Of business agility Klaus Martin Schwab, the German engineer, economist and founder of the World Economic Forum once said:

“In the new world, it is not the big fish which eats the small fish, it’s the fast fish which eats the slow fish.”

In the ‘old’ world characterised by the big fish, the goal of most businesses was to increase shareholder wealth through economies of scale, standardisation and low-cost technology. Nowadays, the big fish approach to doing business is outmoded as it limits our ability to adapt and change. Underpinning Schwab’s statement is the relatively new business agility model, a framework designed to compete and rapidly respond to market changes and opportunities through digital transformation, leadership and culture strategies. As a fast fish, business agility can be used to maximise your customer value in a way that is unique and sustainable.


Business agility can trace its roots back to the practices of Lean Manufacturing of the 1990s and just-in-time (JIT) production from Japan in the 1950s. Both low-tech strategies had the objective of maximising productivity and minimising waste. As we entered the new millennium, businesses quickly replaced Lean production systems with IT and technology and the 2000s saw the birth of Agile Software Development. Agile focused on individuals and collaborative interactions rather than processes and was created to rapidly adapt to change and improve customer satisfaction. DevOps, a business agility precursor, evolved from Agile around 2009. Business agility itself was born in 2015.


Technology specialist and author, Jennifer Sonke, defines business agility in this way:

“Business agility is a lightweight mindset that will empower synergy between marketing, sales and support employees.”

In essence, business agility encompasses five core components:

  • leadership – agile leaders develop other leaders with a focus on a shared purpose as opposed to hierarchical management
  • governance – setting and achieving objectives and optimising performance through transparency and consistency
  • people – using teams that are organised, analytical, resilient, innovative, and collaborative
  • culture – promoting, encouraging and rewarding the autonomy and creativity of employees
  • strategy – always focusing on continuous improvement and being obsessed with customer experience through IT and digital transformation


Making customer needs and customer value a key priority is at the heart of business agility. Moreover, SMEs need to be super-alert to the need of producing the best products and services, decreasing operational costs, adopting the latest technologies and satisfying employee and customer demands. Many believe that the key values of business agility are encapsulated by communication, commitment and collaboration. Effective leadership is also vital for your whereby

  • actions speak louder than words
  • leadership lives everywhere in your business
  • leaders devolve appropriate power and authority
  • collaborative teams achieve more than individuals

Jennifer Sonke also claims that when you embrace agility, your focus should be customer-centric using cross-functional teams to continuously experiment, learn and improve.


Remember that initially business agility percolated in software development and IT. It is now apparent across most SME departments including marketing, sales, finance and HR. So if your business isn’t already agile, how do you go about getting it up to speed? Here is some good advice:

  • invest in digital transformation
  • let your employees experiment and continuously learn how to improve business processes
  • create well-rounded employees who have the necessary leadership, technical, strategic, business expertise, and soft skills
  • remove bureaucracy so that your teams can execute rapid and well-informed decisions
  • adopt new technologies to handle changes in market trends

It’s worth noting that business agility can easily be fostered through cloud computing because of its flexibility, scalability and affordability. With the cloud, IT resources can be deployed quickly and can also be increased or decreased to meet market demand. Many organisations are turning to AWS Marketplace to quickly procure and deploy business application software that addresses your need to accelerate digital transformation, enhance agility, lower costs, and transform the customer experience.


I believe that the only way for SMEs to remain competitive and win new customers is to digitally transform and get agile. I have over 20 years of experience in professional business IT support, specialising in cybersecurity, cloud computing and IT consultancy. This experience has provided with a wealth of knowledge and experience in digitally transforming SMEs and helping businesses apply the principles and values of business agility. Contact me today and let’s get your business agile.

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