Organisational agility: When an opportunity becomes an imperative

  • Paul Hardy
  • Trends and Research
  • Solutions
  • Cybersecurity and Risk
  • 2021
16 February 2021

Organisational agility: When an opportunity becomes an imperative

The last 12 months have emphasised the importance of being able to react quickly, and effectively to new business challenges. It won’t be plain sailing through 2021 either, which means organisational agility will be very much in the spotlight.

This is backed up by a recent survey of senior business decision makers, conducted by IDC and commissioned by ServiceNow, which shows that agility is a top priority for CEOs in EMEA, with 90% of CEOs considering it critical to their company's success. 

In my experience, companies that are driven by agility and speed are in a position to create great customer and employee experiences, drive productivity, and attract and retain the best talent.

But rather than talking about agility as a standalone C-suite priority, I see it as a foundational enabler of three key organisational priorities. These are: (1) protect & grow, (2) cost take out and (3) manage risk.  

Protecting and growing a company

Protecting your company in the current climate is essential, however, it can only be achieved by simultaneously maintaining a growth focus.

People — customers and employees — should be at the heart of everything and their needs should guide your strategic thinking.  

In the aforementioned IDC survey*, over half of ‘agile’ businesses (agile as in those in the highest tier of agility readiness) performed excellently in terms of customer experience, compared with fewer than a fifth of organisations overall.

This success is driven by flexible operating models, which allow businesses to quickly pivot to customer preferences and continuously integrate their feedback, increasing overall customer satisfaction and loyalty. In fact, the IDC data shows that agile companies perform 20% better than market average when it comes to customer loyalty.

Driving efficiency and productivity

By consolidating digital platforms and standardising processes, organisations can take out costs and increase productivity by automating manual, repetitive tasks. Employees are freed up to focus on the tasks they can really add value to.

Greater efficiency, underpinned by agility, has a direct impact on the speed of delivering new products or services to market. Time to market for agile companies is shown to be 16% better than market average, according to the IDC White Paper.

For many, this can have a huge impact on efficiency and growth. I’ve recently spoken to a large pharmaceutical company, which emphasised that time not only saves lives but also money. For every day a medication’s time to market is reduced, the company gains $1m per day.

Prioritising risk

Risk used to be about prioritising and mitigating operational risk. The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the focus onto human risk, particularly on the health and safety of people.

By taking an integrated view of all risks across the organisational estate, companies can ensure that they remain competitive both from an operational and employee experience perspective.

Bringing in that human risk element has become essential and ServiceNow reacted quickly to enable companies to support employee experiences in an agile way. We released nine Employee Experience Packs that consist of pre-built content and configurations for common HR activities, including a Health Alert pack that helps organisations quickly respond to the impact of COVID-19.

A great example of these new human risk solutions in practice includes

Coca-Cola European Partners, which has created several Employee Experience Packs alongside the Health Alert pack.

It took Coca-Cola European Partners just three days to get their COVID-19 portal up and operational by using Health Alert as a baseline. Their task force was quick to react to the growing business needs, from form creation to page translation. Now employees have the right information when they need it.

Agile as an imperative

The IDC survey reveals a mixed landscape when assessing the progress of companies in Europe against five types of organisational agility. One third of organisations sit in the lower tiers of ‘static’ or ‘disconnected’. Almost half of businesses are categorised as ‘in motion’, in the middle of their agility journeys, and only one in five (21%) businesses are in the top two tiers of agility readiness: ‘synchronised’ or ‘agile’.

If 2020 was challenging for all organisations, 2021 will be particularly challenging for the ‘static’ and ‘disconnected’ businesses. I’d go as far as to predict that ‘static’ and ‘disconnected’ companies will not be here at the end of 2021 due to their siloed legacy systems, rigid processes and slow development.

In 2021, it’s essential that organisations of all sizes accelerate to the ‘in motion’ tier, applying automation to key internal processes and moving towards strategic agility. In practice, it is encouraging to see that the speed of progression from lower to upper tiers of agility is certainly increasing.

The current environment presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to really do things differently and drive change across the enterprise in an agile way. By overcoming corporate barriers and introducing end-to-end customer journeys, supported by digital workflows, we can protect and grow organisations, take out cost and manage risk. 

IDC Business Agility Benchmark Survey

The IDC Organizational Agility Benchmark Survey (October 2020) conducted with 873 large European organizations looked at the link between organizational agility and key performance indicators. Learn more about the IDC Organizational Agility Evolution Framework, and the five key foundational dimensions of Agility in the whitepaper: Agility: The strategic imperative to survive and thrive in volatiles times.

(*Source: IDC White Paper sponsored by ServiceNow, IDC #EUR146988320, “Agility: The strategic imperative to survive and thrive in volatiles times”, November 2020)


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