Managing Business Agility at Scale Key for Digital Age


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Article contributed by Daniel Hutley, The Open Group® Architecture Forum Director

The digital enterprise is shaped by people who work in the context of an organisation and culture that needs to evolve toward agility at scale. Agile teams drive the enterprise’s digital transformation by inventing new business models, delivering superior customer experience, developing digital products, and architecting highly-automated operating systems. 

Technology is increasingly becoming ingrained in everyday life and an overwhelming number of businesses are adopting digital into their operations. Now, Agile teams have never been so important. The digital age is growing, and in order for the digital enterprise to accelerate and enhance business operations, an Agile business-led approach is essential.

An Agile government 

The number of organisations, including the government, which are adopting Agile into their business models is growing. This growing appetite among businesses shows that there is still an opportunity for Agile to grow and for companies to continue to highlight its benefits. Research shows that 71% of companies are adopting Agile, and while the adoption has helped 98% of companies, there is room for continued adoption and improvement.

The Institute for Government carried out a range of research on the UK Government’s use of IT and the challenges of digital transformation. The dedicated ‘Government Digital Service’ (GDS) has led the digital transformation of government and is a model that is being copied internationally.

However, the adoption of Agile in both IT and non-IT lines of business might not simply be a long-term trend. The equality between these two areas might be more surprising than the speed of the increase, which could be attributed to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. That equality is also reflected in the reasons for adopting Agile, where an IT-specific purpose (accelerating software delivery) and a non-IT reason (managing changing priorities) were identified as the joint most important factors. 

While almost every business might now be using Agile practices, those practices are not limited to the software development purposes that Agile was originally created for. Instead, Agile is growing throughout organisations as a strategic priority as digital enterprises recognise its need. Although, communicating and implementing Agile methodologies will need to be rethought and reformulated as it comes to operate on that scale. 

Improving the client experience 

The shift of Agile towards being a wider organisational principle was noted at last year’s The Open Group Digital-First event, where Société Général and Fidelity Investments discussed their experiences using Agile to improve the client experience. In both cases, what started as an IT-led initiative became an enterprise-wide transformation spanning the whole business. 

In practice, this meant embracing new business models, developing governance processes, and changing assumptions about investment and return. By adopting Agile in this way, digital enterprises are able to re-evaluate organisational models and adapt to the digital age. 

Managing Agile at scale

Embracing Agile is critical for businesses in the digital age, and the experiences of businesses like these teach us that Agile does have valuable applications well beyond explicitly software-development focused areas of work. However, the point remains of how to manage Agile at scale. This includes how they act and organise, bring a new perspective with teams spanning the breadth of an organisation, and operate in a more digitally native way while making better use of digital tools.  

At the same time, it would be a mistake to think that the solution to today’s vexing business challenges is to duplicate the Agile culture already endemic to software development across the organisation. We are aware that at heart, Agile is about establishing teams which are self-organising and so have greater agency to take action, and carry the risk of creating inconsistencies between different teams’ approaches. This could possibly lead to internal incompatibilities and therefore inflexible outcomes which could impact future change. 

Some software development teams might be able to avoid this problem informally, but as the situation scales up to hundreds of semi-autonomous groups, formal coordination is essential to ensure positive holistic outcomes derive from decision making. 

The Open Group Open Agile Architecture™ (O-AA) Standard is tailored to the demands of businesses which need to support Agile at scale. O-AA provides toolkits and frameworks to guide organisations in enabling and encouraging agility across the business while avoiding silos or losing sight of the wider business environment.

There has been a significant rise in rapid Agile adoption over the last couple of years. As we advance further into the digital age, and digital firms further encourage Agile into business operations, the future of Agile might be all about how enterprises are making it part of their business. 


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