The modern business landscape is shifting, changing, and evolving all the time – sometimes through long-term trends and other times at the drop of a hat. To stay successful, whether you’re a team of two or two thousand, you need to be able to adapt and thrive with change. In other words, you need business agility.
Business agility is the ability to respond quickly to emerging issues and opportunities to gain and maintain a competitive advantage. These changes can be internal and external and include everything from supply chain issues and customer demand to legal changes and shifts in social norms.
An organization with business agility will:
Adapt their goods and services to changing customer demands
Adjust to marketplace changes
Leverage available human resources
Respond quickly and effectively
Make changes without compromising quality
Business agility is achieved through improved internal systems and procedures, including a fluid culture and governance that allows for rapid responses. Many of the ideas are based on the principles of agile development project management, which is where software developers work in short development cycles with minimal overhead in order to rapidly implement improvements and fix bugs in a piece of software.
In a wider business, the bugs and improvements are just threats and opportunities, and instead of developers, it’s every member of your enterprise. But how do you build that into your business? We’re going to look at how to implement business agility at your SMB, but first, do you even need to?
Why Is Business Agility Important for Small Businesses
Your small business will face changes whether you’re prepared or not, and business agility gives you the framework to adapt and thrive rather than struggle and fail. When problems emerge, business agility mitigates the impact they’ll have on your business. When opportunities arise, business agility gives you the tools you need to quickly capitalize on them.
In short, business agility reduces the risks and improves the opportunities of change for a small business. It will keep small businesses competitive and relevant by being able to respond quickly and deliver on customer demands.
What’s more, not only is business agility important for small businesses, it can actually give them an advantage over larger businesses. Implementing business agility for a small enterprise is much simpler than a large company and means the business can change, adjust and deliver far faster than a large business ever could.
Implementing Business Agility for a Small Business
Implementing business agility for your small company doesn’t have to be hard! There are a few simple steps you can take to make sure you make the most of opportunities and avoid any issues in a changing business landscape.
Implementing business agility comes down the three main elements:
A framework to understand external information
A framework to understand internal information
Tools and policies to go from information to implementation
External Information: Listening to Customers
First, listen to and encourage feedback from customers. The main part of business agility is responding to changes in customer demands, which you can’t do if you’re not listening. Use tools, policies and procedures to ensure that your customers’ desires (and complaints) are listened to, enabling you to make the changes you need to stay competitive.
This can be as simple as efficiently collecting and responding to feedback on an individual project. For example, web designer and developer, Jozsef Juhasz, uses Spike’s Conversational Email to collect feedback and share updates with small business clients, with a clear and clutter-free interface allowing him to respond rapidly to changing customer needs.
“I use read tracking every day. It’s very important when dealing with sales. I can see if the recipient hasn’t received the email and I can figure out why (like spam issues). I can call the client right after they opened the email and win a business by hitting the iron while it’s hot. Or, I can wait to follow up until they read the email and avoid unnecessary calls, saving time and hassle. It’s the only way to work now.” – Jozsef Juhasz
External information doesn’t always come from customers, and your small business needs a framework for monitoring other external factors that may require adaptation, such as changes in the law, social shifts, and new business trends. Anything that might affect your business must be fed back into your company through, for example, a shared newsfeed that can be updated and accessed by all teams.
Internal Information: Listen to Colleagues
Second, listen to and encourage feedback from colleagues. Business agility also relies on your internal team being flexible, fluid, and able to adapt. Traditional businesses can sometimes make it hard for team members to be heard, which will stifle innovation and stop changes from being made. Oftentimes, employees are the first ones to notice problems and opportunities in your product or service. If they don’t have a way to share this with the team, it can hinder the speed at which changes are made.
A simple solution that can enable team members to quickly and efficiently share ideas, updates, and issues with the wider team is group chats. Groups can be used as a hub of communication, where individuals are able to broadcast ideas that are then picked up on and responded to by other team members.
Information to Implementation: No More Silos
Small businesses need a workflow process that ensures feedback is seen by the right people. I.e., smash those silos! Even if you have external tools to gather customer feedback and foster an environment where colleagues can express their ideas, if that feedback isn’t seen by the people who make the decisions, it’s worthless. This isn’t just about getting information in front of “higher ups”; it’s about creating a business environment in which information, ideas, energy, and work are shared across all levels and departments. You can’t be agile without everyone on the same page.
One way to help create this, for example, is through a virtual notice board using collaborative online notes. It could gather important information from internal and external sources, which could be accessed and added to by every team. Important changes can then be tracked using integrated Tasks and To-Do Lists to ensure rapid turnaround and complete transparency.
How Business Agility Affects Internal and External Communications
As seen above, a huge part of effective business agility is improved internal and external communication. From an external perspective, communication needs to be accessible, which means using tools and systems that don’t exclude clients and customers “outside the ecosystem.” Spike, for example, is a full productivity suite but has email at its core. That means your team can use all the advanced features, from trackable tasks to one-click video meetings, while external clients and customers can deliver feedback using a normal email account.
Internal communication is also overhauled for business agility. Traditional businesses will often have lengthy approval procedures with lots of formality. Business agility requires speed and efficiency, so communication tools should deliver this. For example, fewer long emails and an increase in short, simple, instant messaging.
Additionally, these messages are likely to lose the clutter of traditional business communication – like Spike’s Conversational Email, which strips away headers, signatures, and all other superfluous info to get to the heart of the message. Web designer and developer, Jozsef Juhasz, who we mentioned earlier, wraps it up perfectly: “It strips away the unnecessary parts of traditional email, and has added bonuses that save me so much time, while retaining ALL traditional email features. It’s the best organization app for me.”
Similarly, much of what would traditionally be reserved for a meeting can be discussed using Voice Messages, quick one-on-one calls, and asynchronous communication, so that changes don’t have to wait for everyone’s schedules to align. Having the right tools in place for internal communication is vital for business agility.
Small Business Agility: Being Ready for an Uncertain Future
Business agility is important for enterprises of any size, from tech giants to single-person operations. It enables small businesses to reduce the risks of change and better leverage the opportunities they may be presented with.
To make it work for your small business, just remember that business agility means being able to change your goods or services to meet customer demands quickly and effectively without compromising quality. This can be achieved through frameworks for external and internal information as well as dealing with that new information as a company.
Change is the only constant in life, but if your small business is ready for it, you can use it to your advantage.