Saturday, June 20, 2015

Business Agility: What does it mean for IT

Over the last few years, I have been thinking about "Business Agility" and its meaning. While working with clients, I have always felt the presence/absence of business agility but articulating it clearly was a challenge. 

While I was proposing my talks for the Discuss Agile Conference 2015, Delhi, I decided to take a stab at distilling and articulating my idea of business agility. Hence, I proposed a talk titled "Business Agility: What does it mean for IT". Over the next few weeks, I went through all the projects that I have been part of, trying to recognise patterns that can help define business agility. I also researched on a number of companies, young as well as established enterprises, to look for patterns that can define business agility.

I was also looking for a definition of business agility liked the following two definitions, out of a number of definitions that exist,  as these capture the essence  of business agility

Wikipedia: Business agility is the "ability of a [business system] to rapidly respond to change by adapting its initial stable configuration”

Forrester Research: “… the transition to a digital business that allows an enterprise to embrace market, organisational, and operational changes as a matter of routine.” 

Technology seems to be playing an important role in enabling business agility. We are in data and information age and technology drives the possibilities. Almost all the successful cases of business agility have technology at the core of it. 

I identified the following patterns of business agility. First, business agility is enabled by IT being a business driver rather than just a business enabler. This is true for startups  as well as established enterprises. Second, leveraging technology for innovation that enables business agility. A number of business have been able to redefine themselves or have been able to scale at a very rapid rate because of technology based innovation. Third, IT leading and redefining customer engagement. In the present day world, customer engagement is driven via multiple channels and most of theses channels are technology enabled/driven. Fourth, IT leading revenue generation.  CTO's organisation is no longer a cost centre but is expected to drive the top line. 

The above mentioned patterns are distilled into the following, which according to me is "IT Manifesto of Business Agility"

Business Driver over Business Enabler
Innovation Leader over Enabling Efficiency Gain
Leading Customer Engagement over Supporting Customer Engagement
Revenue Generation over Cost Saving

Traditionally, IT has been focused on the items on the right and that has enabled businesses to grow and gain efficiency. While these will continue to be important, I think it is IT's focus on the items on the left that will define the existence and relevance of any business in the coming future.