Agile organizations perform better


IDC found that 93% of agile organizations reported growing profits.

In a fast-moving world where volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) are the norm, organizations must be agile to survive, thrive and rise above competitors. Recent IDC research shows agile organizations outperform non-agile organizations across several key indicators central to delivering on C-suite agendas.

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The ServiceNow-commissioned IDC Agility Benchmark Survey1 found that 93% of agile organizations reported growing profits (see Figure 1). Only 68% of static organizations reported the same. Equally, agile organizations perform better across several core areas and are better able to:

  • Protect revenues with existing customers and attract new ones.
  • Attract and retain critical talent.
  • Accelerate new business models and new solutions development.
  • Capitalize on targeted growth opportunities.
A spotlight on key metrics where agile organizations perform better than their peers. Source: IDC Agility Benchmark Survey, 2020

Figure 1: A spotlight on key metrics where agile organizations perform better than their peers; source: IDC Agility Benchmark Survey, 2020

Unlocking agility requires fundamental shifts

The need for more agility is clearer than ever, as is the realization that a whole journey lies ahead. IDC defines two characteristics that underpin agility: speed, and adaptability. Embedding these in the organizational DNA allows organizations to quickly pivot strategy, talent, processes, portfolio, and technology architecture toward changing needs.

Yet, the journey is not an easy one. The path to agility will require some relevant shifts across five dimensions:

  • Leadership: From reactive leadership with fixed and yearly strategy and budgeting processes to rapid decision cycles to quickly ramp or sunset initiatives as needed

  • Structure: From a hierarchical, siloed, command-and-control organizational structure to a "team of teams" fluid, self-forming structure that allows for continuous tapping into required talent and skills

  • Process: From siloed, manual processes where bottlenecks and duplication lead to inefficiencies to adaptive, integrated, and end-to-end digitized processes

  • Portfolio: From a static product portfolio where innovation is bureaucratic and top-down to rapid experimentation and "fail fast" approaches with feedback loops from the ecosystem

  • Technology architecture: From a static technology infrastructure tied to legacy systems toward operating as a digital platform, leveraging real-time enterprise data

IDC organizational agility evolution framework--pillars. Source: IDC, 2020

Figure 2: IDC organizational agility evolution framework—pillars; source: IDC, 2020

5 steps leaders should take to become more agile

1. Know where you are

Often, organizations overestimate their agility. More than half of European organizations consider themselves very or extremely agile. In contrast, only 21% of organizations are ahead in their agility journey. Overcoming this misperception and understanding how to move forward will require a careful assessment of where your organization is today on the agility evolution curve, as well as the ability to benchmark yourself against industry peers. This will provide a clear representation of the starting point and the end goal, and enable you to track progress.

2. Benchmark yourself

Benchmark your agility maturity to the five pillars (see Figure 2). This will provide a clear map of areas that need improvement. For each pillar, IDC has also identified agility tips—practical steps that can help organizations accelerate their path to agility.

3. Build an agility compass

Each organization will need to define its own roadmap toward organizational maturity and strength on the key agility dimensions. The roadmap should address current capabilities, challenges, and priorities. Setting up an internal pilot project to drive changes in the organization can help you test the approach, get internal buy-in, and share best practices for scaling.

4. Keep running in the "Red Queen's race"

As Lewis Carroll said in his book "Through the Looking-Glass," "It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that." Agility is not a safe spot to reach but rather a continual process of improvement.

5. Use the whole orchestra

Agility is a team sport. Make sure all levels of your organization understand the benefits of agility. You entire C-suite should be pulling in the same direction. All employees should be empowered to drive change proactively. Nurture a culture of innovation to drive entrepreneurial behavior and continuously scout new opportunities. Develop an incentive structure that's aligned with the new expectations to drive culture change across the organization.

Learn more about the key traits of an agile organization, the five dimensions of agility, and the agility evolution stages in the ServiceNow ebook "How to thrive in unpredictable times."

1 The IDC Agility Benchmark Survey gathered responses from 873 large European enterprises between September and October 2020.

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