Balance, Speed, Strength: Enabling Enterprise Agility with GBS and Technology


According to Wikipedia, agility is “the ability to change the body’s position efficiently, and requires the integration of isolated movement skills using a combination of balancecoordinationspeedreflexesstrength, and endurance.”

I believe organizational agility has a similar definition. Organizational agility is the ability to change an organization’s position relative to the market, competition, suppliers and customers. It is achieved through the integration of:

  • Balance of competing objectives, including cost, quality and speed
  • Coordination of various stakeholders, both internal and external
  • Speed of decision-making and action
  • Reflexes or flexible reactions to internal and external stimuli
  • Strength in the form of world-class processes that allow for actionable decisions
  • Endurance to stick with decisions and initiatives and see them to conclusion

Achieving organizational agility will be one of the most critical success factors for businesses to thrive—indeed, to survive—in the latter half of this decade and the decade to come. The road to bankruptcy court is littered with companies that didn’t adapt to changing times. In other words, they were not agile. Kodak was one of the first companies to develop (no pun intended) a digital camera, but its inability to be agile and exploit that new technology (instead relying on film cameras as their core) will ensure that our children and grandchildren will not know what a “Kodak moment” is. They will, instead, have hundreds of selfies.

Change is constant and accelerating. Ironically, some of the very same disruptive forces driving change today can facilitate the process by which a company becomes more agile.

Cognitive computing can—and most assuredly will—change entire industries, not just the marketplace positions of certain companies. IBM’s Watson is revolutionizing how oncology doctors and nurses are diagnosing and treating cancer. Social media has completely reinvented how consumers get much of their comparative buying information. The cloud has redefined scalability and flexibility by creating whole IT landscapes now available “by the drink.” The Internet of Things tightens the coordination between businesses and their customers and does so almost instantaneously. And advanced analytics has not only increased the speed by which we can make decisions, it has drastically improved the quality of those decisions.

Many enterprises are stuck in the old “two-out-of-three-ain’t-bad” paradigm. This way of thinking is based on the idea that a company can only give customers two out of their three main objectives—lower cost, greater speed or better quality—but not all three. Most of the time, buyers have been forced to settle for a less-than-ideal set of choices.

But disruptive technologies and the principles of Global Business Services (GBS) are changing that. When an enterprise organizes its delivery of services to fulfill demand and its operational, tactical and strategic functions to manage the interactions between supply and demand, it can drastically improve its agility.

Likewise, disruptive technologies break the old paradigm into pieces, helping enterprises improve balancecoordinationspeed and reaction to the market so they can give customers what they want when they want it. One thing is certain: If a company is not agile, someone else will beat them to it.

To talk more about how emerging technologies and Global Business Services are reshaping today’s enterprise, contact us.

About the author

Scott Furlong

Scott Furlong

Mr. Furlong is a Partner at ISG and has over 25 years of experience in assisting companies transform their general and administrative functions including finance and accounting, human resources, and procurement. He has expertise in formulating strategies and designing alternative service delivery models (Global Business Services, shared services and outsourcing), transforming processes, driving organizational change, and implementing emerging technologies such as advanced analytics, mobile solutions, cognitive computing and cloud based solutions.  Mr. Furlong leads ISG’s Business Advisory Services practice and serves on the Americas Leadership team.

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