to the traditional analogy of a business as a machine, agile businesses are organisms and treated as living systems adaptive to change.
This methodology is designed to build resilience within the currently often volatile market. Adapting to unpredictable consumer needs and rapid technological developments while implementing innovation across the board requires highly responsive organisations. The traditional hierarchical approaches don’t have the flexibility to adapt so rapidly and seize new opportunities.
Overall, an agile business has three key characteristics.
The structure and systems are primed for the organisation to respond to unexpected changes in a timely manner. For example, the practice of reviewing and refining progress throughout a project, not just at the endpoint.
Optimisation is essential for quick action. Consequently, agile businesses make the most of every talent and resource they have available by giving each team a couple of priorities instead of overloading them. This way of distributing work allows teams to focus and perform at their best while being united in their focus on customer-centricity.
While each team has their own talents and skills, the business isn’t separated into sections. In fact, the interconnectedness of an agile business is a stand-out characteristic. While there are different parts of the business organism, they have a united goal (serving the customer) that brings them together.
With an idea of what it means to be agile, let’s explore why a business would invest in such a way of operating.
How does agility provide a competitive advantage?
With new ideas challenging established ways of working there will always be scepticism. Agility does stand its ground in that it is a holistic transformation, improving multiple elements of a business without disrupting others. For example, there is a risk that higher efficiency will reduce employee engagement. A focus on improving one area causes problems in another, undermining the value of the progress made.
As agility is all-encompassing, it fosters development in multiple areas simultaneously, including:
Creating a set of high-performance teams that work together innately almost guarantees operational success. The business has the resources and the environment required to achieve fast-paced progress.
With employees being able to focus on a set number of priorities, overwhelm and workplace stress is reduced. By responding to changes rapidly, employees have the newest technology on hand, making their job easier to execute to a high standard.
The collaborative element creates a positive working environment with strong values and culture. Describing the business as an organism, not a machine, creates a precedent of a human-centric approach to management.
Efficiency and speed
Instead of having to jump through bureaucratic hoops, progress can take place as the business is ready to respond. A willingness to adapt means issues (internal or external) are flagged and dealt with before progress is stagnated. As processes aren’t set in stone, new and better ways of working are routinely identified and adopted.
Distributing the workload in chunks that specialised teams deal with enables new products to be brought to market in record time. Furthermore, product updates can be delivered swiftly, preventing the business from losing customer loyalty to more advanced competitors.
As innovation isn’t seen as an immediate priority, it is often left on the back burner, especially in an organisation struggling to keep up with day-to-day operations. However, with performance and efficiency optimised, an agile business can easily find capacity to assign to innovation.
Agility frees up the resources and harbours the culture needed to fully embrace innovation. A responsive business can adopt new technologies, ways of working and so on without much disruption to overall performance.
The success taking place inside the business translates to the customer experience. The customer service team is able to deal with queries efficiently and following a consistent set of values. Changing customer needs are taken into account as soon as possible to maintain interest.
The commitment to innovation means that the products and services offered by the business are disruptive, on the edge and incomparable with competitors. Innovation can even improve the delivery of business-customer interactions.
Each of these areas individually creates a competitive advantage. Together they enable a business to dominate its market.
Dismissing agile methodology as a fad or trend is a mistake for businesses in today’s market. While no methodology or model is perfect for every business, agility holds a lot of promise for those operating in a rapidly changing and digitally directed environment.
It provides a solution for keeping up and even staying ahead of digital transformation and market changes which cannot be undervalued. The business is designed with the apprehension of change. Opportunities aren’t missed and both customers and employees are taken care of while driving the business’ success.
How can you prime your business for inevitable market changes?