Business and IT executives think about agility differently. For IT, agility is technology-focused, while non-IT leaders look for broad organization and leadership qualities that are difficult to implement. To understand agility, we need first to define what that means:
Business agility is the quality that allows an enterprise to embrace market and operational changes as a matter of routine.
An agile enterprise is change-proficient, whether that change is driven by market trends or is internal and operational. It responds quickly to both threats and opportunities, and executes change in a sustainable way. But few firms are at this level.
So where do you start? To be truly agile, enterprises must develop in 10 dimensions across three areas: market, organization and process.
- Market agility requires insight and execution in two areas: market responsiveness and channel integration.
- Organizational agility requires excellence at knowledge dissemination, change management and digital psychology.
- Process agility enables successful change execution. Agile enterprises widely deploy business intelligence, have infrastructure elasticity, leverage modern process methodologies and platforms, deliver software innovation faster and have more adaptable sourcing.
But not all dimensions are equal. We asked executives across many business roles which dimensions were most critical for sustaining agility. Most important: business intelligence, change management and market responsiveness. Less important: digital psychology, knowledge dissemination and sourcing. Least important: infrastructure elasticity, process architecture, channel integration and software innovation.
To help shape a company’s ability to respond to strategic risk, the CIO’s strategy, perspective and skills need to align with this broader definition of business agility. This will allow a more substantive conversation with the business and allow CIOs to map specific capabilities to business performance.
Craig Le Clair is a VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research.