Agility, the power of moving quickly and easily, is an absolute imperative for the 21st century enterprise as markets have become incredibly dynamic. Oil costs can drop impulsively, impacting everything from airline profitability to the value of the ruble. Companies like Uber and Airbnb became dominant players in their respective fields almost overnight, and thanks to the internet of EVERYthing, insurance companies can suddenly offer discounts to customers who drive less or exercise more.
At the same time, customers have decreasing tolerance for companies that aren’t immediately responsive to their needs. People live busy, complex lives. This makes them value convenience and time savings. So if Amazon can accurately predict buyer preferences and OfficeMax can offer immediate local in-store pickup for online orders, people wonder why other companies they do business with can’t—or won’t.
Agile Enterprises Require Agile People
Enterprise agility is, first-and-foremost, about people. Yes, technology facilitates agility. Real-time analytics, for example, can reveal customers’ immediate needs and wants. A good mobile app can definitely make life easier for a customer who has a problem that needs fixing right now. However, most customer touch-points remain human.
Brick-and-mortar retail sales continue to outperform online channels, and SVPs of IT still pick up the phone to call their cloud service providers when they have a problem. So if your company is going to deliver a competitively superior customer experience, it’s going to do it with talented people who can respond quickly and intelligently to challenging situations.
Agility depends on more than just immediacy at the customer touch-point. It also requires smart, timely, strategic and tactical back-end decisions about products, policies, and processes. Those decisions are mostly made by people—often in a highly collaborative way. The better you enable that kind of rapid, collaborative decision-making, the better shot you have at being an effectively agile enterprise.
Agile People Require Agile Workplaces
While agility is primarily about people, both front-line/touch-point staff and back-end/decision-makers are extremely dependent on technology resources; whether they’re looking for a spec sheet in SharePoint or taking a fresh view of some big data in Hadoop. The resources available to them at any given place and time form a digital workplace that either securely enables them to do what they need to do or counter-productively limits their capabilities.
The logic of this blog title is therefore simple. If you can adaptively provide people with the best possible workplace given their current needs and currently available resources, your company has a shot at competing in today’s hyper-dynamic, hyper-connected markets. If you lack workplace agility, your odds of success in this environment are severely diminished.
That’s why the agile digital workplace is much more than just a nice-to-have. It’s a fundamental requirement for survival and success. The question facing business leaders thus should not be “is an agile workplace important?” But should be “how can we make our workplace as agile as it needs to be?”