Why Agility Holds the Key to Digital Transformation

digital transformation

By Lee Jones

‘Agility’ is one of these concepts which has become more and more popular in the wake of the Covid pandemic. It is tempting to simply view the term as another overused corporate cliche. However, increased acceptance and use of the term amongst professionals of all industries seemingly demonstrates a growing understanding that a business’s ability to adapt and deploy new processes quickly, in order to reflect the latest trends in the market, is a necessity, not just for growth but for survival  in today’s recovering economy. 

So, what steps should business owners and/or decision-makers take to implement agility, secure further growth within their organisation, and why does it matter?

Acceleration of digital transformation

Digitalisation did not appear with Covid; the pandemic simply accelerated the phenomenon. Over the past couple of years, the expansion of digitalisation across all sectors has enabled a protracted increase in the operational agility of businesses. Driven by enhanced connectivity and extraordinary new data capabilities, organisations now have the wherewithal to benefit from real-time information and insights, enabling better decision-making.

Once upon a time, implementing change was tough. But arguably this is no longer the case, rather the opposite. Also, given the shifts in the global economy, not only is change happening quickly, but it’s also forcing businesses themselves to react rapidly. It’s a constant flow of innovation, disruption — and sometimes chaos — that is moving us forward, faster than we ever imagined. 

It is often said that agility is the key to survival in an increasingly globalised age full of constant technological twists and turns. According to KPMG, 81% of companies have identified agility as one of their most important initiatives, by beginning their own agile, digital transformation projects within the past three years.

A commitment to being better

When it comes to implementing changes or technological innovations, more often than not, business owners are held back by the assumption that “but we’ve always done it this way and it has always worked, so why change it?” 

No matter how appealing, this line of reasoning fails to understand that in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing ecosystem, the most successful businesses are those which actually do embrace change, take risks, and embrace initiatives that hone their models and procedures. This is especially true for those dealing with customer journeys. 

The past couple of years have been especially challenging for companies, across all sectors. And if there is one lesson that we have learnt, it’s that the key to ensure the survival of your business is having the will to constantly search for ways to improve. You simply cannot rely on legacy systems, stubbornness or an attachment to the past.

Making Customer Experience (CX) a priority 

Digital transformation is compelling companies to change their business models and adapt to the new market reality. Having said that, what drives this trend is not the businesses themselves, but rather their customers’ changing behaviours. In other words, CX fuels digital transformation, by encouraging businesses to show agility and improve their customer journey. 

Consumers today have particularly high expectations when it comes to relevance, convenience, and simplicity. They want omnichannel capabilities, in the format and device of their choosing for a speedy and frictionless experience. To keep up with this hyper-connected user, businesses must embrace technology and be prepared to pivot, in order to deliver an unmatched customer service.

Fortunately, putting CX at the heart of their agility strategy is already a priority for many businesses. According to a recent survey by HBR, 72% of respondents said they were excited about the accelerating shift towards digital because of opportunities to create better relationships with customers.

Embracing failure

One of the greatest challenges for organisations looking to become more agile is overcoming the well-established fear of failure which continues to be engrained in so many businesses across different sectors. But in an agile environment, and in the context of digital transformation, failure is an essential part of what is otherwise known as the test and learn process. 

In the end, agility is exactly that – a series of trials, testing something new, figuring out if something works well, benefits the organisation and achieves the expected outcome, i.e.  benefits your customers. But failure will always be a part of this progression. That does not however necessarily mean that the whole process is doomed. Quite the opposite; a temporary failure always brings lessons to help improve and move forward. 

A willingness to learn

The out-dated ‘fear of failure’ culture has created a situation where leaders choose to somehow extract apparent success from a project that has not necessarily achieved its goals. As a result, businesses often continue to invest in unsuccessful initiatives irrespectively. By embracing experimentation and ‘test and learn’, companies can create a new culture of transparency, where every stakeholder understands the true performance of a new project and, therefore, how to improve upon it. 

Taking an agile approach means setting an ultimate goal, but not being tied to a methodology, the amount of time needed to implement it, or the cost involved in achieving it. In the end, change is inevitable and ongoing – there is always more to do. It’s this that makes agility so important in digital transformation. Brands must be smart and lean enough to stay ahead of the curve, no matter what size they may be.

About the Author

Lee JonesLee Jones is the Chief Executive Officer of Worldline Merchant Services UK Limited


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