When we talked about agility a year ago, we were market-oriented: is our company agile enough to deal with new data protection regulations? The death of cookies? The change in retail habits?
Now the needs of the market have changed significantly. It’s not just about privacy laws and cookie-free advertising – there has been a global shift in priorities. Supply chains have flattened; People lost jobs; Some borders are closed – then reopened and closed again, then reopened.
How has all of this affected your company and that of your customers?
How agile are your product plans?
Was your team able to react quickly and confidently to the needs of the market while keeping an eye on the ultimate goal of your company?
If the pandemic ends or becomes endemic and we are preparing to live with it, what practices are you likely to continue?
Today, business agility is more important – and more diverse – than ever. And each of these facets is crucial for the success of your company.
Business agility and time
Now that you are likely to save hours on the commute to work in addition to the days saved traveling, how effectively are you using your time? How agile is your team with its time?
After working remotely for most of 2020, I realized how disrupted my day was. Between daily internal meetings, traffic jams, flying to customer offices or talking in the office kitchen, I didn’t use my time as efficiently as I could.
Many of us are using this newfound time in ways that seem wise on the surface. We fill the hours in a way that turns out to be very productive for the company – but potentially counterproductive in the long run.
How? We use these hours to get things done and check things off our to-do lists instead of just allowing ourselves to sit and think, talk, and work together.
Sitting and thinking may seem like a waste, but how else do you come up with brilliant creative ideas and strategies? How else do you find the space for innovation?
Some of the time we spend on everyday tasks can best be spent collaborating with colleagues or simply kept away from everyday life to formulate new ideas and allow them to percolate.
Business agility and collaborative work
In the past few years, you may have had several offices that meet once a year for an all-hands event. In the past year, face-to-face meetings were restructured or even canceled. Collaboration has been a challenge in all office locations in the past, but at least groups could grab a conference or breakout room and work together to come up with ideas or work out projects.
Now we have gone from limited geographic interaction to no local interaction. Many of the things we learned from working across locations helped us put those things into practice when we needed to seek refuge. But work communication is also having great success in companies with offices and remote workers across the country.
It is easy enough to speak to the people you deal with day in and day out, but it is the people who have the added benefit of listening to the conversations that they miss. It’s something we’ve always taken for granted, but it’s a legitimate business challenge.
Newer employees and less experienced members of the team benefit from listening to sales calls and other joint discussions between managers or older colleagues. Among other things, you will learn about the corporate culture, the nuances of the industry or niche, and details about specific customers.
These people are also missing out on the opportunity to network with others in the industry. They do not have the opportunity to develop important working relationships with people outside of their immediate colleagues and clients that they will cultivate throughout their careers. This is less of a problem for those of us who have been around for a while, but it can affect the ability of newer team members to understand the business in a broader industry context. As a result, it is more difficult to align people with business goals.
We need to be aware that communication has fundamentally changed and we need to find ways to keep everyone involved by providing virtual networking opportunities. There are companies that rely more on their messaging apps and others with employees who stay at Zoom, Meet, Slack, or Teams all day with cameras on so they can focus on collaborating and listening to each other.
We need to figure out what works for our respective organizations in order to stay connected and be aligned.
Business agility and your product roadmap
As important as it is to be agile, some organizations that focus too much on business agility lose sight of the ultimate goal.
There is a balancing act between responding to a market – that is, being able to change things – and being committed to a consistent goal. An organization needs to understand where it is going in the long run and not be completely disrupted by short term responses.
I wish I had a crystal ball to provide the answers, but I suspect most businesses are caught in a cycle of short-term planning. We are short-sighted and focus on what lies ahead rather than trying to plan for the next two years. There are still long term goals, but we generally plan for shorter term executions and then take the temperature of the market to understand what’s next.
To use my own company as an example, we’ve been thrown curve ball after curve ball into the ad tech space for the past three years. We’ve looked at the EU General Data Protection Regulation, California Consumer Protection Act, and the sunset of third-party cookies, which has brought great uncertainty to our industry.
Some companies have closed their doors permanently, others have ceased operations in certain regions, and still others have done absolutely well. We have always been confident of our long-term vision, but we still need to be nimble enough to respond to short-term market conditions. Knowing your ultimate destination is important, but how you get there may have to change.
The business impact of COVID has been similar in some ways. In our particular case, certain industries that we serve have reduced their activity significantly, but they are now slowly returning. Other industries flourished because so many people were online, which in turn gave us insight into new audiences and their behavior, and aided future planning.
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Business agility is important, but not the same for every company. It all comes down to finding the ideal balance between short-term planning and long-term consistency. It’s not easy, but it’s important to remember that we’re continuing the new state of business into 2021.
More resources on business agility
How To Achieve Business Agility: These four mindset changes are a must
Using Scenarios to Achieve Marketing Agility
Three effective ways to stay agile and relevant during difficult times