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Assess Your Enterprise Agility
Enterprise Agility is also known as :
Lean-Agile Software Development,
Enterprise Agility Requires,
Essay on Enterprise Agility,
about Innovation and Enterprise Agility,
Enterprise Agility Focuses,
on the Assessment of Enterprise Agility,
Agility of Enterprises,
Post Enterprise Agility,
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Reach Optimal Enterprise Agility,
IT for Enterprise Agility,
Enterprise Agility Podcast Episode,
Cornerstones of Enterprise Agility,
Management Increases Enterprise Agility,
Index System of Enterprise Agility,
Key Enabler of the Agile Enterprise,
Optimal Enterprise Agility,
Achieving Enterprise Agility,
Enterprise Agility Risk Management,
Value Proposition for Enterprise Agility,
Creating New Enterprise Agility,
Enterprise Agility Objectives,
Assess Your Enterprise Agility,
Agile Way of Managing,
Agile Way of Architecting,
Agile Way of Monitoring,
Applies Agile and Lean Methods,
Race to Enterprise Agility,
IT for Enterprise Agility.
Firms and government organizations are constantly buffeted by changes in their business environment —
from changing customer tastes to economic changes affecting raw material prices to government
regulations that make hitherto smart business strategies irrelevant. Firms must respond well to these
changes to survive and thrive. While firms have used different business strategies to insulate themselves
from the effect of change, CEOs are beginning to recognize the need for their firms to become more
agile in detecting and making the changes to strategy, operations, and products. Turning agility from a
buzzword into a business capability requires firms to measure and manage their ability to change — and
agree on what agility means specifically for their enterprise. CIOs should take a lead by helping the
executive team understand its own firm’s definition of agility and defining the key agility indicators
(KAIs) that will highlight improvement.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- The Rate Of Change Continues To Challenge The Capacity For Change
- There Is No Single Overriding Problem That Reduces The Capacity For Change
- The CIO Struggles To Prepare For Change
- Manage Enterprise Agility To Prepare For
- Agility Management In Action
- Transform The Agility Buzzword Into Strategy
WHAT IT MEANS
- Agility Management Is A Step Toward A Fully
Managed Business Strategy
- Supplemental Material
THE RATE OF CHANGE CONTINUES TO CHALLENGE THE CAPACITY FOR CHANGE
Change is a constant for all firms. It provides opportunity in the shape of market openings or raw
material supplies but also threats in the form of shifting customer preferences or macroeconomic
forces that impact prices or costs. In an ideal world, firms would be able to instantly detect and
respond to these changes at no cost; in reality, firms require time and funds to respond to changes or
to prepare for a change like the ones occurring now. The speed and cost with which they respond to
these market and economic environment changes determines how successful they will be in terms
of growth and profitability. To improve their ability to respond to market and business environment
change, firms have pursued a combination of three strategies:
- Increasing scale. Firms use mergers to increase their size more quickly than they could through
organic growth; they want to be big enough to insulate themselves against changes that their
competitors or supply networks cause.
- Increasing scope. Firms broaden their product lines through acquisition or product and service
innovation; their goal is to be able to ride out the changes in any one market.
- Increasing reach. Firms expand geographically to tap new markets; their aim is to be less
dependent on the fortunes of their previous markets.
However, these strategies for coping with business change bring along their own change costs —
they may have made the organization more susceptible to the impact of changes, as the experience of
large firms has shown.
- Mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures drive risk. The number of deals has slowly increased
year on year after an initial explosion in 2000 (see Figure 1). But the size of deals seems to vary,
driving bigger companies to take more risks (see Figure 2). The larger the deals, the deeper the
changes the enterprises face.
- Innovations in products, channels, and business models propel organizational change. For
a number of decades, research and development (R&D) remained the prerogative of developed
countries — in the 1990s, most R&D expenditure came from the US and EU. But as R&D
expenditure expands into less-developed countries, enterprises are now localizing highly skilled
research along with manufacturing. The political and global pressure to innovate generates
competition between countries — and this will put pressure on multinational corporations
(MNCs) to continuously adapt to benefit from different university research centers (see Figure 3).
- MNCs struggle to change in the face of country differences. Each national market has its own
specific regulations, as well as geopolitical, sociocultural, environmental, and macroeconomic
differences, forcing enterprises to continuously adapt to multiple risks at the same time.2
MNCs want to confront this diversity by quickly adapting their existing and well-established
procedures. But the error rate remains high — and the initial reasons for country selection may
- A reliance on shared services inhibits change flexibility. Typical shared services like IT,
HR, and procurement are often seen as inhibitors to change. While their main objective is to
decrease global costs, they often do not deliver the right level of adaptability to the different
business units that are facing change. These units complain that shared services provide either
the same "lowest common denominator" service at the lowest price for every business unit or a
higher level of service but at a higher service/price ratio that is too expensive for the "poorest"
units (see Figure 4).
Realizing this, CEOs are now asking not how they can insulate themselves from these business
environment changes, but rather how they can shape their organizations to become more adept at
responding to change — how can they become more "agile"?
There Is No Single Overriding Problem That Reduces The Capacity For Change
As firms struggle to adapt to changes in their business environment, they too often find that they
are coping with change on multiple fronts and grappling with multiple inhibitors — everything
from a short-term operational focus that makes it more rewarding for managers to ignore changing
conditions to the differing cycle times for business change and underlying IT system changes. These
barriers may be different for different verticals and for different countries or cultures and may affect
each business unit differently. Business units’ capacity for change depends on internal factors, such
as investments, restructuring capabilities, new processes, and organizational changes — and also on
the capacity of internal actors to adapt.
The CIO Struggles To Prepare For Change
While the business faces changes that require more agility, IT is seen as lagging behind — even when
CIOs carefully manage business and IT alignment:
- IT objectives still include only cost reduction and quality. IT objectives rarely reflect
enterprise agility objectives. CEOs want greater agility but don’t talk about it as a measurable
objective. Instead, many firms still measure IT on its contribution to cost reductions inside and
beyond the walls of IT, along with its reliability and its availability to run today’s business.
- Business agility improvement projects don’t easily gain funding. There are a number of
current trends that, in theory, should improve agility — such as service-oriented architecture
(SOA), on-demand services, pervasive technologies, outsourcing, Dynamic Business
Applications, agile development, and offshoring. However, IT still needs to plan for and rightsize
these options to reach the "agility" required while balancing the costs and risks. In addition,
these technologies require cross-department investment in enterprises where each business unit
manages budgets separately.
MANAGE ENTERPRISE AGILITY TO PREPARE FOR DISRUPTIVE CHANGES
Managing enterprise agility will allow enterprises to forge agreement between CxOs, split strategic
agility objectives among the different departments contributing to them, and measure or predict
these objectives. Forrester defines the key elements for this management as follows:
- Enterprise agility: The capability of the enterprise to deliberately adapt to an event or complete
a change at an acceptable speed, cost, and level of risk.
- Key agility indicator (KAI): Measurable business performance, expressed as the predicted time
to adapt to an event at the right level of cost and risk.
- Agility measurement: The capability to predict, collect, and aggregate the KAIs that are
meaningful to the business.
There are two different types of agility, based on the nature of the event or change, which a firm
should endeavor to manage:
- Range agility. This is the time it takes to react to predictable and recurring events. It is often
measured by a rate. For example, an auto manufacturer wants to shorten the time-to-market for
delivery of a new model from five years to three years. Improving a firm’s range agility might
include actions like improving collaboration with suppliers around design, making assemblyline
changes, and changing the product life-cycle management software to allow virtual
prototypes and a shorter design phase.
- Time agility. This refers to the ability to respond to a single event, such as a price change
for a raw material or an economic downturn affecting specific market segments. While
firms may expect these events, they can’t determine their timing or size in advance. An auto
manufacturing firm could improve its time agility by improving market intelligence to allow
faster detection of changes or by preparing the product design process to rapidly include new
These two types of agility are the basis of KAIs, which enable firms to measure range agility and
predict time agility. A firm might decide to focus on one type of agility or a combination of both.
Let’s show how an auto manufacturer could use KAIs (see Figure 5). The range agility for an auto
manufacturer typically involves the time-to-market for a new model or brand. If a firm takes
five years to get from concept to the first delivery, it could set a KAI around the time it takes to
introduce new models and have a goal of reducing this to three years. Time agility might apply to
the consequences of an increase in the price of a barrel of oil. While we all know that a price of $100
will occur, we can’t predict when. A KAI here might involve establishing that the auto manufacturer
is preparing for 10% of its product lines to be available with a hybrid engine option in less than two
years. However, the price of a barrel of oil could rise to $200 or more and have a radical impact on
the auto market, although this is less likely. The firm could create a second KAI with a quicker and
bigger change to address this second scenario.
Agility Management In Action
Agility management uses KAIs and agility measurement to shape the culture, processes, and
structures that prepare an enterprise for change — both predictable and unpredictable. Agility
management should follow this process (see Figure 6):
- Establish a common language for enterprise agility. Agility requirements — expressed as
KAIs — already exist in the enterprise, but in most cases they are not properly shared, even at
the highest level. For example, most range agility-related KAIs come from the COO and chief
marketing officer and include indicators like the time it takes to introduce new product versions.
As the market and competitors change, these execs often identify agility requirements and the
cost of internal delays in response. As time agility deals with events that may occur within a
given time frame, most of the time KAIs will be expressed as probabilities and opportunities or
risks and will come from the CEO, the chief strategy officer, or the chief security officer.
- Understand agility requirements and inhibitors. For range agility, the COO and CMO
collect measurements like time-to-market, design time, delivery time, manufacturing time,
and production time. For example, a typical time-to-market improvement will often require
an enterprise to identify inhibitors — such as the time spent to reconfigure manufacturing
equipment and the time needed to test product changes — and then solve them one at a time or
all at once through internal projects.
For time agility, the CEO and CSO manage the risks and/or opportunities resulting from
predictable and unpredictable events — mergers and acquisition, the impact of major
environmental changes, market conditions, new regulations, and associated risks that could
affect the business. The most probable events would likely be managed as potential risks within
a risk management strategy — but time agility management can help here by identifying the
least-probable scenarios with the greatest impact on the business. There may also be important
business events that aren’t managed as risks but that should be managed as part of agility
management. Each CxO must specify the incremental investment that will provide a level of
agility adapted to a tolerable level of risk and cost.
- Value enterprise agility using Total Economic Impact™ (TEI). TEI is Forrester’s methodology
for identifying the value of IT investments. In addition to the usual return on investment
dimensions that focus only on costs and direct benefits, TEI adds two other dimensions:
flexibility — particularly related to future options — and associated risks.6 Range agility directly
generates business value and will be valued through the benefit dimension. Time agility
generates indirect benefits. TEI’s flexibility and risk dimensions are therefore really useful in
valuing the incremental investments in this case (see Figure 7).
- Identify the actions needed to improve enterprise agility. After identifying the inhibitors
during the second step, the different CxOs should prepare projects to reduce the impact of these
inhibitors. Depending on the project costs and risks, they may need to adjust and prioritize
the agility requirements. Most of the time, the range agility requirements will need IT projects
that one or more business units support. Usually, however, time agility requirements will not
generate new projects by themselves — but rather will become criteria for assessing the projects
within a project portfolio or will justify incremental investment in existing projects.
- Measure the results and improve. Range agility KAIs are easy to measure. After the projects
are delivered, verify that they provide the agility that was specified by making sure that the
requirements delivered link to the KAIs; periodically reassess these to be sure that, in context, the
changes do not worsen the results. Time agility KAIs are far more difficult to measure because,
in most industries, there is a possibility that the event will never occur. However, a good practice
is to regularly check that other, newly discovered inhibitors don’t affect the predicted time. A
risk review can also adjust the probability of occurrence and be added to the risk management
portfolio. In addition, firms can study their experiences when one of the predicted events occurs
and review the time agility indicators; for example, the review could help identify additional
inhibitors that they had failed to take into account and that affect other KAIs.
TRANSFORM THE AGILITY BUZZWORD INTO STRATEGY
Agility management is not for the CIO alone: It is beneficial for all CxOs. They can share their
agility requirements, form an accurate assessment of where they are, and try to solve the agility
inhibitors together. CIOs should educate their CxO peers on the issues that impact a firm’s ability
to respond to changes and propose a disciplined approach to agility management as a way to
systematically correct these inhibitors. Here are some key actions for the CIO:
- Help business execs understand what range and time agility mean to them. These
concepts will sound abstract initially, but will be useful when tied to the symptoms and
barriers that they can actually see — such as the time and cost to complete a strategic
change like a product acquisition or the ability to quickly exploit market shifts or ramp
output in response to consumer fads.
- Educate executive management on the management practices needed for
improvements. CIOs are on the front line of many programs designed to improve
application flexibility — and in the trenches when it comes to finding funding and
governance for cross-business-unit programs. Programs to improve agility are often crossbusiness
programs that get mired in these funding and governance challenges; SOA is the
most common example. As CIOs help business execs understand the basic concepts of
agility management, they should use the opportunity to educate them on the changes to
management practices necessary for these programs to be successful.
AGILITY MANAGEMENT IS A STEP TOWARD A FULLY MANAGED BUSINESS STRATEGY
This new approach of systematic agility management contributes to better strategy management.
Most companies carefully manage the productivity performance aspect of their enterprise, but
they often base this on lagging indicators, such as rolling up measurements every three months:
They are simply reactive. More mature enterprises look for earlier indicators and to shorten the
reaction time by moving to more real-time metric visibility. In some highly automated industries,
such as pharmaceuticals, manufacturing manages by exception: They have automated most
(80%) of the tasks and focus their manual workforce mainly on the remaining exceptions (20%).
Managing the risks of these exceptions allows them to continuously adjust the 80:20 rule and
to become more proactive. And when an enterprise starts to manage its agility requirements
to shorten the time it takes to react to predictable and unpredictable events, it will become
predictive — and benefit from faster responses to market opportunities or challenges. Finally,
by continuously adjusting the tradeoffs between productivity, quality/risks taken, and agility
objectives, the enterprise will achieve a fully managed business strategy, providing the optimal
response to dynamic market and business conditions.
Companies Interviewed For This Document
1 To minimize global risk exposure while capturing opportunities worldwide, innovative CEOs will transform
their monolithic firms into globally adaptive organizations (GAOs) by instilling flexibility, efficiency,
altruism, and openness into their globally networked talent, processes, and partnerships. See the December
13, 2006, "The Rise Of Globally Adaptive Organizations" report.
2 Any momentum gained from flattening the world by dismantling existing barriers is bound to be matched
by equivalent drag occasioned by the erection of new barriers that decelerate or reverse globalization. See
the December 13, 2006, "The Rise Of Globally Adaptive Organizations" report.
3 For example, a number of companies moved first their manufacturing and then their warehouse and
research centers to Ireland to benefit from lower taxes compared with the rest of Europe. But, more recently,
other European countries have created several "free" zones to lower unemployment rates. Other criteria
then arose, such as the availability of highly trained employees and logistics or utilities infrastructure,
energy prices, and the availability of raw material or subcontractors — any of which could hamper the
4 Capgemini’s survey is based on interviews with 301 CIOs at companies and organizations in Europe, North
America, and Asia. The Capgemini study noted that poor collaboration between business functions, poor
internal capabilities for running and managing the transformation, and a focus on short-term/operational
topics are the main barriers to agility. Source: "Global CIO Survey 2007 — IT agility: enabling business
freedom," Capgemini, March 13, 2007, (http://www.capgemini.com/resources/thought_leadership/global_
5 This is based on the work of Kishore Sengupta from INSEAD and Andrea Masini of the London Business
School. Source: "What is IT Agility? Does it affect Organizational Performance? A Conceptualization
and Some Empirical Evidence," October 1, 2006, (http://www.london.edu/assets/documents/PDF/
6 We developed the Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) methodology in 1997 and have been using it to analyze
and support IT decisions. The TEI methodology embraces traditional cost analysis and a best-practice
approach to minimizing costs and extends it by explicitly incorporating analysis and quantification of both
business benefits and flexibility, while tempering these three categories with an analysis of the risk effects.
See the September 26, 2003, "The Foundation Of Sound Technology Investment: The Total Economic
Impact™ Methodology" report.