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A business pandemic the C-suite must solve

Two decades after the birth of agile methodology, and most companies are still failing to grasp it, says Paul Hardy of ServiceNow

It was 20 years ago that a group of software developers came up with the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, a movement promoting adaptation, action, and speed over careful planning and consideration.

For them it was simple: business agility defined business longevity.

But fast forward two decades, and how many companies risk collapse because they’re too slow and cumbersome to keep up with the demands of 2021?

Despite warnings from the Agile Alliance all those years ago, my prediction is: a lot.


And the tragic irony is that it’s not down to a lack of digital investment, it’s simply down to how the technology’s being used.

The agile dilemma 

Unconnected and siloed legacy systems, rigid processes, and slow development cadence are leaving teams disengaged and customers disappointed: key ingredients for accelerating a company’s demise at this present time.

But it's not like agility – and the need to be agile – is an unknown priority for the C-suite. We know that for a fact as a recent survey of senior business decision makers, conducted by IDC and commissioned by ServiceNow, found that 90 per cent of European CEOs consider agility critical to their company's success.

The problem is, very few are achieving it. Not only do I know that based on conversations I’m having every day, but when measured against five types of organisational agility, IDC found that one third of organisations sit in the lower “disconnected” tiers, while nearly half are judged to be in the “in motion” middle tier of the agility journey.

Considering the impact of Covid-19, and the change it has enforced within the workplace, that convinces me that a worrying number of businesses are in danger of disappearing over the next 12-18 months.

Question then: how do you solve this, and solve it urgently?

Three ways to make your business more agile

On April 28th, that's exactly what we're aiming to find out at the Future of Work UK & Ireland.

We’re bringing together experts, big thinkers, and case studies from across innovation, customer experience, employee experience, and digital transformation to explore how technology is shaping the future of work in this country: in essence, how you can achieve business agility.

We'll be discussing how to create a seamless end-to-end customer experience in the new world of work, and I'll be leading a conversation on the vital role of IT in driving business transformation.

Because for me, I firmly believe there are three things needed in order for a business to become agile:

1. Protecting and growing your org 

Protecting your company in the current climate is priority number one. The trick is to stay protected while remaining focused on growth. By putting the needs of people – both customers and employees – at the heart of your strategic thinking, you can achieve both. This principle has its roots in the original Agile Manifesto, and the results play out in real life.

The IDC agility survey found that more than half of businesses in the highest tier of agility readiness performed excellently in terms of customer experience, compared with fewer than a fifth of organisations overall.

These companies depend on flexible operating models to integrate customer feedback and align quickly to shifting preferences, increasing satisfaction and performing 20 per cent better than market average when it comes to customer loyalty.

2. Driving efficiency and productivity 

By digitising processes on a single workflow platform, organisations can automate manual, repetitive tasks to reduce costs and increase productivity. This clears the way for companies to move more quickly and frees employees to focus on higher-value work.

Greater efficiency, underpinned by agility, has a direct impact on the speed of delivering new products or services to market. IDC found, for instance, that time to market for agile companies is 16 per cent better than market average.

That, of course, has a huge impact on productivity and growth. I recently spoke with a large pharmaceutical company that saves $1 million for every day it reduced medication time to market. It's incredible, but far more valuable are the lives saved by this acceleration.

3. Prioritising and mitigating risk 

Finally, risk used to be about prioritising and mitigating operational risk. Today, Covid-19 has shifted the focus onto human risk, particularly the health and safety of employees.

Bringing in that human element is essential, and technology can facilitate an agile response to changing risk environments. Coca-Cola European Partners did this when it used ServiceNow to create a Covid-19 response portal in just three days, giving employees access to critical health and safety information.

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

There’s nothing stopping you from solving this tomorrow

20 years ago, what started as a snowball slowly gathered mass and speed, launching a genuine agile revolution.

And I believe the companies I work with today are living proof of how the agile methodology provides longevity to a business, no matter what social or geopolitical events are in the headlines.

For those without genuine agility, survival over the next couple of years will be down to luck and the goodwill of employees and their customers. The problem is, both have a tendency to run out at some point.

So, joining us at the Future of Work Ireland event on April 14th is a great starting point in hearing how others are adapting their digital transformation to ready themselves for whatever changes are coming next.

And I'd love to see you there: you can sign up now for your free space.

Considering what’s at stake, is there anything that’s stopping you?

Paul Hardy, evangelist, chief innovation office, ServiceNow

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