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Scaling Agile is not the Path to Business Agility

By June 19, 2018 No Comments

Stories from the Frontlines of Agile and Digital Transformations

Business agility is the ability of an organisation to sense changes internally or externally and respond accordingly in order to deliver value to its customers. Business agility is not a specific methodology or even a general framework.

Agile Alliance

Prologue.

 

Today, Agile is the darling of the corporate world, and what we have gained in amplification, we have lost in vision and ambition.

The large corporate business, challenged by new entrants, tech companies and blurred industry lines, is looking to drive sustained growth and unique competitive advantage.

The enterprise pursues business agility by embarking in Agile, digitisation, and technology innovation initiatives. These transformational journeys are full of ups and downs. Copying the strategies, processes, and operating structures of Tech companies and Silicon Valley unicorns has delivered some results, but few corporate businesses have reached unicorn status.

Over the years, those focused on implementing Agile and Lean have looked to decentralised, vertically oriented, and iterative delivery models to fuel operating model and value innovation.

The codification and implementation of Agile started with a focus on effective technical delivery, shifted to encompass effective product innovation. These days, we work to pull apart both architectures and organisational structures into plug and play, adaptable building blocks to enable evolutionary design.

In my view, many enterprise-wide agile transformation initiatives dropped the ball with an overemphasis on operating effectiveness at the expense of customer-centricity and connected experience.

Corporate Agile initiatives have been pulling things and people apart into squads, products, and services. The highly effective and autonomous building blocks at best deliver fragmented value. For a while, we gain speed, but not sustainably; not when we fail to look at the bigger picture and orchestrate connected value and experience.

The risky next chapter of this journey is now staring us in the face — intelligence powered by deep learning, coupled with further decentralisation and autonomy enabled by Blockchain.

Bottom-up, decentralised approaches don’t actually enable sustained business agility. Deciding what and how to centralise vs decentralise is more complicated than that.

Scaling Agile methods focusing on internal concerns misses the point of business agility. Responsive businesses must focus on deeply understanding customers and how to deliver to them consistently.

Our goal should not be productivity, but to “Design and deploy a great customer experience quickly — again and again over time.” In order to respond to business, technology, and competitor turbulence in the market we have to focus on delivering a superior customer experience, building new features, and improving the delivery engine that allows us to deliver quickly each and every release cycle.

Jim Highsmith, Velocity is Killing Agility, 2011

Act 1. A Long Time Ago, in an Engine Room Far Away…

THE AGILE ENGINEERING ERA

 

Agile Software Development is an umbrella term for a set of methods and practices based on the values and principles expressed in the Agile Manifesto.

Solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing, cross-functional teams utilizing the appropriate practices for their context.

Agile Alliance

I ‘ve been working at the intersection of technology and business for over two decades, over half of this time supporting large companies on their Agile and digital transformation journeys. My focus and the focus of this article is large corporate businesses looking at company-wide agility and digitisation initiatives as a means to achieve sustained growth.

I had the privilege of learning Agile directly from my ex-colleagues Martin Fowler and Jim Highsmith (two of the co-creators of the Agile Manifesto in 2001), and from the tribes of thought leaders who brought the movement to life.

I joined the ‘church’ of Agility back in 2004 and have seen it evolve from the software engine room where developers aspired to deliver business value better and faster, to the adoption of Agile principles and practices by the Lean Startup and Design Thinking communities, to the most recent attempts of the C-suite of the largest enterprises in the world to drive business responsiveness.

Back then, when we were in the engine room, we all knew that one of the by-products of misguided Agile software development was an increase in technical debt. That to deliver working software at speed, we traded off reuse and generated some level of fragmentation. This sort of waste was acceptable as we worked to prioritise responsiveness over efficiency.

We knew that we had to stop and clean up on an ongoing basis. The technical term for this technique is called refactoring, as described by Martin Fowler in his book of the same name, and it is a linchpin of the adoption of Agile software development methods.

In the C-suite, the CIO was the first to see the benefit. Whether she was KPIed on cost reduction or business value, there was no way to ignore the benefits of agile engineering.

As we matured, we started differentiating between efficiency and effectiveness. We realised that our focus on velocity was killing agility, that technical discipline is necessary to enable and maintain responsiveness.

We were learning and adapting. Agile engineering got easier as Jez Humble, and the rest of the Continuous Delivery and DevOps trailblazers influenced teams and evolved tools and processes. Today Amazon Web Services and others are commoditising a lot of the heavy lifting in this space. The cloud service offerings are making evolutionary, scalable architectures available to everyone. And you don’t have to buy it… you can rent it!

 

Act 2. Minimum Viable, Evolutionary Everything and Anything.

THE PRODUCT INNOVATION ERA

 

The attempts to scale Agile from being software- to product-centric were accelerated by the convergence of Lean, Agile and Design thinking. Early stage, single-product, tech native businesses benefited more than others as Eric Ries codified and amplified concepts such as the minimum viable product.

In the enterprise, the startup way and product-centred agility delivered considerable innovation at speed. We experienced the rise of the innovation labs where the cool kids hid out away from the pressures and concerns of the business as usual suits.

For the last six or seven years, we saw the wide-scale adoption of Kanban and Scrum by middle management, and the application of the agile approach of short iterations to strategy and design exercises. Agile and Scrum absolutists engaged in religious wars as agile project management went viral relegating engineering to a “nice to have”.

Post-it pads and sharpies flew off the shelves as companies coated walls and windows with colourful depictions of statuses, priorities and business model canvases. Agile and Lean became the preferred antidotes to Brian Solis’ digital Darwinism — Adapt or die.

Each business is a victim of Digital Darwinism, the evolution of consumer behavior when society and technology evolve faster than the ability to exploit it. Digital Darwinism does not discriminate.

Brian Solis, Digital Darwinism, 2011

Act 3. Scaling Agility in the Frozen Middle.

THE LEAN ENTERPRISE ERA

 

In organisations determined to scale agility, considerably large numbers of products, services, or initiatives at all stages of maturity emerged everywhere. In response, a portfolio approach to agility was impeccably articulated by Jez, Joanne, and Barry in the Lean Enterprise.

Implementing these product-centric practices is the current battleground of most agile transformation initiatives. The methods in the Lean Enterprise are best in class to operationalise agility, but in my view, the enhancements in this iteration fall short in responding to a much-needed shake up of Agile and Lean at scale that puts the end customer experience truly at the centre of our focus and efforts.

The elements of a suitable product-centric paradigm that works at scale have all emerged in the last 10 years, but they have not yet been connected and presented in a systematic way. This book aims to fill this gap, providing inspiration from organizations that have successfully adopted these practices.

Humble, Molesky, O’Reilly, Lean Enterprise

The world has evolved fast; the digital and technology ecosystems are wildly different than they were when we started back in the engine room. It’s time we act like it.

 

Act 4. The Escalating Tension. Agile vs Business Agility.

 

The bottom-up, decentralised, build-measure-learn, iterative, vertically-oriented approach to Enterprise Agile Transformation is well-intentioned, but alone it falls short in enabling sustained business agility.

We have been building our vertical slices, using our autonomous squads, aligned with our vertical product owners and business units. There are attempts to aggregate initiatives into roadmaps, evolve the strategy based on insights, and enable better innovation accounting, but if you go through the literature available, the focus is on the process, not the customer. The principle “highly aligned, loosely coupled,” only works if both premises are true and if the alignment is centred on end customer needs and insights.

Andrew Ng warns us that as we move from the Internet Era to the Artificial Intelligence Era, we will likely need to shift our approach radically. In the internet Era, we focused on AB testing, on short cycle times, and on pushing decision making to engineers and product managers. Sounds familiar? It should, these are all linchpins of Agile. Andrew argues that, “adding Deep Learning to an internet company does not make an AI company”. I agree. He expects that AI Era companies focus on building enterprise-wide platforms, unified data solutions, and organise data and intelligence functions horizontally.

Data science isn’t woven into our culture; it is our culture. We started with it at the heart of the business, rather than adding it to a traditional organizational structure, and built the company’s algorithms around our clients and their needs.

Data science reports directly to me, and Stitch Fix wouldn’t exist without data science. It’s that simple.

Katrina Lake, CEO, Stitch Fix. HBR, May 2018

The vertical to horizontal organisational shift is one I have experienced first-hand as I moved further away from the early Agile tribe to explore what the large consulting firms and agency conglomerates had to offer. I will describe this shift later in this article, but before we talk about organisational design, we must start with the vision that drives it, or when it comes to the Agile movement, the lack of it.

 

Act 5. The Envisioning, Reimagining, Reinventing Tsunami.

 

Leadership requires two things: a vision of the world that does not yet exist and the ability to communicate it.

Simon Sinek, Start with the Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

The benefits of Agile and Lean to drive product innovation and employee empowerment are clear and unquestionable. Value is delivered often. Prioritised products and services are useful leading to faster adoption. There is more transparency, and better quality and decision making. Progress is being made to “operationalise” enterprise operating model agility, but unless you are Spotify or Netflix, this is still, a real struggle for the majority of large organisations.

When it comes to codifying and envisioning what enterprise/business agility looks like, the Agile movement is falling short of expectations. In parallel, the digital agencies and consulting firms that are stepping into this white space, lack the independence to pull it off successfully no matter how many articles are published in the Harvard Business Review.

But, if we can see beyond the uncomfortably close relationships these organisations have with large product companies, and the bias for centralisation at scale as a form of unlocking access to the largest possible corporate budgets, there is a lot we can learn from the big guys when it comes to reimagine or reinvent (or any other of the fancy taglines that have emerged recently) a sustained and ever-growing relationship between a business and its customers.

 

Act 6. Portfolios are Great. Vision and Experiences are Better.

THE LEAN UX ERA

 

In the enterprise world, multi-product, -brand, -business unit are a commonplace and very few in the “church of agility” took the time to connect the dots and align vision and strategy to a company-wide portfolio.

The agile movement started as a bottom-up, process-centric, software-first and then product-centric revolution and never recovered to provide a top-down compelling, connected, customer-centred vision of the future.

The efforts to bolt on Design Thinking to Agile and Lean practices are not yet producing the desired outcomes, despite the great work of James Kalbach and many others on codifying blueprints and experience maps. Design and creativity are at best a partner, at worse a slave of technology and process. Business owners complain of too many journeys, too much detail. We are mapping experiences in skunkworks-style innovation labs when we should also be doing it in the corporate boardroom with the active participation of the C-suite.

Moments of truth can be thought of as a special type of touchpoint. They are critical, emotionally charged interactions, and usually, occur when someone has invested a high degree of energy in a desired outcome. Moments of truth either make or break the relationship.

James Kalbach, Mapping Experiences: A Complete Guide to Creating Value through Journeys, Blueprints, and Diagrams

To align diverse groups of people, customers and partners at scale we must paint a compelling vision of the final outcome, and simultaneously communicate that the ambition will evolve based on our learnings.

This customer-centred ambition that brings to life our purpose, that narrates to our ecosystem the Why and the So What, becomes incredibly important as we shift from single product or channel to complete journeys where users interact with the company, including in multi-brand environments. As we enter the age of hyper personalised omnichannel experiences powered by deep learning, connecting the dots is no longer a nice to have, it is a matter of survival.

Once we know where we are heading; once we are tightly aligned, we can, and should, build, test, measure, learn all the way to an entirely different place. To evolve vision and strategy, we must have one in the first place. Without a connected customer vision, we generate waste and fragmentation.

 

Act 7. Fragmented experiences. Fragmented Insights.

 

Fragmented views of customer prevent us from attaining a deep understanding of needs, desires and existing journeys across all touchpoints. Accidentally decentralised data storages (not by design) also increase privacy and security vulnerabilities. One cannot deliver privacy by design when customer data is scattered anywhere and everywhere.

We have a narrow understanding of our customers; we have been optimising a touch point, channel, or product and compromising the overall value exchange. The effects on customer loyalty and the sustainability of our businesses become clear as deep learning and big data start to deliver exceptional customer experiences for our tech-native competitors.

The companies that were once known for exceptional product design innovation, fail to recognise until it is too late that they are losing their most loyal customers because they neglect to design the experience ecosystem thoughtfully. I decided to use a hardware example to represent best the fragmented experiences customers endure when interacting with the Enterprise. Yes, I’m looking at you Apple, the dongle company.

We’re seeing increasing demand for products to be delivered and scaled fast, and this need for speed is crippling the creativity of the design process. The result is products being delivered to market quickly (perhaps using respected Agile processes), but that sometimes lack simplicity, elegance, personality and — ultimately — craft, all of which should be significant selling points of design.

FJORD Trends 2018. Design Outside the Lines.

 

Act 8. Debt. Plenty of it. At Scale.

THE DIGITAL ERA

 

Back in the enterprise, the Agile tribe had moved out of the engine room right into the CIO’s office. The progressive IT leader was busy managing large-scale technical debt by building continuous delivery pipelines and taking stock of the now fragmented landscape of platforms, products, initiatives and tools fuelled by Agile and the Startup Way.

At this time, a new label emerged that further decentralised technology ownership in the enterprise — Digital — the consumer-facing technology.

Digital democratised technology ownership within the enterprise. The savvy brand and product owners raced ahead their technology teams to buy or adopt adtech and martech tools to help them reach their KPIs. As technology became increasingly commoditised, the business leaders focused on building their own websites and apps with the help of external agencies. Digital shifted the CMO’s attention from the fuzzy creative realm of logos, colours and copy to the highly measurable world of digital marketing.

Several years ago, Gartner gained notoriety for suggesting CMOs will be spending more than their IT counterparts on technology by 2017. Well, according to the research firm, that premise is set to come true, as marketers look to up spend on a host of capabilities across the martech stack.

Gartner: How CMOs will spend more on technology than CIOs in 2017. CMO Australia, 2017

The enterprise found itself owning a multitude of disconnected platforms, solutions, and products. Quality, security, and privacy suffered as the years of decentralised velocity at the edges generated a bloated, complicated, disconnected, and unmanageable digital ecosystem.

 

Act 9. Digital and the Game of Thrones.

 

The number of vendors pitching marketing technology, also called martech, has exploded. There are some 3,000 vendors today, their ranks swelling anywhere from 300 to 500 annually. Most of them sell directly to CMOs who, in turn, are more than willing to keep CIOs out of the loop.”

CIO-to-CMO Transition of Power Is Becoming a Reality. CIO.com, 2014

Technology ownership was now fully fragmented in many enterprises. The battle for control of “digital” played out in two different dimensions within most large businesses — Group vs business unit or brand, technology vs marketing. If we look beyond the “Game of Thrones” style corporate politics, there was a well-intentioned and healthy tension between effectiveness and responsiveness. A tension we should not shy away from because, as Jim Highsmith framed it many years ago, adaptive leaders understand they must ride the paradox between these two forces.

Organisational confusion and strain in this nebulous area called Digital were holding many businesses back. The digital operating model was very broken and the chasm between marketing and technology teams was impacting customer experience and growth. Most importantly, there was a lack of understanding that a responsive, digital company, must be a technology company at its core.

The challenges we had experienced in the past, in the engine room, came back to haunt us in a much bigger setting. This time, code refactoring wouldn’t save us, what we needed, spoiler alert, was customer-centred, organisational refactoring at scale. And refactoring did occur, in the form of backlash against fragmentation, waste and the following flavour of “agility”, “Why do I need to write a story and wait for a programmer to add some content on the website?”. Why indeed!

 

Act 10. The Digital Marketing, CRM and Experience Platforms.

THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE ERA

 

While the future-oriented CIO was busy talking to the agile rebel alliance and rolling out continuous delivery pipelines, his marketing counterpart was emerging fast as a leader in the newly labelled Digital realm.

The enterprise’s marketing executive was also drinking the Kool Aid generated by the exceptional marketing engine of the large product companies. The darlings of the Gartner Quadrants and Forrester Waves announced that we were now in the Age of Customer Experience as the colourful fireworks sparkled in the background of some fancy venue in Las Vegas or better yet, the Sydney Opera House.

We saw the rise of the “plug and play” Digital Marketing, CRM and Experience Platforms.

The enterprise kicked off product-centric digital transformation programmes that promised to deliver unified customer views and digital operating models optimised for reuse, self-service, and standardisation of digital assets. The customer visions were crisp and compelling and the Kotter-style strategy and change frameworks, useful.

The promise of a less fragmented and wasteful technology ecosystem was irresistible to both digital and technology operations teams who had suffered the most as they witness velocity killing both agility and their work-life balance.

Inspired by new acquisitions, agency conglomerates and consulting firms embraced convergent thinking and elevated it. In this new world of unicorns, consultants worked their magic on aligning stakeholders, and Design Thinking and Customer Experience Design professionals led the effort instead of being reduced to delivering Lean product user experiences. They were joined by teams of creatives to help them imagine and reimagine the future.

Unfortunately, all too often, for every type of nail and wall, there was just one hammer. Reinvention was now constrained by the features of a platform; features available to all competitors.

It’s not that these platforms are not useful, they are, particularly as they evolve from opaque monoliths that constrain our ability to adapt and to deliver truly unique experiences, to cloud-based, headless, API-driven, open-source-like ecosystems, designed to deliver network effects. Even the most prominent champions of custom software development have learned, by now, that we shouldn’t build commoditised functionality when you can buy it, rent it, or leverage available open source solutions.

If the goal is digitisation, then this narrow focus on the rollout of the purchased platform may be a step in the right direction, but the focus of this article is not the necessary digitisation of the enterprise, but its sustained agility and growth.

 

Act 11. Digitisation vs Business Agility

 

Buying a platform that digitises and connects marketing, sales and customer service, may well be an important part of a business journey toward sustained growth, but it should never become the driver of its strategy.

An “out of the box” platform is a great equaliser, not a great differentiator. It’s just an enabler; one of many. This is the nuanced distinction lost in some top-down digital transformation programmes that focus on digital experiences and operating model efficiency powered by product x. Initiatives that compromise on Business Agility. It is also interesting, but not surprising to see these same product companies move into the consulting space. On a positive note, any illusion of independence is dead and buried under one single logo.

A product-focused centralisation and horizontalization of the digital functions emerged even in the most “Agile” of the enterprises. A deserved, but mostly ineffective, backlash to years of unaligned, unmanaged chaos disguised as business agility. A couple of successful agile projects do not make an agile organisation.

The reality is that CIO, CMO and the rest of the c-suite must align and commit to the age of hyper personalised customer experiences powered by intelligence, and organise accordingly. Collaboration is crucial as it strengthens the vision, the strategy, and unlocks bigger budgets required for much needed transformational change.

Over the last few years, we have seen the emergence of the Chief Digital Officer as companies seek to unify the digital agenda. I will come back later to this topic.

It should not take long to co-design a company-wide customer vision together with its strategy, high-level multi-year roadmaps, short-term plan, and related digital operating model. Then, we jump into action, execute and learn. We lay out the foundations while, in parallel, we deliver customer value as soon as possible. Ongoing organisational refactoring and evolution of the digital operating model is a necessity but avoid wild swings.

 

Act 12. Periodic Wild Swings.

 

The tension between centralised vs decentralised organisational models, vertical vs horizontal alignment, empowerment vs standardisation is clear for those of us old enough to see the cyclical change of the guard that occurs every three to five years in most corporate environments.

The ongoing reorganisation of the digital enterprise, of all the executive roles that touch it and their preferred professional services partners, tend to overcompensate with unnecessary radical shifts between highly centralised and decentralised models that drive loss of good momentum and IP.

Good people, with great business context, and strong internal relationships leave the business taking with them all the lessons learned.

Act 13. Business Model Innovation at Scale

THE PLATFORM BUSINESS ERA

 

If our institutions are to survive, they’ll have to create new roadways. That’s a design problem — one that requires new rules of engagement with a broad set of collaborators.

Tim Brown, IDEO

While some businesses struggled to find alignment at the top, the progressive corporation was now busy engaging in top-down business model innovation powered by the digitisation of everything. The objective was to design technology architectures and organisational structures that could easily evolve as teams add post-it notes to the company’s Business Model Canvas. The Enterprise was slowly and painfully evolving itself into a Platform Business. Being at the cutting edge is hard.

The shift was inspired by the likes of Apple, Netflix, Uber and Airbnb. With the cost of innovation increasing exponentially, organisations worked to enable other partners to deliver value to its customer and to innovate on its proprietary platform. The corporation aspired to achieve network effects by becoming the broker of a vast ecosystem of different types of customers and partners.

The spotlight to deliver all that was squarely centred on the CIO and on the Agile and Lean experts. The heavy lifting of breaking down technology into blocks of Lego whose studs could be shared outside the corporate wall was about to begin. A task relying on agile and lean principles, practices and engineering.

The CIO moved applications to the cloud, decomposed monolith legacy systems into libraries of services exposed by APIs, aggregated data into Enterprise data lakes, and identified which layers needed to be horizontal and where vertical or fully decentralised ecosystems of services worked best. All this requiring an increased level of automation of both operations and systems. And while all this was going on, there was the small matter of the exponential increase of corporate security breaches and fraud to deal with.

The CIO and the Agile and Lean communities shifted their attention from products to platforms. They refactor architectures to become evolutionary. The epicentre of this mammoth effort was still centred around APIs, technology and operations in service of the business strategy. The focus wasn’t on the customer’s experience.

 

Act 14. Customer-Centred Intelligence. Please.

THE CUSTOMER-CENTRED INTELLIGENCE ERA?

 

Transformation towards agility is a journey, not a destination. It has been a long road since the days in the engine room.

The commoditisation of technology and the digitisation of the world helped us to get closer to the customer; in some cases, with analytics and programmatic, we managed to get too close without ever considering their experience and trust. We managed to get close to the customer without being customer-oriented.

Frankly, it was not that astonishing when the news broke of the 87 million Facebook users affected by Cambridge analytica’s election meddling. Or was it election advertising? For some of us, it was an expected and inevitable outcome.

Inês Almeida, Privacy, identity, advertising and Blockchain

As the business strategy shifts to big data and intelligence; as we focus on company-wide data strategies; as the privacy debate goes mainstream and regulation tightens, things are likely to change.

Perhaps, the current crisis in customer trust will finally propel us into a true experience age — Intelligent, personal, relentlessly relevant, connected, dynamic, and consensual experiences. What Prophet describes as living and breathing brand systems with the ability to learn and evolve at scale. The goal has always been to continuously respond to customer needs, right?

In Agile management, there is no such thing as an “internal customer.” The only purpose of work is the ultimate customer or end-user. Under the Law of the Customer, the original producers not only meet the needs the internal customers: they are given a clear line of sight as to what value is being provided for the ultimate customer. Satisfying so-called internal customers is merely feeding the bureaucratic beast. It is a pretend-version of Agile.

Steve Denning

Act 15. How Do We Get There?

 

1. Ask the right (human-centred) questions.

How can we use AI to make things better for humans?
Combining data, design, and machine learning to build intelligent products and services that improve people’s lives

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2. Design Led. Agile Enabled.

According to the Design Management Institute, design-driven companies have outperformed the S&P index by 219% over 10 years. That is what business agility looks like.

Customer-centered, design-driven enterprises enabled by Agile and Lean methods and great engineering stand a better chance to achieve business agility.

3. Transformational, Visionary Leadership.

On the topic of leadership, alignment between board and C-suite is indispensable. This is a heavy topic that I will leave to discuss in detail some other time.

When companies get where they’re sort of living by so-called making the numbers, they do a lot of things that are really counter to the long-term interest of the business.

Warren Buffet. Warren Buffet and Jamie Dimon join forces to convince CEOs to end quarterly profit forecasts. CNBC

In parallel, a new class of digital leadership is emerging to deliver the next era of transformation. The progressive C-level digital leader can navigate both IT architectures and end-to-end digital ecosystems. She co-creates compelling customer-centred visions, drives evolving strategies and plans, unlocks investments, delivers change at scale, and continuously improves operating effectiveness. Above all else, she keeps her focus squarely on the customer.

 

Epilogue: Agile. So What?

 

As I scan the latest Harvard Business Review, entitled Agile at Scale, How to Create a Truly Flexible Organisation, I get more value from the insights of the article that argues that Drunk People are Better at Creative Problem Solving, by Professor Jarosz, than I do from the Scaling Agile section of the magazine co-authored by Jeff Sutherland, Andy Noble and Darrel Rigby. The first, encourages me to bring a bottle of bubbly to my next team ideation session, what could possibly go wrong? If a glass, or two, of Veuve Clicquot increases problem resolution by as much as 20%, I am ready to fully embrace this experiment, particularly because now I have a great reason to expense the Champagne.

When it comes to the article that focuses on Scaling Agile, there is an emphasis on the empowerment of people and their morale, which is good. A lot is said about productivity, processes, structures and operating models, but it only manages to touch upon customer experience and transformational vision occasionally. The authors are so caught up in the internal organisational and operational spaghetti, that they haven’t realised that the main engine of innovation has shifted elsewhere. Internally focused agile operating model innovation is nice, but to quote another article in the same magazine by Katrina Lake, the CEO of Stitch Fix “Innovation is done by data science.”

Business Agility is the ability to achieve sustained business growth by responding to customer needs. If you are not focused on gaining a deep understanding of your customer and on delivering exceptional experiences, you can’t be responsive, neither can you assure their privacy, security and safety. If you have all that but lack operating model agility you are not a responsive business.

The codification and implementation of Agile in its current form is useful, but it is now uncomfortably at odds with some of the new types of innovation. As a start, we need to address a significant omission — the end customer’s experience. The single most important stakeholder whose needs and desires must be anticipated and addressed, if a company is to survive and thrive.

Technology must no longer serve the business; the business must no longer serve the business. If we are shifting the focus of the Enterprise from looking inwards to the needs of their customers and hopefully also to the benefit of their ecosystem and society — if we accept that this is the formula for long-lasting Business growth and sustainability — then it’s time to look beyond Agile.

END

Thank you to Jason Yip, Keith Dodds and Dennise Openshaw for taking the time to review and provide feedback to this article.