Business Agility: How To Have It and Why It Matters
Business agility is talked about but few times is it really seen. Being an agile organisation is something every company says about themselves. It’s like the job interview “I work well with others”. Everyone knows they should be saying it and adhering to it but few really are.
Being agile in business means a company is open and can quickly change according to changes in the marketplace, their target audience or the marketplace. Every successful organisation has had to pivot their business model, structures and products to stay relevant with the times.
Business agility can be seen in small forms, like banking taking on mobile apps, and in larger forms like Apple creating Apple Pay.
Most businesses are agile in some aspect of their company, but can you say this agility is throughout the company? Does your HR, your sales, and your customer service team all have the freedom to adjust to new trends and technology? Do they feel as though they can make changes to work structure and outputs based on feedback?
Business agility does start from the top. It starts with an acceptance that how it’s always been done is not always going to be the best way. This feeds through the team for innovation to be a priority and for people to feel empowered to be agile.
The Lesson of the Kodak Story
Kodak used to be a company that was at the top of their field; they dominated the photography industry through film.
Unfortunately, they failed to adapt to digital photography and saw a struggle in their business they could have avoided.
When digital photography was first taking over, Kodak’s research lab was heavily involved in furthering it, they even developed the first mega-pixel camera. Kodak also conducted a market research study to find how digital photography would be adapted. The survey discovered it would take ten years for digital to become fully mainstream.
Instead of using this time to pivot their business and adapt to digital photography, Kodak hung onto film.
Digital photography detracted from their core business of film so Kodak has it as a threat instead of an opportunity.
The moral of the story is don’t be afraid to change with the times and adjust to trends.
You need to be ahead of your customers instead of fearing for your business.
How to Have Business Agility
Like when preparing for business growth, you need to have a plan for agility. Now, we don’t mean “on the third Tuesday of the month we’ll be agile” kind of plan. We mean your company should have agility as one of it’s priorities and measures in place for its success.
Focus on the Customer
Your customer should be steering the business focus. Creating a product is great, but if you’re creating a product no one wants and no one will purchase, it’s wasted efforts. The same goes for every other aspect of your business as well. If you’re sending an email no one is reading, it’s wasted efforts.
So, stay in touch with your customers. Keep discovering them. Research who they are, what they want and what they do.
Agility comes in many different forms and will look different for each organisation, but we encourage you to look at your customer holistically.
- What are their other hobbies and likes? How can you partner with them?
- What new products could you integrate into your company?
- How do customers want to purchase from you? (online, mobile, pop up shops, etc.)
- How do you communicate with your customer? And how often? (text messages, email, streaming service ads, videos, text, etc.)
An agile organisation responds to the feedback and information from their customers and their target audience to inform their strategy.
By staying in touch with your customer and communicating with them how they want, you’ll strengthen your current customer retention rate as well as attract new prospects.
The customer should be the overall business focus but should also pierce every department of your business.
Customer feedback is steering the direction of your company—overall and within every effort.
Conduct Market Research
Part of the customer focus is knowing what your customer wants. Market research is a great insight into the trends of your industry as well as what may be lacking for your customers.
You don’t have to have all the money in the world to conduct market research. You can conduct research through surveys with your current and past customers, through trend analysis, through data software or by hiring on third-party help.
Market research helps you stay on top of the trends and see how they are moving. What is here to stay and how is it affecting your market?
Don’t forget to watch trends outside of your industry that could affect your process.
Market research will show mobile is infiltrating every aspect of the customer journey and should be becoming a larger component of your marketing strategy.
For instance, you may have seen more and more retailers adapting mobile payment systems instead of in-place tills.
As a software development firm, you can hop on the trend of mobile payments by developing new software and systems. As a retailer, the mobile payment systems are a different route to go than the traditional payments. Mobile payment systems may not originally have been seen as expanding to retail shops; the cash register has been a solid system for years, but someone jumped on the opportunity to open the shopping space and remove the barrier of the checkout desk.
Market research can help open your eyes to these opportunities. It can help you see where your industry and consumer habits are heading to help you develop a plan to move with them. Business agility encompasses the flexibility to move with these trends.
Have Cross Functional Teams
The market research and customer-focused attitude lead to small and big changes in how your organisation conducts business.
To ensure you can pick up on your customer, industry and marketplace shifts quickly, you’ll want cross-functional teams.
Many times within a business, each department has its own processes and its own way of doing things. These do not overlap with the other functions they work with. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it can create duplicate work and make it harder for departments to work together on projects.
Take a critical look at how things are achieved, and see what improvements can be made.
Some things to inspect:
- How can communication become stronger?
- How can tasks be completed faster?
- What are common barriers across teams?
- What are common asks?
A great place to start is what are common projects, tasks and asks of each team. And what teams usually work together. Then have each assess their workflow and see how they can be better intertwined.
Agility means moving fast and being open to change. Many of your team members will be open to the change but may not have the tools or the structure in place to make it happen.
Do Have Stability
Be agile but be stable. I know it seems like we’re contradicting ourselves here, but to have an agile business you need to have a stable business.
Especially depending on your size, you’ll need to assess how your business can pivot to new trends and figure out a long-term solution for shifts in your organisational structure and processes.
You want your team to be agile but strategic about the moves. You’ll want to introduce change in a structured way, especially if you have a larger team, to ease transitions.
Being an agile organisation doesn’t mean a shifting purpose or team structure every week, it means adjusting to the needs of your customer and their desires as well as the trends, industry changes and marketplace moves. Sometimes, this does result in internal shifts so try to create a stable environment when this happens.
Agility may focus on changing with the trends and technology, but being agile in business has never been a trend. It is key to a successful company. Not every venture, idea, product, or campaign will yield the results you want, but each should teach you something about your customer. Take the insight into your customer and learn from it for your next project. That makes an agile business.