Agile working goes hand in hand with success in the digital world, but truly agile organizations are harder to create. When organizations realize that successful digital transformation is a continuous process and not a one-off event, agile takes on a new significance. In the third of a series of five articles on the future of business in the digital world, Dave Wolf, Managing Director and Shahn Alware, Manager for Digital and Mobile Solutions (DMS), look at what agile transformation really means. The first article in this series, If design thinking is so powerful, why do businesses still fail at transformation? can be found here. The second article in the series, The missing link: bridging the gap between business vision and business reality can be found here.
Being agile is more than an advantage in the digital world; it’s now a necessity. Every organization needs a high degree of agility to adapt quickly and sustainably to change. Agile transformation is about making a business ready for emerging disruptors, which could be new cyber security threats, changes in the regulatory environment or advances in technology. At the same time, the business must be prepared to embrace an environment of continuous improvement. It’s about setting a business up for sustainable success in the face of the unknown.
Agile is often contrasted with the traditional waterfall model where a project proceeds in a linear fashion, step-by-step towards a pre-defined goal. By contrast, an agile project evolves in increments and allows for changing requirements over time. Agile encourages teamwork, self-organization and accountability, along with the rapid delivery of a high-quality output that addresses the needs of the customer.
Businesses are moving towards the agile methodology because of its ability to deliver value faster with flexibility. But, for it to work effectively, the entire organization must embrace the principles of agile. Enterprise agility affects the whole organization’s sustainability, responsiveness, predictability and transparency. For example, there’s little value in a team of software developers using agile tactically to meet demand more quickly if the wider business is still organized around a project focus rather than a product focus.
This is where many clients struggle. The idea of transforming the behavior of their people and culture of their business can be daunting, and is often seen as unrealistic or risky. Even for those businesses who do decide to adopt agile, a lack of understanding can lead to a poorly executed and failed initiative. Unless there is a clear strategy and commitment to change from the outset, unforeseen iterations or adaptations can result in a ‘band aid’ fix where the root of the problem remains. These organizations have the right intention, just a lack of understanding in how to generate sustainable long-term value. Simply following agile tactics is not enough; to gain full advantage you need to ‘act agile’ and be strategic about it.
Holistic thinking is paramount. It’s not just about building solutions faster. It’s a journey along a path of improvement that leads to success for your business. The effect on processes must also be considered, as must the measures needed to get the right result.
The far-reaching nature of this transformation is certainly challenging for any organization. But as the speed and unpredictability of change accelerates, it’s a key shift that businesses need to make to thrive in the digital world.
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