18 June 2018

Are you agile? …Probably not!

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In a changing world the demand for being agile and adaptive is enormous. People need to be agile, systems and infrastructure need to agile, and your business model needs to agile. But are you truly agile?

My hypothesis is that you have not set yourself up for being agile. Let’s look at a couple of examples:

People:

According to Charles Darwin, it is not the strongest nor the most intelligent that survives, but the one most adaptive to change. Since the human species is still around and in ok shape (depending on who you ask), then people are per se agile. However, most people do not appear to be agile nor act like it, however there tend to be a reason for this.

Professionally, if you are not rewarded for being agile, why should you be? Such factors are from my experience the most important factor to consider as a leader before asking the stupid question – Are you agile and ready for change? Probably not, if you do not have rewards and the “why” in place.

Systems:

Are your systems really agile?

Probably not. What I have seen for quite some time now is that many companies are buying expensive standard software but maintain their old processes and do not change anything. That is just plain stupid, because you create an overly expensive process. Furthermore, when companies buy big expensive systems from SAP, Adobe, Oracle etc., Hanne from Marketing is in the office that day, and wants the new system to be able to do exactly the same thing in the exact same way as she does it today. 

The consultants implementing the systems point out that it is a customized workaround to the standard software but does the customization anyway. And then companies build up technical dept and become less agile. 

The key takeaway from the example above is that many companies are losing their system agility because they tend to customize their standard platforms. All the customization makes it extremely difficult and expensive to upgrade the software package, hence all agility is lost.

So are your systems supporting your agility – No, most companies have made their infrastructure complex and time consuming to upgrade, just because Hanne from Marketing needs certain customizations to keep her happy.

My point here is: Do not throw away your system agility by customizing standard software. If you choose to buy standard software, use it as it is intended and adapt to those new conditions instead of forcing standard software to match you or your employees. If you think you are special and need to customize your platforms, then choose a customizable software package from the beginning. Think like Michael Porter, either you compete on cost and you go standard, or you compete on differentiation and you compete on customization. If you do something in between, then you are stuck in the middle…

The good news is that many companies are stuck in the middle with their systems – so you are not alone, but you are not agile!

Business model:

Finally, but most important, when have you cleaned up your business model for legacy that you do not want to carry over to your systems?

When is the last time you actually used that special promotion code, that you are now customizing into your new standard software? When is the last time you have removed business logic to make your execution simpler and more agile?

Time and time again, I see companies who could easily carve away legacy making systems more agile and making it easier for your staff. I do not understand why you are waiting for expensive consultants to come in a carve out legacy – you owe it to your business logic that you continuously carve out unused legacy. Often the maintenance savings alone are reason enough to act on it. Furthermore, simpler and more agile systems with minimum legacy would also make you more agile and responsive to change. So, what are you waiting for, what is holding you back? 

I hope that you halt for 2 minutes and reflect on how much you can do yourself to make you agile, because the reality is that it is rare that we do those things that enable us to be agile. So are you agile, my hypothesis is that you are not – but you need to do something about it.

About the author

Toke Lund
Toke LundHead of International E-commerceSend e-mail

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