Embrace business agility

Why there’s no (longer) such thing as “business as usual”

Key Takeaways:

  • The digital revolution has hurled our world into a new age where speed is king and change is the only constant.
  • Combined with systemic factors of instability, this is placing business operation and management in a state of constant flux.
  • In an increasingly volatile world, the best and only response is perhaps to embrace uncertainty by driving Business Agility.

We still hear a lot about “business as usual” — that situation when things are following their due course and continuing as they always do. While “business as usual” may still be used to describe an employee's workday, one could argue that there’s no longer such a thing for business leaders. The pace and magnitude of the disruption to our markets, economy and society are challenging any attempt to define normalcy and are changing the very foundation of business. Let’s focus on the dynamics of “business as unusual” and what they mean for executive decision-makers.

Welcome to the Digital World

It feels like stating the obvious, but no superlatives are strong enough to describe the intensity of the disruption brought about by the digital revolution.

Not only did the advent of digital, connected technologies cause a deep reshuffle in the global competitive landscape (with new pure-players challenging established vendors and service providers, with the abolition of geographical barriers, with the creation of brand-new value streams). The digital has also triggered new dynamics where change is the only constant. That’s a major turning point in history, influencing almost every aspect of the way we think about and run our businesses.

New technology developments keep shaking an increasingly fragile status quo (had you even heard of Blockchain five years ago? How long until 9G becomes the new standard for mobile connectivity? Will the term “mobile” even be used 10 years from now?). A sudden breakthrough may make the star product or process of a company obsolete overnight.

And consumers definitely don’t intend to make do with the obsolete. They want the newest, slickest products and the latest services. They want it right now — because they know they’ll probably have moved on to something even newer 6 months from now. They have grown to expect anywhere, anytime access to pretty much anything. As a matter of fact, consumers are more empowered than ever. They are increasingly aware of the power they wield over brands and businesses (that power is very real: think of the potential business impact of a Tweet or a Reddit thread these days).

That new breed of digitally-minded consumers is also in your workforce. Today, employees and potential recruits alike expect flexibility and an open career path. They’ve embraced the change and don’t want to be stuck with an employer who hasn’t.

Long story short, we now live in a world where products, technology, processes, markets, and consumer expectations are changing by the day. Where fortunes can wax and wane at astounding speed. Where a shiny new toy can become old news in a matter of months. How on earth do you expect to do “business as usual”?

The Unfinished Crisis

Even if you (try to) take digital technologies out of the equation, when was the last time the world felt steady and “normal”? First of all, let’s face the elephant in the room: the COVID-related crisis. In addition to the dramatic direct impact of the sudden halt in productive activities worldwide, the pandemic has both triggered and revealed lasting imbalances that may cause further disruption down the road.

The current behavior of stock markets defies traditional economic theories — common sense even — and makes it harder for businesses to establish reliable forecasts. The strain on the supply chains of some highly critical commodities has outlived the brunt of the crisis, leaving many to wonder whether and when some form of normalcy may be restored.

From the spectre of inflation to geopolitical tensions and to the environmental threats associated with global warming, a whole array of disruption forces are conspiring to create a climate of uncertainty for businesses worldwide.

Nothing is no longer certain. Then, how can business leaders chart and stay a course?

Agility at the Crux

In such a volatile business environment, Business Agility can be viewed as a prerequisite to organizational survival. Defined as “rapid, continuous, and systematic evolutionary adaptation and entrepreneurial innovation directed at gaining and maintaining competitive advantage”, Business Agility encompasses both the mindset and the organizational processes that’ll enable a company to respond to unexpected events rapidly and successfully.

Driving Business Agility requires the support of strong data analytics capabilities in order to detect weak signals early on and to identify new threats and opportunities as soon as they emerge — or even sooner. Agility also hinges upon the ability to foster a change-embracing attitude and a culture of speed and responsiveness across the business.

Business Agility is what will enable your firm to veer away from the legacy practices that no longer work in order to embrace newer, better ways of doing things. This is the key to keeping up with the pace of innovation and to tapping new value streams.

Not only should it help your business to weather the next episodes of change and disruption successfully, but it should also empower you to capture the world of exciting opportunities that lies ahead.

One thing is sure: there is no room for business as usual in this picture. Unless you consider that adapting to constant change and disruption has become your new BAU.

 

Valerie Zeller

Valerie is Sciforma Chief Marketing Officer. Main interests: digital transformation, change management, strategy execution. Send your thoughts @valeriezeller