Becoming more agile: What’s stopping you?

The recent webinar on becoming an agile business, run by Carl Piva, VP Strategic Programs, TM Forum and myself, revealed some interesting findings about what is holding organizations back the most when it comes to becoming more agile.

The key finding from the research for the report which the webinar was based on was that companies need to fundamentally reverse-engineer their organizations. Just putting good customer service on the front of the business and embracing the digital world won’t work. A root-and-branch reform — going back to the product portfolio (avoiding the temptation to cover everything), streamlining all processes, taking advantage of the commoditization and virtualization of the ICT infrastructure, and exploiting analytics to build clear customer insight — will all go to underpinning the customer experience that the customers expect and companies have generally failed to deliver.

And, being a digital business, all of this needs to be done through the ‘omnichannel’ that we all now expect: online, bricks and mortar shops, contact centers, partners and channels — basically, the channel the customer prefers and not the one dictated by the business.

Neil Ward from Skype said, “There isn’t a minute in the day when Skype isn’t connected to its customers asking questions about products, product features, and policies.”

The reverberations in the boardroom are major: All present around the virtual digital boardroom table need to learn enough of their peers’ activities to be able to offer value to the company. The CIO moves from being the Most Wanted (pariah) to the Most Wanted (in-demand) as IT becomes the enabler that every aspect of the business needs to build on the digital future.

And, on the subject of agility, the actual IT development, such as hackathons, needs to include stakeholders from the digital board in order to accelerate product and systems development to a matter of weeks rather than the laborious 18-24 months of the past.

Peter Sany of Swiss Life said, “In the agile approach, the outcome is more important than the structured proceedings” And, “A mega project is now 3-6 months these days. A sprint is a month maximum” .

Everyone needs to be involved, including HR, finance, IT, marketing, and doubtless others, depending on your industry and your position in that industry. And, messaging from the top, the CEO, internal and external messaging needs to support this cultural and business shift. Ilke Kuroz CIO at Turkcel said that his CEO takes every opportunity, internal and external, to promote the new strategy.

What’s holding organizations back?

The audience were polled during the webinar to reveal which aspect of this transformation is seen as being the most difficult. The results in the pie chart show that streamlining processes and operations is perceived as being the most troublesome. This is not surprising as so many processes have been evolved and not refined over many years of corporate activity. In our research with senior executives for the how-to guide which this webinar was based on, the issue of cultural issues came up on many occasions. The digital world requires that a lot of existing practices need to be ‘adjusted’, if not removed, in order for the businesses to become agile and find its place in the emerging ecosystem.

As Phil Jordan, CIO at Telefonica said “We need to take the Technology out of IT and replace it with III – Information, Integration & Innovation.”

Poll Result


Going back and re-engineering and simplifying everything needs another step in order to build a platform for growing in the digital world. This is where we link the steps together into the agility cycle. So, linking up customer insight and customer experience, we create an agility cycle that allows continuous improvement of each of the steps. And — perhaps the most important thing — the digital board members responsible for each step are now educated about how their piece relates to the others and to the business. Hence the agility cycle.


The Agility Cycle


What do you think? Do these findings resonate with your own experience of agile transformation?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: