Scaling Agility: The Fuel that Drives the Organisation’s Digital Transformation

Interview with Professor Stijn Viaene

In today’s rapidly-changing corporate world, it’s imperative for businesses and organisations to respond and adapt more quickly than ever before. Digital transformation provides opportunities by optimising resource usage, innovating capabilities and creating lasting relationships with customers. Throughout the organisations’ journey in digital transformation, agility is one of the most important aspects to be looked at. In this interview, we had the pleasure of a conversation with Vlerick Business School’s Professor Stijn Viaene, who talked to us about the importance of agile transformation and how it drives and delivers digital transformation. 

 

Scaling agility is a huge topic right now, especially to organisations during their digital transformation journey. Could you tell us exactly what this is about? Does it matter to all organisations?

Agility is what is required from organisations that want to thrive in turbulent environments, like the digital economy. It implies speed, flexibility, and most of all, responsiveness to change. 

Today, people almost automatically associate agility with the introduction of self-organising, multidisciplinary teams. These teams are empowered to decide autonomously, without having to escalate decision making all the time. Publicly available models for implementing agile teamwork, such as Scrum or Kanban, have become increasingly popular.   

Now, if you only have one such team, which is not too big, composed of highly competent people, and a team with a great team dynamics, then these agile setups can really work miracles. It is what fuels the success of digital start-ups. 

On the other hand, what if you have 10, 20, 80 or more of these agile teams all running initiatives at the same time? With all sorts of dependencies amongst the teams and the projects, some teams may need the work of others as inputs. Projects of different teams may work with a common data asset. Teams may fight for the same scarce resources and talent. And, what if there’s a great deal of legacy around, which the teams need to somehow work with? 

This situation easily ends up in chaos, especially when the change has to come fast or very fast as in the digital age. 

You will have to find ways to align the different team and project objectives, coordinate resource allocation, and manage to integrate the results without jeopardising the agility of the teams and that is quite a challenge. The challenge is referred to as scaling agility or creating agility at scale. 

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About the Interviewee

Stijn Viaene is a full professor and partner at Vlerick Business School in Belgium. He is the director of the school’s Digital Transformation focus area. He is also a full professor in the Decision Sciences and Information Management Department at KU Leuven University in Belgium.

 

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