Cost, speed, resilience - the necessity for agile in a post-pandemic world
The COVID-19 crisis has increased the scale and scope of change more than anything we have seen before. According to a recent report by BCG, as of the end of April 2020, more than 75% of businesses were making moves to accelerate their digital transformation plans.
But with pressures on budgets, greater organisational complexity and a reduced appetite for risk, digital transformation projects will have to work hard to demonstrate immediate value. They need to be able to be deployed quickly and they need to be resilient enough to stand up to the many uncertainties that the future will certainly hold.
The need to reduce risk and deliver results fast
The opening paragraph of a recent article from BCG, entitled When the Ground Shifts, it Pays to Be Agile, summed it up well:
“The companies that emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis will be the ones that address three critical factors in the coming months: cost, speed, and resilience.”
It’s not surprising that many companies are currently feeling overwhelmed by the scope and complexity of revamping their entire digital approach. This isn’t simply a case of facilitating remote working. For many organisations everything has been thrown up in the air. Products, services and whole ways of working need to be adjusted, overhauled or even scrapped entirely in favour of new ones.
These change projects are big, and big projects are risky. Using a traditional linear waterfall approach makes it hard to measure results until it’s too late.
But as the title of the BCG article suggests, a waterfall model isn’t the only way to approach a digital transformation project. For businesses looking at post-pandemic digital transformation plans, agile methodology offers a way of keeping everyone happy, from the boardroom to the server room.
The benefits of agile for transformation
When dealing with the scale and scope of change that businesses now face, agile offers three important benefits:
- Cost - Where a waterfall approach requires an upfront investment commitment and little flexibility to ensure it is spent wisely, agile allows businesses to work in smaller iterations, directing budget away from failing experiments and focusing them on those delivering value.
- Speed - As a result of this incremental approach and the ability to abandon anything that isn’t delivering results, teams can focus on what matters, saving time along the way and allowing them to achieve their end goals more quickly.
- Resilience - Digital transformation at scale can take three to five years. During this time the context in which the business is operating will change. Agile allows not only the transformation process to be adjusted but the end goal too, ensuring that the final result is fit for purpose on completion and not just when plans were originally drawn up.
Beyond agile - a new, holistic way of looking at your digital world
So how do you go about accelerating your digital transformation in an agile way? And not only that, but in a way that enables you to scale, maintain accountability, increase visibility and do all of this at a rapid pace?
The theory is simple. You audit the status quo. You work out what to protect and what to change. You create experiments to test ideas, isolating key factors so you can narrow down what’s having the most impact. If your experiments work, you build a business case and improve on them. If they don’t, you cut your losses and move on.
But before you can get started with any of that, you need to know what your goals are. And that is where another shift in thinking is necessary. Because if a digital transformation is to be truly successful, it needs to be built on business-wide goals and not remain a purely IT-led endeavour.
But that’s a subject for a whole other blog post.