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Do you have the Ability for Digital Agility?

Everyone is talking about Agile Enterprises and how enterprises should be lean and respond quickly to market forces, consumer demands and competition.

So what is agile enterprise really, especially in the digital world and how can we all have the ability to become digitally agile?

I would like to take a step back and first define what Agility in the general sense means.

In Wikipedia, the definition of Agility is:

Agility is the ability to change the body's position efficiently, and requires the integration of isolated movement skills using a combination of balance, coordination, speed, reflexes, strength, endurance and stamina.

Let's translate what Agility can be in digital enterprises:

  • Balance: Enterprises need to balance between long term goals and short term wins and we should also balance those expectations with the enterprise stakeholders and of course digital consumers. Agile enterprises should leverage re-use of technologies where possible but also look at long term investments and how they can either build, re-use or even outsource.

  • Coordination: Enterprises need extraordinary coordination and collaboration across their virtual teams and with their digital consumers. Consistent channels for communication will ensure ease of coordination of product launches, feedback and of course engagement. Physical channels should also not be forgotten as key channel of interaction with digital consumers, either as a trigger or supplement for digital channels. (For more on interactions with digital consumers, check my previous blog)

  • Speed: Lean processes are great but they are not put in place for creating simple solutions in an efficient way; instead, lean and sprints are put in place as a simple process to come up with efficient solutions. You want speed in reaching out to your digital consumer and enable them to reach the highest level of digital literacy with your product, meaning your product proficiency as well as its best application that fits their professional or personal lives to increase their efficiency.

  • Reflexes: Digital enterprises need to be digitally lean and able to have quick reflexes to changing market and consumer conditions. The entire strategic flexibility of an enterprise and its organisational responsiveness is the key for its speed & agility, not what some is coining "Bimodal" operations (an organisational separation of an agile and flexible operation and another for a stable/fixed operation). Of course you need to "keep the lights" on before you can innovate and deliver however in both internal and external operations for any services, reflexes, flexibility and responsiveness must be adapted accordingly.

  • Strength, Endurance & Stamina: Agility is a characteristic that requires extra effort, commitment and change of mentality and way of working in order to be acquired. This cannot be a department, a team or management, it should be across the entire organisation.

As digital enterprises are built and ran by humans, agility in enterprises is similar to human agility. It cannot be done by a part of the organisation for the entire organisation similar to human body's agility cannot be assigned to one part of the body. The main advantage of a digital enterprise is that it can take advantage of both physical and virtual parts to the advantage of its operations and consumers.

In next 100 days, ensure to avoid any department with "agile" in its name or assigning "agile" as sole responsibility of one department. Then, identify one or two projects, activities and/or tasks as quick wins and apply cross-departmental flexibility and responsiveness to showcase the benefit of "agile" to the employees reflecting on the quick wins' strengths, reflexes, flexibility and speed.


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