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Business Agility Introduction

Organizations today have to be on their toes to adapt to new technologies and customer behavior to stay relevant in the market. In other words, you have to be agile, flexible, and embrace the super fast changes in technology, customer needs, internal processes, and operations.

In this article, we will explore the fundamentals of business agility and how business agility helps businesses to positively respond to market changes.

What is business agility?

Business agility refers to how quickly an organization is able to:

  • Adapt to uncertain situations.
  • Turn challenges into opportunities.
  • Find solutions to changing market requirements.
  • Analyze and respond to internal or external opportunities and threats in the early phases of the project.
  • Quickly deliver products and services of high value and quality.

More often than not, businesses have to work in an unpredictable environment. A user's behavior may change multiple times, a carefully crafted product/service might go obsolete because of a better one, or there may be no takers for a business idea. An agile organization quickly pivots to recover from unpredictable situations and focuses on generating value for customers.

Examples of business agility

Some common examples of business agility methodologies are Scrum, DevOps, Business Intelligence (BI), and Kanban.

  • Scrum: Scrum is a widely used agile development methodology that helps teams to collaborate and work in an iterative environment. Scrum ensures continuous progress and transparent communication between teams and customers. This method became popular because of its customer-centric approach.
  • Kanban: Kanban is a project management tool initially coined for manufacturing. However, it’s now widely used for other domains like construction, time management, and software development. It lets team members visualize tasks and workflows through a board.
  • DevOps: DevOps takes business agility to the next level by also including the operations and automation in its framework. DevOps focuses on continuous delivery, automation, and maintenance of software. DevOps is gaining popularity because of its focus on Continuous Integration and delivery pipelines, leading to lower costs and time to production.
  • BI: Using BI helps businesses track down issues in real-time and set up processes to solve the issues ahead of time.

Business agility framework

The aim of the business agility framework is to help organizations learn, innovate, evolve, and thrive. It gives direction to businesses, especially during complex, uncertain situations and is built on three main keywords: leadership, lean thinking, and re-evaluation.

  • Leadership: Effective team collaboration and out-of-the-box thinking are first steps to achieve agility. By challenging their own thinking and actions, a good leader pushes the team forward to innovate and do more.
  • Lean thinking: By defining the principles and guidelines for faster development, an entire organization can enable a lean business model—i.e., a model that improves processes to reduce waste (of time and resources) and maximize value for customers.
  • Re-evaluation: Sustaining in the long run needs continuous performance improvements and implementation of feedback. Iterative processes enable faster and continuous growth for the organization.

These three keywords are applicable for both internal and external environments and help organizations achieve more success in less time.

Business agility framework Business agility framework helps businesses to innovate and maximize value for customers through agile practices.

Why is agility important in business?

By definition, business agility helps businesses to survive and thrive in today’s competitive world. To make your business successful, both internal and external processes have to be aligned and adjustable.

  • When a new situation arises, the agile businesses turn out to be flexible and adapt to the change quickly, causing minimal disruptions to the overall structure and operations.
  • Organizations, particularly managers, see challenges as opportunities and are ready to fail early on—to avoid failures in the last stages.
  • A company that encourages productive conflicts and effective collaboration between teams—one of the key agile principles—performs far better in terms of innovation and implementation of new ideas.
  • Business agility allows individuals and teams to shine and outperform themselves, thus enabling a growth mindset.

For example, MongoDB enabled extreme agility for Gap, a popular fashion brand, by enhancing developer productivity and providing a steady database to store different shapes of data.

A simple business agility use case

Suppose a bus company wants to add a new functionality to its app where users can immediately book alternate routes, if a bus gets canceled due to any reason. This change needs agile processes—like Scrum, where the development team can quickly implement, test, and put the changes into production—in contrast to the waterfall model, where the team has to wait for a new cycle to begin. The agile approach is more customer-centric, but also needs flexible platforms like MongoDB, that allow for quick changes without any significant downtime to the existing app.

Adopting agile culture

Agile culture is a part of business agility. Adopting agile practices means conforming to agile values and principles and developing the agile mindset. The transformation to an agile mindset is not easy and requires effort at each level—individual, teams, and organization. Implementing an agile culture also needs continuous governance of its effectiveness.

Business agility domains

An organization is successful as long as they are able to provide value to their customers. The value stream starts from an individual effort, to team effort, and then the whole organization.

You can look at business agility from three dimensions: individual, leadership (team), and operations (organization)—each having customer value as their primary goal.

  • Individual: Each member should have a growth mindset and the ability to solve problems. They must have a sense of ownership and accountability for the work they do.
  • Leadership: Leaders should be good at people management, keeping the team together, and demonstrate strategic agility (respond quickly to market changes) through a clear vision.
  • Operations: They should create an agile organization through process agility (discrete tasks taken up by teams), structural agility (relationships between individuals and teams), and enterprise agility (relationships between departments and organizations).

Business agility domainsBusiness agility follows customer-centric approach at individual, team and organizational level.

Agile values and principles

Agile values and principles help organizations develop an agile culture.

The four core agile values are:

From To
Processes and toolsIndividuals and interactions
Comprehensive documentationWorking software
Following a planQuickly responding to change
Contract negotiationsCustomer collaborations


The core agile principles are based on the agile values:

  • Customer-centric approach
  • Embrace change in requirements at any stage
  • Continuous delivery
  • Effective collaboration between various teams
  • Trust and motivate your team
  • Encourage face-to-face interactions
  • Focus on working software
  • Deliver with consistent speed
  • Clean design and architecture
  • Discipline and self-organization
  • Reflect and remodel
  • Simplicity and lean thinking

Agile governance

Once the organization adopts an agile framework, they should also oversee, monitor, and guide their agile projects. This is called agile governance. Agile governance includes being supportive, trusting team members, and giving ownership to them, so that they have a sense of responsibility and control. The principles of agile governance include:

  • Transparency: Ensure project transparency across the organization.
  • Alignment: The project should align with the organization's business goals.
  • Performance metrics: Teams should decide the metrics they would track.
  • Expectations: Set clear expectations on project deadlines and resources.

Business agility challenges and solutions

To be an agile organization, businesses have to adapt to changes quickly and adhere to agile values and principles. However, this is easier said than done. Organizations face a lot of challenges, particularly because human brains are hardwired to do things in a certain way—even if we have the best intentions to change, it’s not easy.

Challenge #1: Language barriers

A common problem is to get everyone on the same page. Strategies, goals, and core concepts are often understood by different people in different ways, leading to confusion.

Solution:

Having a shared language to communicate the objectives, conducting regular scrum meetings to make sure everyone understands common goals and objectives.

Challenge #2: Identifying customer value

Organizations fail to capture business opportunities and data available from multiple sources, leading to silos, wastage of money and resources, and lower productivity.

Solution:

Clearly defining the value—what the customers want—and discarding everything else—what the customers don’t need from a product or service.

Challenge #3: Capacity overload

If teams are fully loaded, there will never be any room for a small change or extra room.

Solution:

Remove the obstacles and blockers, balance the intake through agile tools like Kanban, and use modern tools to cut down time and cost.

Read more on business agility challenges and how MongoDB can help companies improve business agility.

Conclusion

MongoDB helps organizations achieve business agility through their in-house innovation accelerator and innovation solution kits. This ensures developers don’t have to worry about infrastructure management, and can focus on building apps quickly and scaling them easily. MongoDB Atlas is a good example of a data platform that aims at increasing developer productivity to provide you with a competitive advantage. With the Atlas application data platform, your developer team can focus on apps, and not ops.

FAQs

How effective is agility to a business?

Agile organizations are able to swiftly respond to unforeseen situations and threats. They are able to turn problems into opportunities. Agile organizations focus on building customer-centric working software and bring it to market faster, while maintaining the quality. Learn more on why business agility is important.

What is a business agility strategy?

A business agility strategy is the capability of an organization to analyze market changes in real time, adopt newer strategies, and make informed decisions to grow their business.

What is the best example of agility?

One of the best examples of agility is the use of big data and analytics by many organizations to make strategic decisions. For example, giving customized discounts to specific users, dynamic pricing.

How do you demonstrate agility in the workplace?

Agility in the workplace ensures employee retention. Employees should feel safe to express their views and concerns. They should be given complete ownership for the tasks given. Leaders should ensure effective collaboration and transparent communication between teams.

What is an agile employee?

An agile employee is self-organized, and has a growth mindset for self and the organization. An agile employee has all the qualities of a leader, is proactive, and handles criticism and feedback in a positive manner. They value other’s contributions and work for the benefit of the whole team.

How do you improve team agility?

To improve team agility, it’s important to:

  • Create a collaborative learning culture.
  • Clearly define roles and responsibilities.
  • Empower members to make decisions and take ownership.
  • Encourage members to learn from failures and help others.
  • Frequently shift team’s priorities based on customer requirements and organization goals.
  • Ensure support for the team at all times.