What is Enterprise Agility?
Enterprise agility is the ability of your organization to react. The environment has a steady stream of unexpected opportunities and threats. An agile enterprise can react within the time-frame of the opportunity or threat. Enterprise agility has nothing to do with software development. If you enable enterprise agility effectively, transformation efforts can do wonders for reducing operating costs, employee engagement, and customer satisfaction.
Today’s business environment is subject to constant change, with product lifecycles getting shorter and shorts, even as demand increases.
Volatility has become the norm. It has led enterprises to put their thinking caps on and come up with a solution to gain sustainable profits and a competitive advantage within their respective markets. The answer to that problem is enterprise agility. Being able to react to a threat or an opportunity is critical during this period of digital transformation.
Here at Conexiam, we draw our use of enterprise agility from the OODA Loop concept. Observe-Orient-Decide-Act. We use this model conceived of to describe piloting and sports is a perfect model for reacting to the unexpected. We had adapted OODA for business. When we are designing enterprises, we always reach for existing models that help you think.
Below is a rundown of the enterprise agility model, with five dimensions to determine whether your enterprise is “agile,” or whether your organization needs to do some course-correction so you can maintain agility in a rapidly shifting business culture.
Enterprise Agility Model
1. Alertness – Can you detect opportunities and threats?
Alertness is widely considered a fundamental component of agility, regardless of whether we’re talking about business, sports, nature, military campaigns, etc. Take alertness in the natural world, for example. Mountain goats have an incredible ability to navigate almost vertical surfaces by precise, exact footing. Their high-degree of alertness allows them to assess their center of balance, as well as scan around them for a good place to step.
The same method applies to the business world, a high degree of alertness means you’re keenly aware of your surroundings, and as a result you’re more prepared for change than you would be with your head in the sand.
Keep a close eye on market trends, listen to your customer’s feedback (ask for reviews and surveys), look for potential disruptions, and communicate with your suppliers. Seeing news of China shutting down Wuhan in February 2019 led a high-agility enterprise to start their response to Covid in February 2019.
2. Accessibility – Can you access relevant information in time to respond?
You won’t be able to respond in a timely manner if you can’t fully process pertinent information quickly and easily. Alertness simply isn’t enough. You can scan for every potential opportunity, pitfall, and disruption, but if you can’t access or digest the information in near real-time, it won’t do you much good.
Once an organization uses the first dimension, Alertness, to detect changes in the surrounding environment, they need to access that data so a decision can me made on how to respond appropriately. This is easier said than done, as now, more than ever, data is coming from multiple different sources.
Most companies still don’t possess the ability to access data in real time, and a good portion of organizations still rely on the IT departments to generate reports, which of course takes time and effort to produce. What if a few members of a dev team are out on vacation? Can your organization afford to wait until the following week? Ten years ago that might have been fine, but not in a post-pandemic business world.
The most agile companies now invest a substantial amount of their resources to optimize data accessibility, connecting data with cloud-based platforms that allow them to access real-time data sets such as inventory, shipments, customer profiles, documents, payments, and other types of data sets relevant to businesses throughout different industries.
3. Decisiveness – Can you decide using the available information?
To go along with the military science from which OODA originated, the decisiveness dimension is one of the most critical components in agility. Let’s talk about military strategy for a moment. You’ve maintained alertness and identified a potential threat, and you’ve processed the danger potential of that threat. Now it’s time to act, right? If you don’t act with decisiveness, you’re leaving an opening for that threat to gain headway or to make a move.
The same concept applies to business. In this day and age, it’s simply not enough to monitor and identify disruptors or opportunities in a speedy fashion. You’ve got to act quickly within your respective business environment in order to maintain the competitive edge.
As an organization grows in size and their systems and processes get more and more complex, there inevitably will be more gatekeepers in the decision-making process, which can lead to tremendous slowdown.
Don’t bog down your enterprise’s decision-making process with excessive committees and gatekeepers. Maintaining agility means having a streamlined process so you can respond quickly, and with resolution.
4. Swiftness – Can you implement your decisions in the time available?
The speed at which a business acts on decisions makes or breaks many organizations out there. In the sporting world, just a split-second delay can mean a fumble or a strikeout. This is especially true when businesses are getting faster at everything, from implementing new UIs that are more user-friendly, to delivering products and services to customers, digital processes on a company website.
Now that everything is being digitized, it both makes it easy to adapt, and increases the completeness in most markets. The slowpoke goes home, so to speak.
Make sure you’ve ways to implement your decisions in near real-time, which will keep you ahead of your competitors as well as ensure you’re staying on top of your customers’ needs.
5. Flexibility – What are you doing to reduce the barriers to action?
The final dimension in this model, flexibility going to be what ultimately keeps the ball rolling forward. You need to ensure you’ve got the capability to adapt to certain situations, whether it be onboarding a team on short notice to facilitate rapid growth.
You should ask yourself whether you’re doing everything you can to reduce the barriers for you to adapt. Also, one strategy might not work as effectively as anticipated, and so you need to ensure you’re not pigeonholing your strategies into one solitary solution.
When in doubt, design your enterprise architecture to work for multiple circumstances. Create the conditions so when you need your enterprise agility you do not start from ground zero.
The Digital Transformation Requires Enterprise Agility
Over 40% of the workforce is now conducting the day-to-day at home. That means people are working, shopping, and conducting business in a digital environment like never before. It also means many companies have realized the importance of online marketing, and so the competition is fierce.
15-years ago, businesses could afford to have a low-level of agility because everyone else wasn’t as efficient, and were largely grounded by brick-and-mortar bases of operations. That’s no longer the case, and with much of a business’s identity now residing within the digital space, adapting and evolving is lightning fast – if you incorporate enterprise agility.
Enterprise Agility is a Requirement of Good Enterprise Architecture
Enterprise agility is a key factor in putting good enterprise architecture in place. You simply can’t have a good organizational structure without having enterprise agility. At every step of the way, the organizational processes need to take into the company’s needs to be agile in a fluid market.
When developing the enterprise architecture with this is in mind, you not only improve your agility, but the other components of the organization benefit from this as well.
That’s why here at Conexiam, we’re a boutique shop with experience in multiple industry verticals across the US, Canada, Africa and the Middle East. Conexiam has established a sound practice of developing architecture predictably, with enterprise agility being a fundamental in developing a good enterprise architecture.
Understanding the purpose of the architecture engagement, and what information they require, allows Conexiam to tailor the architecture deliverables. Conexiam has developed a Predictable EA approach using fixed periods of time with known deliverables and work product.
Do it Yourself Path to Becoming a Better Enterprise Architect
Control the Seven Levers of Digital Transformation
Alertness to Swiftness - spot the threat. Respond and earn an opportunity!
Speed the development of an agile enterprise architecture
Examples of Enterprise Agility
See our case studies of enterprise architects leading change and creating enterprise agility. Best practice enterprise architecture is about real improvements in your organization. Enterprise Agility is a foundation of all good architecture.