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In the past, saying the phrase “use an agile approach” in most enterprise environments would trigger two very different reactions: developers would perk up, and everyone else would tune out.

7 steps to business agile

That’s because agile was linked exclusively to software development projects. And while scrum (and its many applications and expressions) remains alive and well, agile isn’t just a project methodology anymore. Rather, it has evolved into something far deeper and much broader when applied to business.

Here are seven integrated principles that define “business agile” in the new world of work. These are the core elements and aspects that enterprises need to target, sustain and continuously improve upon to drive success in short-term, and ensure survival in the long-run.

1.  Conscious Culture Change

Embracing an agile approach to business requires what Gartner refers to as a “conscious culture change,” in which the focus shifts from activities and tasks, to outcomes and results. Aside from core values and ethics, nothing is carved in stone and there are no sacred cows. Policies, protocols and processes are subject to scrutiny, discovery, innovation and experimentation in the pursuit of better performance.  

2.  Employee Engagement

Dynamic, progressive and demonstrated employee engagement is the essence and the engine of the agile process. The right tools and technologies (as will be highlighted further) is a big piece of the puzzle. But employees ultimately govern whether business agile is superficial or substantial. Engagement inspires them to make it work. Disengagement convinces them to undermine it.

3.  Results-Driven Collaboration  

Internal and external collaboration must be effective, efficient, in-context and result-based. That means it can’t be blocked by silos, bottlenecked by politics, and suffocated by an excess of communication where the volume of discussion becomes more notable than the quality and relevance.

4.  Speed with Efficiency

The key word in the phrase “speed with efficiency” is with. That’s because just working faster isn’t the point. Speed must be combined with efficiency (automating repeatable processes and designing intelligent workflows) so that employees spend less time on administrative tasks, and more time moving ushering tasks towards completion.   

5.  Agile Resource Management

Resource and project managers need reliable, real-time information to make on-the-fly adjustments to team and individual assignments. That means spreadsheets and emails are out, and instantly drilling down into schedules, skillsets, assignments and availability is in. 

6.  Visibility, Visibility and More Visibility

Business agility isn’t just about being nimble, flexible and response-ready. It’s also about ensuring that various decisions and actions align with overall strategic priorities and direction. This only happens when decision-makers have 360-degree visibility, and can monitor project and portfolio health, identify trends and make faster, more proactive decisions.

7.  It’s CWM or Bust

Conventional project management software wasn’t built to support a business agile approach. On the contrary, it was designed for an old school command-and-control style that hasn’t been a best practice for decades (if it ever was). Enterprises that want to ride the business agile wave—and stay above the surface—need to put the right Collaborative Work Management (CWM) tools and technologies in place to support employees, enable performance and drive results.  

The Bottom Line

Business agile has its roots in the IT world, but the expression of this concept in the new world of work is nothing less than an all-encompassing, top-to-bottom organizational mindset. Enterprises that embrace and exploit this paradigm will set the pace in their marketplace and industry. Those that fail to adjust will find themselves on the outside looking in, and constantly struggling to stay in the game.

Viken Eldemir
Viken Eldemir leads marketing, sales, customer success and professional services for the Americas organization at Clarizen, drawing on 18 years of experience at Oracle, where he held a variety of sales and leadership roles in technology and applications.