The True Meaning of Business Agility.

Victoria Normark, VP Engineering at Snow Software.

Agility has become one of the biggest buzzwords of the 21st century. While the attention on the topic has been useful to highlight the importance to businesses, the hype has also proven to be counter-intuitive. A common result is that everyone now has their own definition of what agility means in relation to business. Business leaders often use it in the wrong way, causing many true business agility advocates to shy away from the term. More recently the term 'business agility' has been coined in order to overcome this confusion. However, with any 'trend', businesses must begin by asking themselves 'why they need to be agile'.

Once a business has a clearly defined purpose, business leaders can only then set out on a path to achieving business agility and identify the components needed to make that journey a success.

So, what does 'business agility' actually mean?

Agility is the ability to move quickly and easily. To be able to do so, businesses must optimise themselves for learning. This should impact a variety of different functions within a company--from how the company thinks about innovation and product development, to technical architecture and product releases, all the way through to the company culture. In today's rapidly evolving marketplace, the pace of change will only get faster, and those who are constantly learning and adapting will be best placed to respond quickly and flexibly to evolving customer needs.

Common misconceptions.

Whilst many organisations claim to be agile--this is not always the case. A lack of clarity and misunderstanding around the term can cause businesses to face a number of stumbling blocks when pursuing true business agility. Common misconceptions include:

  1. "My business uses new technology--so it must be agile" Some organisations believe that they are agile simply because they use new technology to test and release code to production, i.e. continuous development pipelines. But if you stick to running projects as the company has always done and/or have a product management team that doesn't make decisions with an agile methodology in mind, an organisation can't be agile in its true sense.

  2. "To have business agility is the same as having agile methods and processes."

    When pursuing 'business agility', many businesses can confuse agility with agile methods and processes, losing sight of why the organisation needs to be agile--introducing agile frameworks and...

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