Digital technology, including artificial intelligence, automation, and faster ways of communicating, is causing rapid change. As a result, consumer expectations have shifted - they want more, and they want it now.
But this is not the only big effect of digital technology. They can also bring major disruption to established markets and organizations. New products and services, powered by new business models and agile development processes, emerge regularly and rapidly.
As a result, organizations are finding that they need to reinvent themselves and constantly transform to keep up with these new demands made by both customers and employees.
And yet, transformation is never easy. And technology, while essential, is never a complete solution.
Margo Leach, Chief Product Officer at AXELOS Global Best Practice provider, says: Regardless of what technology and digital strategy your organization has in place, for your transformation agenda to succeed there must be a company culture that welcomes change.”
All too often though, these human factors are ignored.
An essential part of any organization is the communication between its people. Many businesses are still hierarchical in how they communicate to staff. Information goes from the top down or from the bottom up. But it rarely goes sideways, from team to team.
This means valuable insights about what is working well are lost. And when a sudden change in day-to-day routines is forced on employees, they can be unreceptive and simply refuse to accept new systems or ways of working.
The ability of managers to share knowledge, communicate effectively and dismantle convoluted hierarchy is crucial for modern business.
Agile working practices
Companies that disrupt industries, such as Amazon, Airbnb, and Netflix, are highly agile. They have seen how an emerging technology created an opportunity in a market sector and have used this to create a point of difference. Larger, older, slower companies find this hard to challenge, especially when it involves a totally new way of doing business.
Agility is a critical element of commercial success. Yet many organizations fail to understand what agile in a business context actually means, let alone how to be agile. Other organizations have some experience of agile working, but this knowledge is locked away in isolated teams or departments, most commonly the IT team Taking the knowledge, and techniques, of agile and sharing it across the organization is essential to be able to thrive in a disruptive and competitive marketplace
Transformation through people
Communication, agility and the recognition that transformation only happens through people are the building blocks of a successful organization. That is why companies that focus too heavily on technology are likely to fail to transform.
“Technology gets you so far, but it is people that work with, and embed technology in your organization” Margo Leach says. “They have to seek out information, such as the best way of bringing a product to market or the best way of automating a factory.”
This is where products such as AgileSHIFT from AXELOS show their strengths. AXELOS is responsible for developing, enhancing and promoting best-practice methodologies, the more well-known ones being ITIL®, MSP® and PRINCE2®.
Last year, AXELOS created AgileSHIFT to encourage all areas of the business to be more agile and to create a culture of enterprise agility.
AgileSHIFT is a guide to help organizations adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing world. It can be applied to all functions of an organization, from finance and HR to operations, sales and marketing.
There are a number of practices that AgileSHIFT suggests should be encouraged to foster agile ways of working by addressing the human factors. These are:
- actively and continually engage with all stakeholders, so that everyone develops a sense of being part of a change.
- build collaborative, cross-functional teams to create effective channels of communication and break down hierarchical silos.
- plan to be flexible – at the heart of agility is an adaptable mindset that recognizes the need to change plans frequently according to changing context.
- deliver iteratively and incrementally by breaking work down into short bursts with frequent monitoring and feedback to deliver value early and frequently.
- measure the value that is being delivered. Transformation is not an end in itself: companies change to demonstrate better value to their stakeholders.
Margo Leach adds: “Every single organization should be aware of the threat of digital disruption. The consequences are severe, from a loss of market share, to the most extreme cases of company collapse”
“But disruption also brings opportunity – the ability to re-invent and re-energise your organization through a culture of innovation, collaboration and agility.”