Business Agility: What Is It & Why Is It Important?

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Businesses love nothing more than stability. Yes, they do enjoy profits, but those come when markets are consistent, where managers can plan accurately for a future that is clearly laid out before them.

Of course, the world doesn’t work that way. Things change; markets are notoriously volatile. If the viability of your business depends on the marketplace, and they mostly all do, then you must know the risks inherent in trying to stay on a straight path across a moving landscape.

The businesses that survive and thrive have one thing in common: the ability to be nimble. Like the wise adage about the blade of grass that bends in the wind, a successful business knows when to bend, pivot and change to accommodate forces more powerful than itself. To do so requires business agility. It can be used to adjust to changes in the market, but also changes internally in the business itself.

how business agility can help your business survive market change

What Is Business Agility?

Business agility is just as it says, a way for businesses to remain agile when markets fluctuate, as they have a tendency to do. The market is unpredictable. It’s a good bet that anyone who says they can see the future is one to give a wide berth; they don’t know what they’re talking about.

There are trends and systems that can calculate and estimate the likelihood of what is to come, but the reality is there are too many variables to make any such equation infallible. Then there is the human element. Remember, the market is a man-made construct, and man is an infamously irrational creature. The mix of the two creates what is commonly called market volatility.

Therefore, the given in any strategic business plan is that things are going to change. The plan must be plastic to survive such disruptions. Just because you know they’re coming, though, doesn’t mean you know what they are or when they’ll occur.

Business agility then is an organizational method to help businesses adapt quickly to market changes. That means external changes, but also internal changes. If a business is set up to respond rapidly and with flexibility to customer demands, then they are more likely to live another day to serve and keep those customers.

If the business can adapt and lead change in a productive and cost-effective way that doesn’t compromise the quality of their product or service, then that business will weather most any storm. It not only helps a business when markets change, but it gives them a competitive advantage over other business that are slower to action.

Origins of Business Agility

The history of business agility as a concept begins with software development. It is part of the agile framework that was a means to address the problems of changing requirements and uncertain outcomes because of the complexity of the technological project. The complexity of systems also lent themselves to a fast-changing environment.

Some of the ideas that find themselves in business agility came from the study of complexity science and the notion of complex adaptive systems, where a perfect understanding of parts of the process doesn’t translate into a perfect understanding of the whole system’s behavior.

The outcomes of software teams in such complex adaptive systems is unpredictable but does eventually form a recognizable pattern. The agile framework was developed to take advantage of the ever-changing project environments.

Business Agility Framework

Taking the agile framework and applying it to business agility creates a tool that can serve business of all sizes and types. Be they for-profit, nonprofit, governmental or whatever—they can benefit. It will make businesses more responsive to customer and market needs. It is just what businesses need in the ever-increasingly dynamic, demanding and resource-scarce world.

Related: 10 Resource Allocation Tips for Managers

Change often feels like it comes from up high, like the lightning bolt of Zeus. Business agility demystifies business change and provides a simple and effective framework to respond to it. Business agility can help you maneuver market change, adapt products or services or map a successful route to successfully launch something new.

How to be Agile in Business

At the center of any business agility framework is innovation. People, not processes are what makes change happen. Therefore, you must engage the right people at the right time and in the right way. Give them clear, concise, customer-centric goals. And promote self-organized communications and collaboration among your team.

The first step once change has occurred is having the vision and the goals to drive the response. That includes establishing the business justification for the response and the leadership to drive it.

Next you want to establish a list of what the business needs to do, how will it do it and what is the appropriate organization and governance to structure and oversee that process.

All this is leading to your innovation hub, which are the people who execute the plan and are responsible for its success. They should work within an agile framework that is iterative, incremental and collaborative.

Foundations of Business Agility

As noted earlier, business agility can also give a business a competitive edge. Using this framework, a business can outlearn and outperform their competition. At the same time, it attracts passionate people who excel in the empowered environment of business agility.

Again, business agility provides companies with the ability to deliver fast and respond quickly. They can offer a great customer experience by organizing quickly and learning rapidly. This is founded on a lean execution that responds immediately to feedback without sacrificing quality.

Business agility creates innovation and is disruptive, so in a climate of corporate takeovers and declining returns on investments, businesses can produce higher returns and maintain consistency. This is done by understanding change, adapting quickly and optimizing the variables to drive success.

The business world is only getting more volatile, uncertain and complex. Business agility is a way to successfully get through some of that ambiguity. The ideas that a business can remain static and survive has never been true and it’s every more so today. Business agility gives one the tools to pivot and remain necessary to customers and changing market needs.

The more successful businesses apply this to their leadership roles as well. Managers that are best suited for business agility are ones who can set up collaborative spaces were teams are self-organizing and collaborative, so they can adapt more quickly to changes, while under the stewardship of their leaders.

When you’re working to adapt quickly to change, you must know when it occurs. That calls for tools that can give you the most current information possible, so your response is correct. ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based project management software with real-time data feeding its dashboard. When something happens, you see it first and can lead the change, instead of having the change lead you. See how it can help you with business agility by taking this free 30-day trial.

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