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Business agility

What is Business Agility?

Business agility refers to distinct qualities that allow organisations to respond rapidly to changes in the internal and external environment without losing momentum or vision. Adaptability, flexibility and balance are three qualities essential to long-term business agility.

Business agility is important for firms looking to survive long-term and who work in quick-paced industries. Innovation is often the key to maintaining long-term business agility. Companies that don’t innovate and rely on ‘proven’ methods of doing things often find themselves falling behind the competition because they can’t adapt quickly enough to shifts in the environment.

From an HR perspective, agility is about ensuring the human capital in the organisation have the skills and abilities to respond quickly to new developments  and the infrastructure and processes to mobilise this human capital into action as efficiently as possible.

Companies may display business agility at certain times, in which case the agility is a form of crisis response, or the company may have business agility built into its structure.

Agile organisations can differ from traditional bureaucratic organisations in many ways, such as in fluidity of role definitions and a lack of long-term competitive advantage – generally agile organisations will pursue a program of short-term competitive advantages, which are then neutralised, before moving onto the next

Four useful concepts when discussing business agility include interactions, co-evolution, self-organisation and the edge of chaos.

Interactions are interactions between individuals and groups with similar values, drive and long-term goals. In an organisation, these often take the form of meetings, discussions and brainstorming sessions and are key drivers of the innovation necessary to drive adaptability and therefore business agility.

Self-organising describes spontaneous and unguided exchanges conducted for the purposes of decision-making, often resulting in high levels of innovation. A high level of both individual and group maturity is necessary for self-organising to succeed.

Co-evolution is the continuous progression of products, services and processes whereby companies consistently learn and evolve to meet the changing needs of the environment.

All three of these concepts are important in relation to the edge of chaos, a region lying between randomness and lack of logic and normalised equilibrium. Organisations positioned in the middle of this region are able to mould and adapt to the changing environment through a combination of frequent interactions, self-organising and co-evolution.

The general opposite of agile organisations are bureaucratic organisations, in which decision-making takes longer because there are multiple channels of command to go through before a decision can be made.

A related term is high reliability organisation, which refers to organisations which avoid accidents in industries that are innately prone to risk e.g. air traffic control or fire fighting.

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Business agility is the ability of an organisation to sense changes internally or externally and respond accordingly in order to deliver value to its customers.

Business agility is not a specific methodology or even a general framework. It’s a description of how an organisation operates through embodying a specific type of growth mindset that is very similar to the agile mindset often described by members of the agile software development community. The nature of that mindset is described in the Values and Principles section.

When Applicable

Business agility is appropriate for any organisation that faces uncertainty and rapid change.

Values and Principles

Business agility values individuals and their interactions, collaboration, driving toward outcome and constant learning, similar to agile software development.The principles that serve the foundation of business agility include iterate to learn and reflect on feedback and adapt both product and process.


There is no prescribed set of practices that are appropriate in an organization practicing business agility. Rather, any practice that is appropriate for that organization’s context and helps an organization embrace change and deliver value to its customers is appropriate.


There is no prescribed set of roles that are appropriate in an organization practicing business agility. Rather, any role that is appropriate for that organization’s context and helps an organization embrace change and deliver value to its customers is appropriate.


There is no prescribed lifecycle for business agility. Any lifecycle that allows an organisation to iteratively and incrementally deliver value to it’s customers, sense the value those customers realise, and respond accordingly is appropriate.

What is business agility?

It’s making customers the central focus of your organisation

In an environment of constant, rapid change, it’s more important than ever that businesses remain laser-focused on giving customers what they want and need. To help ensure success, smart companies are using IT best practices to bring the customer into the core of everything they do.

This isn’t a new concept. Way back in 2015, in an editorial for Forbes, Forrester ResearchVice President Kyle McNabb wrote, “We call this the age of the customer. Innovative brands, from Delta to Southwest, T-Mobile to Verizon, Home Depot to Walgreens, and Caterpillar to Rolls Royce, are sharing with Forrester how they are disrupting the way they work to meet their empowered customers’ needs, to become customer-obsessed.”

Since then, things have only intensified, and agile has led the revolution. After all, the first principle of the  Agile manifesto is “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.” If the customer isn’t at the center of your business, you’re not agile, and you’re at a serious disadvantage which you should discuss with one of our agile coaches immediately.

It’s driving value faster, better and more efficiently

Business agility drives value faster by increasing customer satisfaction, visibility, responsiveness, productivity, quality, employee engagement, innovation and revenue.

Execution agility makes speed and performance your competitive advantage. Improving cycle times can significantly impact your bottom line as speed helps monetise incremental value and gets you to revenue sooner. But the voice of the customer must be heard early and often to ensure you’re building the right thing in the right way at the right time—with quality and predictability. Organisations must be able to leverage data and insights to become better, faster and more efficient.

It’s transforming how your business operates to achieve successful outcomes

Achieving business agility is a process of weaving resiliency and adaptability into the fabric of your enterprise. That starts by creating deep connections with your customers, stakeholders, market–and within your own organisation. Cultural change is key to business transformation, and connecting people fuels that change from within.

The highest level of business agility requires organising people around the creation of successful outcomes. This means connecting agility throughout your organisation by breaking down internal silos and forming value-focused teams.

Most organisations suffer from what I call Functional Silo Syndrome. This is when business functions within a company act as stand-alone entities, formulating their own strategies and work plans in parallel with other business functions, rather than cross-functionally. This leads to a less communicative and collaborative environment, as well as an inability to build cohesive teams, which in turn, results in weak, uncompetitive products.

Breaking down functional silos is imperative to minimizing dependencies, reducing waste, improving collaboration and allowing you to respond to opportunities and threats quickly and confidently.

At the end of the day, business agility is neither a fad nor a free-for-all. It’s an extremely disciplined approach to business that requires a new mindset for everyone in the organization—from dev teams to the C-suite. It can be challenging. But ultimately, it will help your business turn ideas into outcomes—regardless of industry, problems to solve or customers to please. If you’re interested in redefining your business as an agile enterprise, contact one of our agile coaches to see how we can help.

Business agility (BA) is a concept whereby organisations seek to approach their operations and resources in a flexible, responsive manner. 

Business agility allows organisations to adjust rapidly to changing market conditions, capitalise on emergent business opportunities, adopt new distribution channels or supply chains and reduce costs or increase revenue streams in the process.

Business agility draws on the theories pioneered in agile project management, in which project managers and their teams assess their priorities and progress frequently throughout the project lifecycle and make adjustments midstream in an iterative manner, rather than at the end of a project. A systemic approach to change management provides business owners with a framework for how to respond to change, taking the needs of the entire organisation into consideration.

A number of emerging technologies are useful in promoting business agility. Cloud computing allows scalability and adjustable per-user costs; mobile devices enable employees to work more easily away from traditional office environments; collaboration software encourages internal communication, brainstorming and problem solving among staff; and social media permits real-time interactions with customers, creating a constant feedback loop to drive business agility efforts.

Business agility should be second nature

As new technologies continue to disrupt business norms, bringing both turbulence and opportunity, the pressure is on companies to maintain their momentum. The ability to sense the sharp gusts of change, and then respond quicker than your competitor, can prove the difference between a good year end and a profit warning.

Increase the flow of value and pace of change

Speed to market has always mattered, but the fast-changing digital economy makes it harder to achieve and the stakes are rising. Building flexibility into your business strategy, enabling high performing teams and innovation through a single mindset are at the heart of business agility.

We are dedicated to help our clients to not only move faster, but also to increase the flow of value and pace of change. Our people will work closely with you to focus on continuous improvement and learning across your teams, demonstrating the benefits of strategic alignment and intentional culture.

When business agility becomes business as usual

We’ve helped some of the world’s leading brands and  business leaders to change how they think about running their organisation. Everything from your culture, to your strategy and structure needs to adapt to the rapidly-changing world around you. We believe your ability to change course as a response to internal as well as external factors is the essence of effective business agility.

Organisations that are able to adopt business agility patterns and avoid anti-patterns are then ready to adapt to technology changes. In fact, this becomes a straight forward and fluid process – instinctive rather than disruptive.

How to Become More Agile and Manage Data Costs

Read the Business Agility Case Study

Read the Business Agility Case Study #2

PROBLEM: Can You Control Data Costs – and Still Add New Indexes and Benchmarks Quickly?

Benchmarks and reference data are characteristically different from all other data types:

  • A lack of standardization creates a business challenge – every step in the process is more complex, from the onboarding of new indexes to the storing, management, and distribution of the data and its preparation for use.
  • This complexity increases costs – and it impairs how agile you are. Increased costs mean you may have to forego other opportunities.

As the volume of benchmark and reference data increases, so does the challenge of acquiring new sources to meet emerging business needs. Specific challenges include:

  • Responding quickly to support new mandates and changing business requirements
  • Time to market – sourcing new benchmarks and making them ready for use as part of a reliable, quality service
  • Meeting specific data and timing requirements of different functions, such as asset managers and portfolio performance

Time lags in sourcing, acquiring and distributing new benchmarks and reference data can impair business agility and lead to missed opportunities. But investment managers must be confident that they can respond to market demands quickly and cost-effectively.

SOLUTION: RIMES Helps You Win New Mandates, Retain Business, and Improve Agility

The RIMES Managed Data Service helps you:

  • Identify the right benchmarks and reference data necessary to fulfill mandates quickly and cost-effectively
  • Work with one source to coordinate access to nearly 1,000 data sources (and on the rare occasions that we don’t have a specific index, we can source it just for you)
  • Meet new business demands in a systematic, controlled manner
  • Stop spending time reformatting data – so you and your staff can concentrate on your primary business roles

RIMES takes over your entire data processing workflow from sourcing to fit-for-purpose feed. No more validating, reformatting, customizing (and all the hidden reformatting in various departments that you don’t see). We simplify the challenge of accessing a large universe of complex data, helping you become more streamlined and agile.

Some (final) thoughts shape-1

You cannot afford in our digitalisation world not to be agile and just doing agile.


This article is part of a bigger topic called Agile Software Development

Agile Software Development

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