Maintaining business agility during a crisis

Every business has its crisis risks. Some of the more common crises include natural disasters, market and demand shifts, cyber-attacks, IT outages, and fierce competition. The business environment is notoriously volatile, and even the slightest changes can have a dramatic effect on performance.

Business agility is the ability to survive and flourish in an unstable environment by promptly responding to market changes, emerging threats, and new opportunities. Agile practices include adopting new business strategies and solutions, adjusting business models, fine-tuning deliverables, and forging new revenue streams.

Developing agility is a big part of business continuity planning that ensures business resilience. An agile business can always find its way around external uncertainties and internal hurdles – whether technological, commercial, political, or cultural.

Technology plays an important role in making this happen. Having the right flexible technology infrastructure plan in place is the key to business continuity, allowing you to operate from anywhere.

Business agility is built upon these six pillars:

  • Data protection. Eliminate the risk of a cyberthreat by developing an effective strategy.
  • Ultra mobility. The ability to work securely from anywhere.
  • Cloud infrastructure. Ensuring all your data is secure and backed up.
  • Hosted applications. Employees are able to access the company data outside the four walls of the office.
  • Hosted email. Never lose access to your email when working outside of the office.
  • Centralized collaboration platform. Effective communication and collaboration between teammates.

Why is business agility so important?

According to a recent Mercer report, 51 percent of organizations lack a business continuity strategy for dealing with unexpected emergencies and disasters such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Evidently, many businesses are not flexible enough to handle severe market and operational disruptions during a crisis.

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According to a recent Mercer report, 51 percent of organizations lack a business continuity strategy for dealing with unexpected emergencies and disasters such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Forbes Insights recently surveyed more than 1,000 C-level executives, and 81 percent of them agreed on the critical importance of business agility in building and leading a successful business. Implementing an agility strategy for your business is an important decision. It takes planning and commitment, but it’s achievable with the right roadmap.

Here are five reasons why you need to adopt a more agile and nimble enterprise strategy:

Stabilize cash flow

A majority of businesses, especially SMEs, fail due to cash flow problems. A flexible business plan should guarantee consistent income streams and a solid bottom line. Financial security is the key to business growth and success.

Extend your market reach

The modern marketplace is fast-paced and highly dynamic. A flexible marketing approach lets you identify and pounce on emerging opportunities ahead of competitors. Sometimes all it takes to capitalize on a lucrative new trend is optimizing the deliverables and getting to market at the right time.

Enhance customer experience

An agile business consistently delivers high-quality products or services and responds appropriately to its customers’ needs. Doing so promotes a positive customer experience and creates a loyal customer base. Business agility can secure your place in the market and help you establish a niche dominance.

Boost employee morale

Employees that feel valued and useful in the workplace develop a high level of morale and a great appreciation for what they do, which translates into high productivity. Employees are always searching for work flexibility and business agility allows you to provide that without losing the connection within your team. An agile work environment and organizational culture ensure that every worker’s input and time goes to good use. On the other hand, a rigid and inflexible organization may have to lay off some of its employees when faced with a crisis – which is wasteful, and seriously demoralizing to the remaining staff.

Develop and evolve

Agility enables the business to discover new solutions to common problems, better ways to create and deliver products and services, and proactive measures to anticipate and cope with business dynamics. This helps the company grow and evolve progressively. By being firmly conservative, your enterprise may never realize its growth potential.

A truly agile business embraces remote work with minimal disruption. It means implementing the right technology to allow your business and your employees to function outside of the office or away from the desk.

Putting together a business agility plan

Developing a business agility plan is an engaging task that requires co-operation between all departments or persons involved, across all business operations. Here are the five essential steps to creating an effective enterprise agility strategy.

1

Change your business mindset

Agility means being prepared to break out of the comfort zone at any time. The first thing you need to do is change the organizational mindset and culture when it comes to business planning. A static business plan hinders agility; you will have to adopt a more flexible approach towards organizational leadership, workflows, and interactions to remove obstacles that might stand in the way of rapid and drastic transformations.

2

Identify the need for multiple agile approaches

Every business defines agility differently. Identify areas in your organization that need to be made flexible in order to enable business continuity. For instance, employees might have to work from home if commuting becomes impossible. A perfect example was when the pandemic hit and people weren’t prepared, many companies had to adapt to a fully remote company within a couple weeks. Marketing tactics might also need to change in response to emerging trends.

Utilize what is called scenario modeling – testing your business plans against assumptions based on future possibilities – to work out the impacts of all possible threats and disruptions. Scenario modeling helps device effective proactive strategies to counter unexpected challenges.

3

Empower your employees

Invest in agility. Empower the business and its employees with the right tools and skills to pursue flexibility. These could be technical tools or services such as automated data backup and recovery systems, remote working applications and devices, or the infrastructure to model and test new products and services. Remember to incorporate agility and flexibility training as part of your employee and leadership empowerment program so that to get everyone on board.

4

Test your flexibility

Find out how quickly all your teams can adapt to new developments. For instance, how fast a manufacturer can alter a product, how long it takes to restore lost data using backups, and how far the business can get without some of its key revenue generators.

Testing such scenarios will help your employees prepare for any crisis by learning what to expect. It also sets a benchmark time-to-adaptability for every foreseeable situation.

Workforce flexibility is here to stay and it opens a lot of new possibilities for businesses.

5

Continue learning and fine-tuning adaptability

A business agility plan must itself be flexible. Make sure to continuously adjust your plan as the business grows, new facts come to light, or new trends emerge. Keep in mind that in business, nothing is set on stone; you must be prepared to change with the times. Ensure that your agility plan is crisis-proof by modeling different scenarios and analyzing their outcomes before making any major business decisions.

Implementing an agility strategy for your business is an important decision. It takes planning and commitment, but it’s achievable with the right roadmap.

Ultimately, a business agility plan should describe guidelines and strategies for adapting to various circumstances and the resources needed to capitalize on new opportunities and seeing the business through different kinds of crises. The right combination of agile forecasting, scenario modeling, and proper resource allocation results in an effective agility plan. It enables your business to operate strategically and efficiently, no matter what the world throws at it.