Agile work helps firms successfully adapt to pandemic business

18 March 2021 4 min. read
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With the Covid-19 pandemic seeing unprecedented numbers of staff having to work from home, seven-in-10 businesses have told a new survey that agile organisational practices helped them to adapt quicker. This enabled more than 60% of agile firms to preserve their pre-crisis performance over the last year.

Historically businesses have favoured stability as a factor to drive success. Unfortunately, the constant change of modern life means that digital disruption, economic uncertainty and even a global pandemic mean this is no longer a practical base to operate from. Instead, firms are increasingly looking to transform their operating models to favour agility, enabling them to adapt quickly to developing trends in their marketplace.

Illustrating this, a new study from BearingPoint has found that organisations which have transformed to agile operating models have been better equipped to deal to the chaotic business environment of the last year. Independent employees, an adaptable culture and agile network structures enable agile organisations to survive crisis periods, something reflected by 82% of the 372 businesses polled by BearingPoint saying that fast reactions to new conditions was a key advantage of organisational agility.

What advantages do agile organizations have in times of crisis and beyond

Meanwhile, 71% of firms also said that agility meant employees could adapt to working independently or remotely more easily – a major boost in the context of almost a year of home working during the pandemic lockdown. Leading on from this, 61% of agile firms said they were able to preserve the continuous delivery of results in a crisis – weathering the storm of the last 12 months better than their rivals.

Not all the benefits of agility were equally enjoyed between firms, however. Firms which managed to rework their organisation to become agile from top to bottom were those which enjoyed the greatest benefits of agile working, rather than those who still maintained traditional structures.

What improvements have been achieved through the agile tranformation

A networked organisation is one that is connected together by informal networks and the demands of the task. An agile network organisation therefore prioritises its “soft structure” of relationships, networks, teams, groups and communities rather than reporting lines. Relating to this, BearingPoint found agile network organisations enjoyed the best results of agile working.

Higher improvements through agile transformation were noticed in terms of increased flexibility in particular, with 56% of network organisations seeing a boost on these terms compared to 47% of non-network organisations. Similarly, network organisations enjoyed increased speed and a stronger customer focus, as well as increased innovation – all key to maintaining their businesses at a time when customers will have been scrutinising every purchase they made.

Current and future relevance of agility in a sector comparison

Even among businesses which might not previously have seen agility as a priority, meanwhile, the pandemic seems to have caused many to realise its importance. Illustrating this most overtly, BearingPoint found that while only 36% of respondents in the power supply sector said agility was currently relevant, 100% of those asked said it was either relevant or very relevant looking ahead.

Similarly, public administration and legal health insurance both saw their opinions on the relevance of agility alter drastically, each moving from around half of respondents to more than 80% stating it was relevant. At the same time, many of the previously converted have become more convinced of the importance of agility. Management and IT consulting for example saw the number who believe agility is currently very relevant boom by around one-third.

Commenting on the findings, BearingPoint Partners Andreas Mitter and Julia von Spreckelsen said, “We have seen many in our transformation and coaching projects that strongly promote agility to the outside world. A look inside often shows that some still follow traditional ways of working and thinking. The current Covid-19 pandemic raises awareness of the low adaptability of organisations. For others, however, it is an affirmation of the need to rely even more strongly on the agile mindset and to expand agility even further within the organisation.”