During a conversation last week with some clients and colleagues, we were talking about business benefits of a product – one of which was achieving “agility.”  It is a hot topic of conversation in business today across multiple functions — IT, Marketing, HR, and Finance. The approach, with its roots in software development, is gaining in popularity in a much broader context.

 But we felt like we were playing a bit of Jeopardy and our answer was not surprisingly in the form of a question – “what is agile?” And what does it really mean for our customers specifically?

The Merriam-Webster definition of agile reads: adj., ready ability to move with quick easy grace; quick resourceful and adaptable character.  It is a great word and a favorite adjective of mine. I have always associated it with a cheetah. Not because it is the fastest animal, but because it can accelerate or decelerate without losing its footing and can make tight turns without skipping a beat. Software developers probably daydream about SCRUM.

Forrester defines business agility as: The quality that allows an enterprise to embrace market and operational changes as a matter of routine.

Accenture has some research that looks at the traits of an agile business from a “leader” and a “laggard” perspective. You can download it here. Some of the key traits of agile adopters are:

  • Diverse leadership
  • Critical decision-making
  • Accelerated decision-making
  • Teams can be deployed quickly
  • Invests in data and analytics

At a high level, it is all about a cultural shift towards adaptability, flexibility, innovation through people, processes and technology. But, that doesn’t necessarily connect the dots to how a particular product or service helps businesses achieve those outcomes.

Fifty Shades of Agile

When you start to drill down you find that being “agile” means something different depending on who you ask, their priorities and what industry they serve. Consider the following example scenarios:

  • The Retail CMO needs integrated platforms with great digital, mobile, social, and CMS. She wants to create personalized experiences driven by data analytics and has been known to go it alone
  • The ISV Developer wants to create the next big thing. He needs a DevOps model that puts him at the center of application development and keeps him plugged into the user feedback loop
  • The CFO is eying “agile” start-ups poised to disrupt the traditional business
  • CIOs need to support growth and innovation but legacy systems may stymy that. He is driven to address cloud, digitalization, mobility, social, big data and security priorities while reducing CAP and OPEX

This post only scratches the surface on what agile can mean, but there is a ton of content and conversations out there to explore. I also recommend adding #agile to your watch list in addition to checking the Accenture reports.

Jennifer Voisard

Jennifer Voisard

Senior Consultant

Jenny is a digital content strategist, who leads customer-centric engagements that focus on understanding B2B buying behaviors and developing custom roadmaps.

Her expertise is creating buyer personas and mapping digital content journeys to assess the multi-channel user experience. She helps clients operationalize plans across workstreams and identifies processes to create efficiencies in marketing operations. Jenny also has extensive time under her belt developing and managing customer advocacy programs and community building.

She has helped a diverse group of organizations including Cisco, VMware, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, BMO Harris, Capital One and many others become more customer-centric.