How to stay agile and be relevant in a fast changing world

To respond to fast-changing business needs and demanding customers, companies need to implement agility across the organisation.

How to stay agile and be relevant in a fast changing world

Tuesday April 09, 2019,

6 min Read

“Real artists ship,” Steve Jobs once said famously, about how ideas are great, but they are nothing if they are not delivered. Things are changing in the world, and businesses need to become agile and adapt to the changes to keep up and stay relevant.

What is agility?

●     Agility is about listening to voices from industry, competition, market, technology changes, customers, and adapting in different phases - from strategy to execution.

●     Agility is the ability to make decisions faster, and this can be done by having a culture where all the stakeholders (sales, marketing, support, customers, development/support team) related to the product or service are engaged in the product development lifecycle to deliver value, sharing the inputs to improve the prototype.

●     Agility is about delivering value faster to the end customers.

●     Agility is about responding faster based on the need of the customers.

●     Agility is about continuous learning and continuous improvement.

Agile adoption

According to the How Agile And DevOps Enable Digital Readiness And Transformation-2018 survey, eight out of 10 software departments in organisations have committed to adopting agile. While agile has a lot of advantages, many companies still fail or are slow at adopting agility. Adoption on paper is very easy but building an agile culture is difficult at all levels in the entire ecosystem of work. Only less than a fifth of those organisations have implemented agile broadly, deeply, and consistently across the organisation.

To respond to fast-changing business needs and demanding customers, companies need to implement agility across the organisation by sharing common agile values and having all departments, working in harmony with small cross-functional teams with a strong focus on continuous improvement and delivering customer value.

It will help the organisation to respond faster to the changing needs of the business, from strategy at the top to the last-mile support provided to the customers, and hence help them stay ahead of the competition and also reflect agile culture. Companies will have to use an appropriate organisation structure with a cross-functional and smaller team, customer focused, flat hierarchy culture to promote continuous feedback and learning. The process needs to adapt to deliver value faster to customers and infrastructure and process to build and deliver faster with good quality and members that adopt agility.

Let's look at what's changing around in the world that is demanding agility from three different perspectives - customer, company, and business.


We are living in a world that is connected more than ever. Half of the world's population has access to the internet, and a third of the population owns smartphones. The devices used by most of the connected population are also inter-connected. And customers are accessing the services through digital channels.

With customers having access to the internet and smartphones, the usage of social media is very prevalent. Social media has become the largest focus group, where customers are providing feedback to the companies about the product or services they are using. Customers tend to provide feedback about the negative experience related to usage of product/service, and they expect companies to respond fast; in most cases,under an hour.

Technologies like cloud and mobile have created an on-demand economy, and impatience has become a virtue for customers.

Let’s look at some numbers on customer expectations:

●     63 percent of customers expect companies to provide new products/services more frequently than ever before.

●     62 percent of customers say that they would share negative experiences with their friends.

●     64 percent of consumers and 80 percent of business buyers said they expect companies to respond to and interact with them in real time.

With companies also going digital, they are able to directly connect with customers and engage with them to co-develop products, understand their challenges, and get new ideas going using crowdsourcing, open innovation, and communities. The close engagement with customers provides companies ample opportunities to understand the users, their challenges, and also generate new ideas.


Connected customers are also eager to participate in co-creation of products. Companies need to continuously engage actively and deeply with customers in the co-creation process.

Case studies include Lego, BMW, and Amazon.

●     Lego’s online community involves customers ideation process to design the new LEGO set.

●     BMW uses co-creation to drive innovation by involving customers in the creation process of vehicles.

●     Amazon Studios involves customers in the entire production funnel from script creation to defining which concepts can go for full season. Some of the emerging and existing Fortune 500 companies like Pepsico, Panasonic, and Siemens are using open innovation platforms such as ‘Ninesigma’ to co-create products with customers.

Business models

On the other hand, markets are more competitive, disruptions are very frequent, and business models are changing.

One of the examples of change in business models is that the companies are moving from product to services.

●     Rolls-Royce provides jet engine-as-a-service, offered on a “power by the hour” service agreement model.

●     Printer companies like Ricoh provide copier machines as a “pay per print” service.

Companies are using software to build the services that they are providing to customers. The software also helps companies to identify the failure points to keep the services on continuously without fail.

Services business model has drastically reduced switching cost for many services so it’s vital to resolve customer issues faster to keep the customers using the service.

Agile is not limited to software. SpaceX is in high-cost business, where mistakes can cause a loss of reputation. While NASA scrapped the $9 billion ‘Constellation’ project, SpaceX chose the path of willingness to fail, learn from the failures, and continuously improve. They iteratively ran multiple trials before getting it right, rather than waiting for a long time to design and test, which would have cost them time.They have used software simulators to build and test in iterative ways before they try out on actual hardware.

To steer business at a fast pace, businesses need agility in every phase of the product life cycle.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)