What the Pandemic Tells Us About Agility

What the Pandemic Tells Us About Agility

Here we are, very nearly 12 months after the UK entered it's first national lockdown. Liberties were taken away from us in a way not seen since World War II. The economy has taken and continues to take a beating from the effects of coronavirus (Sars-CoV-2).

Individuals have struggled as have many business, some have been unfortunate that the pandemic has cost people their entire business. In other ways it will be known as the pandemic which killed the jumbo jet, as no UK airlines now operate the instantly famous passenger jet that transformed aviation.

However, some business have in fact done well out of the pandemic. Technology companies have ridden the wave of digital transformation that has happened, some organisations transferred their entire workforce to working at home in a matter of days or weeks, shaving months and years of transformation projects.

What can the pandemic tell us about agility within the business though, specifically agility around the ways people work?

Agile ways of working

Agile teaches us the practice of delivering work in specific time boxed series, these are called sprints. This practice among other things allows for a continuous improvement cycle between sprints while you are developing your product or service.

Agile was initially introduced for software engineering, but today is practiced by departments outside of software engineering and outside of IT altogether. Increasing agility is around a few key things.

  • Ramp up of product success rates
  • Decrease time to market
  • Enhance productivity

One of the other things agile lets you do when you become a mature organisation is pivot your business when the need arises. Trading conditions for businesses change all the time, but few events are as dramatic and decisive as the lockdowns and measured imposed by governments around the world to control the pandemic.

Why agile matters in a pandemic

Let's have a look at the quote below, taken from an article on Consultancy.uk, they don't list the author sadly.

"Agile adaptation to significant changes in business environments, including increased competition and digital disruption, can give companies an edge or even enable their survival in crowded markets." - Consultancy.uk

This quote actually speaks directly to the point I am delivering. The difference is that while the quote talks about business conditions changing such as increased competition and digital disruption, the effects of the pandemic were similar in many different ways.

Conditions changed as such that businesses moved online, this increased competition and led a surge of digital disruption. My point here is that agile matters because we already know the value that can be achieved from agility within the business.

Businesses which already practiced agile within their organisations were set up to thrive during the pandemic, having everything in place to be able to pivot their business as needed.

From my experience, it is easier to start out with agile, this makes it harder for established businesses and in fact larger organisations to take on agile working. Part of this I think comes down to the inherited technical debt around process and tooling that builds up with these types of organisations.

My big caveat to that though would be the transformation Microsoft went through. Have a look at this video from Cloud Advocate Jessica Dean at Microsoft, talking about the transformation that Microsoft went through. It gives some amazing insights.

Summary

In short, if you didn't think agile was important before, then think about the events of the past year. It sure is important now to make sure you are seriously thinking about how to adopt agile in your organisation.

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