Thriving times for responsive organisations

New Thinking 28 November 2016 Ben Hayman

Organisations that deliver excellent digital services have generally achieved a high degree of business Responsiveness that enables them to turn on a dime. They also truly understand the Relevance of their current offering for its audience, while also being able to Innovate to imagine a future state and disrupt their business model before their competitors.

Responsiveness runs deep

Some organisations are born digital and find these three aspects a natural state of being. For other pre-digital organisations, they’re likely to need to undertake some level of transformation to get there. In either case, responsiveness is a fundamental enabling part of the picture. And it goes deep.

Most of us are familiar with the arguments for Agile methods and the creation of a mindset through the culture of organisations that values iteration and learning. This is an absolute necessity if an organisation is able to respond to constantly changing needs. It’s also a key part in creating a learning environment where the norm is to try many small things and evaluate the next steps along the way. And people love to work in these kinds of organisations so it really helps in the ongoing challenge to attract and keep talent.

Business-wide agility also sets organisations up to make valuable investments. The way that money is managed is a significant way to deliver that value. We need to get to the point of having an executive or investor conversation based on backing the validation of assumptions and the gaining of data about the future.

Lead the way

This takes leadership in the true sense. It involves having the fortitude to change the conversation with senior stakeholders from one of asset purchases and Capex to one of operational investments in teams to carry out small, ongoing tests and validations. I’ll dive deeper into this in future articles on transformation but is worth mentioning here as it’s central to supporting responsiveness.

Start small, think value

The need to Modernise the Core of your applications and tech is often the most costly and high-profile part of transforming to a responsive state and can itself be undertaken in an Agile way. Breaking down the ‘big programme of change’ into much smaller, value-aligned pieces of work and supporting teams to take an Agile approach reduces the risk of these big technology projects.

Involving all specialists in the organisation in every iteration of the work also reduces risk and enables responsiveness. Bake in the right quality in the right way early on by including test, security, privacy and legal colleagues at every stage in the process and remove the need for larger/slower sign-off gates later on.

This also brings us right back to money and thinking differently about it. Organisations that invest in platforms and back operational teams to constantly improve the services delivered on those platforms are less attached to sunk investments. We’ve all seen how hard it is for management to decide to kill a project or decommission technology when the purchase price was significant.

Responsiveness gets constrained when the organisation is too attached to the past models or decisions. It needs to be okay to change our minds based on data and feedback from our Agile process.  

Read more about creating a high-performance digital business and another core aspect – Innovation – 'Making innovation central to the new normal'.