How To Become Agile In A Period Of Rapid Business Change

Implementing a new business practice is difficult at the best of times


As Warren Buffet once said, 'someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.' The point being that not every action starts with an obvious end result. You need to put the foundations in place that will allow you to build and grow from there.

Business agility is something that does not happen overnight. In essence, agility refers to a company’s ability to rapidly adapt to market and environmental changes, ideally in a cost effective way. With the speed of change driven by technology that we are seeing today, it can be the difference between a company thriving or failing. The misconception that not everyone is cut out to be an agile business is also a myth. Large or small, any business is capable of embracing technology and policies that enable them to be agile.

Though we assume agility is easier for start-ups to embrace, size doesn’t always matter. Take General Electric (GE), a company that is soon to reach its 125th anniversary and has completely embraced what it means to be an agile business through digital transformation. Despite being a long-standing company, likely holding onto a lot of legacy IT systems, GE has transformed many of its solutions to be digitally-led, such as turning its power stations into digital power plants, with hundreds of data points implemented that offer real-time updates to engineers – a great example of how agility can be used across different industries.

Where does agility begin and end?

There are two challenges that businesses encounter in the journey to becoming agile. The first is whether the business should select a public or private cloud and the second is choosing the right person or party to manage the change process.

Today, few businesses choose to stay fully on-premise, as the cloud offers long and short term benefits like flexibility and cost. Indeed, the cloud is an ongoing challenge for businesses as change remains constant. When choosing whether public or private cloud is right for the business, it’s important to focus on continuity and reliability. There are a lot of changes when moving to the cloud, so it’s important that the business experiences as little disruption as possible, both for employees and customers. Even if the business does not move fully to the cloud, and uses a mixture of on-premise and cloud for their technology, they need a provider that will offer the same experience across all platforms.

Whatever route you go down with the cloud, it’s about making sure it will work with your business choices, not just for short-term benefits like cost, but the long-term effects of business agility, security protection, and high-performance technology.

When it comes to who manages the change, they need to have full visibility and control over three elements: service performance, availability, and security. Operating an agile business model means a company can get services to market faster, become more competitive, deliver a better user experience and scale more effectively. It’s therefore, crucial that whoever is overseeing the change, is fully in tune with these three elements.

Is there a one size fits all model?

This might surprise the reader, but in short, the answer is yes. There is a misconception that the needs of a big business are very different to that of a small one when it comes to agility. Indeed, small businesses don’t have as much capital to invest in solutions, whilst large businesses are faced with more legacy IT to virtualize.

Nevertheless, the most important thing to focus on is the application. At F5, we believe that no application should be left behind. No matter where a business sits within the application cycle, they need systems in place that allow them to consolidate, scale, operate faster and above all, maintain security at the most granular level. The ability to consolidate allows businesses to save costs by reducing the number of devices they require and simplify their virtualisation process.

Having the pillars for virtualization and agility in place no matter where they are in the process, means that when a business is scaling, the technology is available and ready to be used immediately. The first step of operating in a virtualized network is to ensure you have network functions virtualization (NFV) architectures in place, which allow for new delivery models and elastic network scaling, giving the organization the freedom to evolve and grow, becoming more agile as they do. Whether they are growing across one region or globally, technology should not hold them back.

Great expectations: today’s consumers are not what they used to be

Consumers are also getting more demanding – a direct result of the technology we have put in their hands. The speed at which they operate needs to be reflected in the applications and services they use, which presents more challenges for businesses as well as greater opportunities. Now, it’s about how quickly a business allows their developers to operate.

This is where agility truly plays its part. Agility allows businesses to empower developers to release an application as quickly as possible, from idea to creation to release. They can continue to adjust and reform the application as much as is required when feedback and performance results are in.

Having the infrastructure in place to deliver these apps means consumers will get the best service from the company and access to the most futuristic apps. The difference for businesses here is that larger organizations will have a bigger team of developers to focus on getting the app to market, whilst smaller businesses will still need the policy management in place. It’s crucial that the application development process is not interrupted by downtime, availability issues or security threats.

Using agility for success

Becoming an agile business is a process that constantly needs work. Businesses that don’t have the ability to move at the same speed as industry change could face getting left behind. With technology in place that allows them to scale, consolidate their services, and guarantee security at the most granular level, the pillars are in place for achieving success.

Partnership small

Read next:

Strategy Innovation Through Partnership