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The Business Imperative of Operational Agility

Written By: Matt Lieberson
December 11, 2020
4 min read

2020 has required a profound rethinking of business priorities. Organizations need to be ready to change on a dime, with the only constant of modern business being change. Finding the right priorities and focuses for your organization going forward is of critical importance to survive and thrive.

And ultimately, the organizations that embrace operational agility are the ones that are going to be able to succeed going forward.

What is operational agility?

Operational agility is the ability of a company to flex and adapt its operations, technology, and information to continuously evolving business requirements. These new conditions can come from market dynamics, competitive pressures, and overall business turbulence.

As businesses look to become more resilient – Harvard Business Review Analytic Services recently found a 33% increase in organizations prioritizing resiliency as an imperative – agility is a step up from resiliency. When organizations have operations that can flex and adapt to change, they can naturally maintain continual operations while still managing to keep their people, their customers, and their data safe. While resiliency is forging ahead in spite of difficult, unpredictable conditions, agility is succeeding and thriving in any conditions at all.

What are the benefits?

Clearly, the pace of change in business has accelerated in 2020, and most likely for good. Because of this, organizations across industries are going to need to be able to prepare for constant pivoting and reprioritizing. When an organization needs to make quick decisions, you can gain insight and visibility into relevant data and workflows to make those decisions from an informed perspective. Further, you can involve your subject matter experts and those closest to the work create and maintain the critical digital solutions needed to adapt on the fly.

Further, as organizations continue to spend more on technology, operational agility allows those organizations to leverage their existing technology investments. By uniting data from various platforms and systems and utilizing it in a way that is meaningful to teams on the ground, those teams will be empowered to create value from data in multiple point solutions in new and exciting ways. Further, data and information will no longer languish in disparate systems – uniting your technology means getting value from all the tech you use.

Lastly, giving more people the opportunity to impact transformation efforts will allow organizations to better flex and adapt to change. With challenges including putting in place the right governance model for innovation, giving those closest to the work the ability to impact change efforts will make sure that your business constantly has its most informed people making decisions on new directions and modifications needed.

How can organizations get there?

The key to operational agility comes through digital transformation of systems, processes, and workflows. To achieve these, organizations need to build the culture, technology infrastructure, and the practice of agility.

For many enterprises, the approach of large-scale transformation is too slow to bring about operational agility. Instead, a better tactic comes from a dual-track approach to digital transformation, including both large-scale transformation as well as rapid-cycle innovation.

Utilizing a dual-track approach, one that simultaneously addresses enterprise-wide transformation along with the processes across individual teams and workflows, enables teams outside of IT have the opportunity to modernize and improve their existing work and data flows for quick wins. Alongside grand-scale transformation, these wo approaches can bring true operational agility to the entire business.

Operational agility in practice

Enel Green Power North America provides a great example of what operational agility can look like in reality. Previously, the global renewable energy firm relied on legacy systems in their central enterprise system. By embracing a dual-track approach to digital transformation, they can keep their traditional transformation efforts to modernize their legacy systems while also enabling those closest to the work to make more nimble changes.

This has allowed them to add a layer of agility to their legacy ERP systems without bringing in external consultants. Now, with employees enabled to make changes, Randald Bartlett, Senior Director O&M Improvement saw an “explosion of ideas” from across the business. “Having the ability to improve your efficiency of various processes without having to hire a consultant and spend a lot of money and time I think is very valuable,” he added.

Becoming more nimble and agile is allowing Enel Green to track more data, empower their team, and remove strain on IT. In order for the modern business to be operationally agile and ready for anything, solving for these issues is critical going forward. 

Matt Lieberson
Written By: Matt Lieberson

Matt Lieberson is a Content Marketing Manager at Quickbase.

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