What Is Enterprise Business Agility?

Evolving from “Agile Transformations” to “Enterprise Business Agility”
There is a noticeable shift and perhaps an evolution from focusing on Agile transformations, which aim to optimize delivery within IT, to enabling Enterprise Business Agility (EBA) – transformations where a more holistic strategy is needed to enable true Enterprise Agility both within technology and beyond.
Why? Simply put, focusing only on delivery optimization hasn’t achieved the intended business outcomes most executives and leaders were aiming for.
Millions of dollars have been invested in large Agile transformations but the majority of leaders have said “I still don’t feel teams are aligned to the right business outcomes” and many teams have said “We’re working at an unsustainable pace – we’ve become feature factories with constantly shifting priorities and no clarity to the business value we produce”.
Executives and business leaders want to achieve Business Agility. Agile is a powerful tool in the arsenal but not the final destination.
So… What Is Business Agility?
The phrase “Business Agility,” as defined by Evan Leybourn, founder of the Business Agility Institute, and Sally Elatta, founder of AgilityHealth®, is:
The ability to adapt to change, learn and pivot, deliver at speed, and thrive in a competitive market.
Why? Because gone are the days when big companies eat small. Today, fast is eating slow, regardless of size. The ability to learn and deliver faster than competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage.
Many are contemplating “How do I enable Business Agility?” The answer is to create a holistic and integrated strategy for this transformation.
We’ve mapped out what the typical EBA transformation journey looks like for many of our large enterprise customers.

  1. Team Agility: This stage focuses on bringing basic Agile practices and methods, such as Scrum and Kanban, into the team and designing cross-functional teams. This also involves making the teams stable, implementing Agile tools and co-locating workspaces. This enables basic team-level agility.
  2. Team of Teams Agility: Next is addressing the challenges of cross-team planning and dependency management to solve how teams are going to deliver together. This involves scaling Agile using your favorite scaling method and investing in DevOps maturity. Additionally, there’s an investment in leadership transformational efforts with a special focus on the role of managers.
  3. Organizational Agility: In this step, organizations are working to streamline portfolio planning at the enterprise level through Lean Portfolio Management and focusing on outcomes that align to strategic themes or initiatives. Value streams are created where teams are virtually designed to optimize the flow of outcomes. Lean Product Maturity introduces product discovery practices and matures product management discipline and associated roles.
  4. Talent Development, Innovation & Operational Agility: HR agility and talent development become a critical focus here. Business Operations, Finance, Legal, Audit, Sales & Marketing all have to join the agility journey and are no longer optional participants. Customers have a seat at the table with deep understanding and empathy for them at every level of the organization.
  5. Enterprise Business Agility: You’ve enabled business agility when you are anticipating your customer needs, disrupting before being disrupted, and have evolved into a learning organization that is invested in continuous improvement.

Business Agility is REAL
The journey toward Business Agility requires an overall transformation strategy that embeds agility across the entire enterprise. This includes teams, technology and processes while measuring what matters, and leveraging data to guide the journey instead of subjectivity and instincts.
The push for business agility is readily apparent now. For instance, in a recent McKinsey Quarterly survey, >75% of the ~2,500 respondents cited enabling Organizational Agility as a “Top Priority” or “Top 3 Priority” for their organization.
The Business Agility Institute was founded to help bring a community together around the concept of and domains of business agility. Read the 2018 Global Business Agility report to learn about these trends. You can also take part in our 2019 Global Business Agility Survey.
Current Organizational Challenges
We’ve captured from several executives the most common challenges getting in the way of companies executing on their strategy.
The issues range across all areas of the business and include competing priorities, slow time-to-market, tech vs. business teams, heavy dependencies and silos, limited voice of the customer, not measuring what matters, and the list goes on. See image below for more.

The EBA Model and Assessment
To enable Enterprise Business Agility, leaders should create a holistic approach around 7 key areas of investment, shown in the image below. The Enterprise Business Agility model provides senior leaders with a strategy and scope for where to invest in order to accelerate and achieve their Enterprise Business Agility transformation vision. It is a non-prescriptive, pull-based model that provides patterns and integrates with Agile, Scrum, Kanban, & SAFe®.

Customer Seat at the Table – Build the capability of being a customer-focused organization where decisions about the products are made based on aligning customer needs and using lean startup, experiments, discovery practices and metrics to guide our solutions.
Lean Portfolio Management – Build the capability of translating your strategy to 3 year, 1 year and quarterly outcomes (using Objectives & Key Results). Align all teams, business and technology around achievement of these outcomes. Plan quarterly and shift funding models to fund capacity instead of projects.
Org Structure & Team Design – Build the capability to virtually align and organize teams (business and technology) around business outcomes, break dependencies, design for shared service teams and optimize for FLOW of value.
Agile Framework & Mindset – Build the capability to create an Agile mindset across the enterprise. Bring agility to technology and business teams. Scale Agile to mature planning and execution across teams.
Leadership & Culture – Build the capability to transform leaders to lead the new way of working. Enable Leadership Agility by shifting from a top-down, directive style to create an environment to support autonomy for teams. Invest in the role of managers, shift leaders up away from tactical focus to being more strategic. Bring clarity to vision, strategy and outcomes, develop talent, and remove organizational obstacles.
Make It Stick/Sustain – Build internal change agents to sustain the journey, measure and continuously improve, and bring HR to the table by being part of the Agile talent transformation.
Technology Agility – Invest in technical agility by modernizing your architecture and platforms, embedding the right technical practices, investing in DevOps and enabling a culture of innovation.
Enterprise Agility Metrics – Measure what matters at the team and organization level by combining maturity (qualitative), performance (quantitative) and outcomes (results) across the enterprise. Focus on value, quality and flow.

Getting Started
Most organizations are on different stages of the Enterprise Business Agility journey and have already invested in some of these capabilities. To accelerate this journey, we recommend assessing your current state and designing an integrated strategy with a cross-functional leadership team.
So here are some options for getting started:

  • Schedule a 2-hour EBA seminar for your leaders to learn more.
  • Schedule a half-day EBA baseline assessment to see where you are now and identify next areas of investment.
  • Schedule a 1-day EBA for Leaders/Executives workshop.
  • Get certified as an Enterprise Business Agility Strategist (EBAS) so you can help lead this change within your organization.

View details about these workshops here.
Summary
The journey to achieving Business Agility is long and hard, especially if you don’t have clarity and alignment on what “good” looks like. Accelerate your journey by investing in creating a holistic strategy, and using measurement and data to guide your investments.
By Sally Elatta, Founder, AgilityHealth