Business agility rose during the pandemic

Data-based tips for CxOs to improve agility across people, process, and technology

Learn how c-suite executives are successfully scaling agile frameworks and business agility during COVID.

At the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, only about 1 in 10 organizations reported being “considerably or very agile” across a range of functions and processes, compared to almost 3 in 10 one year later.

As the global economy braces for the next stress-making headline, most businesses remain fragile.

That’s according to a survey of 200 CEOs, CIOs, CHROs, COOs, and CCOs in Australia, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S. from a range of industries and company sizes. The results show that as the pandemic wears on, most organizations have yet to identify how best to pivot their people, processes, strategies, portfolio, and technology architecture to generate new value and preserve business advantage.

However, certain executives are ahead of their peers. These leaders are two to three times more likely than others to report that their customer service, data security, IT support, and sales functions are considerably agile today. They are investing in changes that are yielding meaningful results in their organizations. Their responsibilities are also evolving.

Agile leaders prioritize employees and clear processes

Leader organizations invested more in hiring the right people and building a culture of innovation during the pandemic. The extent of focus on culture shift represents one of the biggest gaps between leaders and laggards. COVID changed the environment too much for companies to maintain business as usual.

Leaders were also much more likely to have updated company goals and roadmaps, as well as invested in improving coordination across departments. Seven out of 10 leaders expect high returns from creating a leadership team responsible for improving agility.

They understand what enables agility

Leaders invested a lot more in technology than others, including risk solutions, business applications, digital workflow automation, modernized IT, and digital enterprise platforms. Many are committed to continuing these investments into the next year, in particular modernizing IT and workflow automation.

They take personal responsibility


Today, leader CEOs today are focused on developing an agile culture; creating new business models to drive growth; setting the vision for their organization; and streamlining processes and reducing costs. Looking ahead to next year, they plan to double down on sustaining and growing their business. Every CEO in the leader group accepts responsibility for managing their company’s enterprise-wide agility program, developing training and upskilling programs, and modernizing IT platforms.


Most of the CIOs in the top-performing companies oversee a C-level leadership team focused on improving organizational agility. This team sets the vision and goals for organizational agility, and provides coaching or advice. Leader CIOs are also focused on modernizing IT platforms to support business processes. Over the next two years, an increasing number of CIOs in this group will become responsible for creating new business models to drive growth. They also plan to build systems for assessing and rewarding performance against agile goals, and provide staff with technology and data to enhance agility.


Advanced COOs are currently responsible for ensuring coordination of efforts across the enterprise, creating new business models to drive growth, streamlining processes to reduce costs, and building an agile ecosystem of partners and suppliers. Into the future, more of these leader COOs will work on developing an agile culture with proper resources across the enterprise, overseeing a C-level leadership team with agile responsibilities, and providing staff with technology and data they need to be agile.


Leader CHROs are responsible for finding talent to drive enterprise agility, developing training programs, and building immersive employee experiences. One to two years ahead, CHROs will have some new responsibilities. They include ensuring customers are at the center of agile thinking; coordinating efforts across the enterprise; developing an agile culture and creating systems for assessing and rewarding performance against agile goals.


Leader CCOs focus on ensuring customers are at the center of agile thinking, developing agile frontline or call centers to meet evolving customer demands, and providing more agile experiences for customers. New responsibilities CCOs will assume in the year ahead include developing talent to drive agility; creating new business models to drive growth; and developing an agile culture with proper resources. Interestingly, CCOs are expanding their focus to employees as well. Some will be responsible for developing training programs and building immersive employee experiences.

While COVID has propelled organizations to advance organizational agility, there is still much work to do. Check out additional research by IDC for more advice on how organizations can thrive in unpredictable times.