GUIDE: THE BUSINESS BENEFITS OF GOING AGILE
From bottom line to employee engagement, your company can benefit from agile transformation. We reveal the whats, whys and hows in this guide to going agile.
Agile. It’s unlikely that you’ve made it all the way to 2022 without hearing the term. But that doesn’t mean you understand it. Or know how to implement it at your company. Read on to discover what agile is and how it could be the next big thing for your business.
Agile is a cornerstone in successful digital transformation, but it’s also a catalyst for sound business development. A recent study by McKinsey & Co. underlines that working agile can improve your financial and operational performance and elevate customer satisfaction and employee engagement. What’s not to like about that?
Agile is not something you achieve overnight. A change in culture and leadership management is often necessary to fully benefit from the transformation. But it will revolutionise the way your organisation works and – if done right – add value and profit to your business.
WHAT’S THE FUSS ABOUT?
Agile is a mindset. It’s a set of values that suggests a specific approach to how people and teams work efficiently to fuel business performance and create value. All this is clearly explained in The Agile Manifesto – the code of conduct on working agile. But what does it actually mean to work within an agile mindset and organisation?
Working agile means working as a cross-functional, flexible team towards solving problems rather than building solutions. A key fragment of the agile method is your teams’ abilities to respond to changes and create value within an everchanging world.
Being an agile organisation means quickly redirecting your teams and prioritising more value-creating opportunities. Agile is all about creating a frictionless work environment. And that’s why team dynamics win over team management.
AGILE AS INSIDE OUT AND OUTSIDE IN
Agile is made up of layers – five to be exact. Think: onion. Each layer represents a step on the agile journey. What does that mean? Let’s take a tour through each of the layers, outside in.
The outer layers represent the state of doing agile: the frameworks, iterations and technical systems. These layers are highly visible and often seen as relatively easy to implement.
However, you can’t just invest in new processes and tools and think you’ve completed your agile transformation. You must remember the inner layers that represent the state of being agile. They are the things we can’t see, like culture, leadership and values.
Success in agile often requires shaking up your organisational set-up and culture. Think less top-down command and control management and more empowered teams with a focus on engagement and alignment. The trickiest part tends to be integrating the mindset of agile throughout the entire organisation, including your partners and customers.
Keep in mind that the layers don’t operate in isolation. To become agile, you must work on and view things from the inside out – but also the outside in. It’s essential to embrace both being and doing agile to benefit from all its possibilities.
“IN AGILE WE’RE ONE”
As you deepen your understanding of agile, you should know one more thing. In agile, your team is everything. You can’t solve problems by developing out-of-the-ordinary solutions if your team is floundering, disconnected or at loggerheads with one another.
There’s no ‘us’ and ‘them’ in agile teams – we’re in it together no matter which company or agency we each represent. We share our successes and mistakes as one team.
Whether you run your agile process as an in-house initiative or join forces with an external agency, the team you build is – and will always be – colleagues. This mindset ensures that every person will play an essential role in the process. Everyone must feel like part of the solution, which is why agile organisations lean towards being less hierarchical and more co-management.
Still not convinced of the benefits of going agile? That’s okay! We think these insights from McKinsey, coupled with first-hand experiences from our in-house experts might just change your mind.
MAKE YOUR CUSTOMERS LOVE YOU
Working agile can increase customer satisfaction by up to 30%. Yes, your vision is fine. 30%. Satisfied customers are loyal customers. Another study by McKinsey & Co. shows that more than half (58%) of customers choose another brand when repurchasing. Those are pretty bad odds! By working agile, you can drastically increase your chances of being on the right half.
Working agile means putting the customer at the centre of attention. Everything we do, we do with the clients and for the customer.
But there’s more to agile than just cementing brand loyalty. Another core value is flexibility; the ability for a business to rapidly respond to change and pivot when reality calls.
How do you respond to change most efficiently? By planning iterations in short, sharp bursts of 1-4 week durations. This method ensures that the idea and feedback flow to your solutions is verified by your biggest cheerleaders and critics – your clients and customers.
It’s all about responding to the change you see rather than following the plan you’ve made in the beginning of the process. Reality changes, and so do customers’ pains and clients’ needs.
Direct communication and transparency are the best ways to confirm that your customers’ pain points are effectively solved by your solution. If the end-users can’t see the value of your product, your solution has zero value, problem-solving or otherwise. That’s why customer-validated learnings are worth more than their weight in gold, and why workflow flexibility is the best way to gain those learnings.
By keeping your vision front of mind and incorporating regular, direct feedback from your target audiences into your workflows, you’ll ensure your customers remember you when they’re on the hunt for their next purchase.
CREATE MISSIONARIES, NOT MERCENARIES
Next on the long list of agile benefits is employee engagement. Did you know that agile can increase employee engagement by 20-30%?
Empowerment is an underestimated flex when talking work environment and purposeful jobs.
To understand the importance of employee empowerment as a concept, let’s bring in an unforgettable quote from one of the greats:
Culture eats strategy for breakfast.
What Drucker is really saying is that you can come up with the most perfect plan to solve your customers’ problems, but that it isn’t worth the paper it’s written on if your employees aren’t engaged. Your employees need to know – and feel – that they matter if they are to be deepened on to successfully execute your vision. Remember; no organisation is worth a thing without its employees. That’s where agile comes into play. Let’s give the stage to Anders, our in-house software connoisseur, to explain why:
Working agile gives ownership and purpose to employees in projects. It adds perspective and richer jobs because employees know what their effort changes and where it fits into the bigger picture. You know that you matter to the team and to the organisation.
A strong sense of autonomy and purpose is what drives us. And that is exactly what working agile enables. A non-hierarchical environment that banishes micromanagement, where every member of the team actively owns and contributes to a solution they have a personal stake in. And that’s what empowerment is all about – growing missionaries that are truly committed to creating and executing extraordinary solutions.
DELIVER FASTER, GIVE MORE SLACK
30–50%. That’s the uplift in operational performance you could experience by going agile. We’ll repeat that one more time for the guys at the back: agile can give you a 50% improvement bump.
Okay, that sounds great. But what does that translate to in the real world? Remember the talk about the iterations on 1-4 weeks durations? Well, that’s how fast it could go when developing deliverables if you’ve adapted to agile.
Next, what does operational performance mean? It’s the level at which units work to achieve company goals. Think; time to market, predictability and issue-resolution speed – as to how fast you can kill your customers’ pains. Agile optimises these factors. Again, let’s hand it back to Anders for a deeper explanation.
What’s important is our ability to make decisions and our capability to change them back if they don’t work. To create value comes down to the right timing of a decision.
This means waiting until the last responsible moment with deciding shouldn’t be considered a bad thing – it’s actually desirable. Why? Because by then, the problem might have fixed itself or changed its nature. Why waste time and resources on resolving a maybe-problem. If you don’t have to make the decision now, then wait. In this context, agile increase efficiency too. It provides a best practice framework for how employees and teams can make the right decision at exactly the right moment.
A big part of working agile is challenging your preconceptions. Faster isn’t always most efficient. Qualified focus (fix it now) wins over cutting corners (fix it later) and starting together beats ‘getting ahead’ of work. And the most important rule? More slack and autonomy, every time.
To implement agile equals faster deliverables and up to 40% faster time–to–market. Working agile, a truly cross-functional team with the skills needed to jump from idea to deliverable enjoys more efficiency, shorter waiting times and fewer handovers. The conclusion is that more autonomy – and what on the surface might look like slow processes or iterations – will end up saving you time.
TRANSFORM, NOT ADOPT
REMEMBER THE LAYERS?
Together, more customer satisfaction, higher employee engagement and improved operational performance will have a positive impact on your bottom line. The question is, how much? The answer to that question depends on your level of agility.
Typically, it can be boiled down to your ability to create continuous improvement. This is a method used for identify opportunities for waste reduction and increased flexibility. Continuous improvement ensures that your teams and organisation get better.
But don’t unfasten your seatbelt just yet – things are about to get tricky.
Newsflash: Your organisation won’t improve if you settle for just doing agile. You must become agile, and the way to accomplish that is to kick things off with an agile transformation. If, though, the transformation fails, it will light up in red on the bottom line when you’re evaluating your efforts.
To shift from the adoption of agile – the way of doing things – to the agile mindset is the actual task. But what’s more important is to focus both on the agile practices and tools, and on the mindset – the culture and values.
Time for a quick metaphor. The tale of agile is a double-edged sword. At one edge, we’ve got agile adoption. The means tools and practices that make you do agile. On the other edge of the blade is agile transformation. The mindset of culture, work ethics and leadership that makes organisations become agile.
Keep in mind that a blunt sword is useless. Just like agile is useless if you fail to focus on either the doing or the being part. In agile, neither can exist without the other – it’s all very yin and yang. Both sides must be present and sharpened simultaneously to succeed. The layers matter, and so does the way you approach them.
IT’S NOT A CHOICE BETWEEN FLEXIBILITY OR STABILITY
Choosing agile doesn’t mean hitting deselect on a stable and scalable company structure. On the contrary, to be truly agile, a strong foundation of shared values, purpose and operating procedures is necessary. Agile is about flexibility and stability, procedures and mindsets.
Now, there’s just one last question to ask: Are you ready to go agile, the right way? At IMPACT we’ve got real-life experience helping customers harvest agile’s benefits, from increased employee engagement and customer satisfaction to faster deliverables and bottom-line growth for their digital commerce solutions.