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By Paul Hardy
Twenty years ago, a group of 17 software developers changed the world. In February 2001, what came to be known as the Agile Alliance developed the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. Written over a long weekend at Snowbird, a ski resort in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, the Manifesto advocated a new approach to software—one that emphasized adaptation, action, and speed over careful planning and consideration.
What started as a snowball slowly gathered mass and speed, launching a genuine agile revolution.
Today, that revolution has finally reached the executive suite. Agility is officially a C-level concern.
In fact, a recent survey of senior business leaders, conducted by IDC and commissioned by ServiceNow, found that 90% of European CEOs consider agility critical to their company’s success. That’s no surprise after a year in which the ability to react quickly and effectively to new business challenges took center stage.
CEOs are increasingly aware of the success agile companies enjoy. In my experience, these organizations are well-positioned to create great customer and employee experiences, drive productivity, and attract and retain the best talent.
However, rather than talking about agility as a standalone C-suite priority, I see it as a foundational enabler of these three key organizational priorities.
1) Protecting and grow your organization
Protecting your company in the current climate is priority number one. The trick is to stay protected while incorporating a growth focus. By putting the needs of people—both customers and employees—at the heart of your strategic thinking, you can achieve both.
This principle has its roots in the original Agile Manifesto, and the results play out in real life.
The IDC agility survey found that more than half of businesses in the highest tier of agility readiness performed excellently in terms of customer experience, compared with fewer than a fifth of organizations overall. These companies depend on flexible operating models to integrate customer feedback and align quickly to shifting preferences, increasing satisfaction and performing 20% better than market average when it comes to customer loyalty.
2) Driving efficiency and productivity
By digitizing processes on a single workflow platform, organizations can automate manual, repetitive tasks to reduce costs and increase productivity.
This clears the way for companies to move more quickly and frees employees to focus on higher-value work.
Greater efficiency, underpinned by agility, has a direct impact on the speed of delivering new products or services to market. IDC found, for instance, that time to market for agile companies is 16% better than market average.
That, of course, has a huge impact on productivity and growth. I recently spoke with a large pharmaceutical company that has saved $1 million for every day it has reduced medication time to market. Far more valuable are the lives saved by this acceleration.
3) Prioritizing and mitigating risk
Risk used to be about prioritizing and mitigating operational risk. Today, Covid-19 has shifted the focus onto human risk, particularly on the health and safety of employees.
Bringing in that human element is essential, and technology can facilitate an agile response to changing risk environments. Coca-Cola European Partners did this when it used ServiceNow to create a Covid-19 response portal in just three days, giving employees access to critical health and safety information.
By taking an integrated view of rapid risk response across the organizational estate, companies can ensure that they remain competitive from both an operational and employee experience perspective.
An agile imperative
Though the benefits of agile are clear, the landscape is mixed when it comes to assessing the progress of companies in Europe.
When measured against five types of organizational agility, IDC found that one third of organizations sit in the lower “static” or “disconnected” tiers, while nearly half are categorized as the “in motion” middle tier of the agility journey. Just one in five (21%) have attained the top levels of “synchronized” and “agile.”
For those in the lower two tiers, 2021 will be particularly challenging. I’d go as far as to predict that many of these companies will not be here at the end of 2021 due to their siloed legacy systems, rigid processes, and slow development cadence.
And yet, for those committed to applying agile principles to their business operations, the current environment presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to drive change across the enterprise in an agile way. By overcoming corporate barriers and embracing digital workflows, we can join the agile revolution and position our organizations for success.
About the IDC Business Agility Benchmark Survey: The IDC Organizational Agility Benchmark Survey (October 2020) conducted with 873 large European organizations looked at the link between organizational agility and key performance indicators. Learn more about the IDC Organizational Agility Evolution Framework, and the five key foundational dimensions of Agility in the white paper: Agility: The strategic imperative to survive and thrive in volatiles times.
(IDC White Paper sponsored by ServiceNow, IDC #EUR146988320, “Agility: The strategic imperative to survive and thrive in volatiles times”, November 2020)