Most agree that agility is essential in today’s business environment, but the word means different things to different people.
According to Forrester analyst Craig Le Clair, business agility is the quality that allows an enterprise to embrace market and operational changes as a matter of routine. This is the attribute that enables companies to thrive amidst uncertainty. Unfortunately, most companies have apparently not accepted this broad view. When Forrester reviewed the elements of agility with its CIO and CMO clients, the firm found that while the issue of agile performance was critical, CIOs and CMOs did not agree on what it meant in practice.
To clear up some of the confusion, over the last several years, Le Clair has refined his 10 dimensions of agility and divided them into three major categories: market (channel integration, market responsiveness), organization (knowledge dissemination, digital psychology, and change management, and process (business intelligence, infrastructure elasticity, process architecture, and sourcing and supply chain). Let’s look at each dimension a bit more closely.
- Channel Integration: Information sharing and cross-channel experiences
- Market Responsiveness: Customer knowledge and rapid access to resources
- Knowledge Dissemination: Broader sharing, flatter organizations
- Digital Psychology: Trend awareness and digital skillsets
- Change Management: Embracing change and embedded change management
- Business Intelligence: Information management and distributed analytics
- Infrastructure Elasticity: Cloud awareness and embrace of cloud options
- Process Architecture: Process skills and core systems independence
- Software Innovation: Real-time experience and incremental development
- Sourcing and Supply Chain: Agile sourcing process and supply chain flexing skills
Le Clair points out that true business agility requires both awareness and execution. In each dimension, an agile company must be aware of a changing environment and then execute on decisions to respond. This approach facilitates more efficient product launches, new business models, revamped processes, and stronger performance. Organizations with strong awareness and weak execution become paralyzed, while poor awareness and quick execution might result in shortsightedness.
Because different types of change require different agility strengths, Le Clair recommends that every organization assess its responsiveness along each of the 10 dimensions. Using industry benchmarks, identify where you are below average in awareness, execution, or both. Consider the events and sources of disruption that your company may face in the coming months or years and determine which ones carry the greatest risk. Once you analyze the gaps between those risks and your ability to respond with agility, you will be able to create a road map for measurable improvement.