The power of small steps: how ​agile ​tech-led transformation can empower your business

  • Insights
  • Digital transformation

In today’s challenging economic climate, businesses across all sectors must adapt to succeed. But adapting needn’t mean risking a full-scale pivot or a dramatic shift in the direction of your business.

Instead, making a series of small, targeted changes to the way your business operates can have a huge impact on your ability to weather any storm. And this is where agile, tech-minded leaders are perfect candidates to come to the forefront of a digital transformation.

By using agile principles for a business transformation, digital leaders can empower not only their engineering teams, but also teams across the whole organisation by helping to improve communication, upgrade legacy systems and turn data insights into powerful new growth streams.

As the economy gets tougher, agile businesses that move quickly to optimise their systems, products and services will save time and money, and will ultimately flourish despite the challenges ahead.

But where do you start? Don’t limit your thinking to the existing digital transformation programme or development roadmap. The potential for tech-led transformation exists in all corners of your organisation.

Realise the business value of a digital strategy  

Digital leaders who invest their time in aligning their digital strategies to the wider business objectives deliver digital transformations for their companies faster and achieve better return on investment. Understanding organisation-wide goals and creating a digital strategy and vision that supports them will accelerate your progress and ability to realise value.

Digital transformation is often associated with the obvious savings in time and cost that are made when, for example, a business moves from a digital infrastructure hosted onsite to a cloud-based ecosystem. But there are far more significant savings to be made.

In his book, How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business, author Douglas Hubbard identified two factors that consistently predict return on investment - whether the project was cancelled before going live, and how quickly users adopted the new product or solution.

By applying agile principles to your product releases, you can control those factors and maximise profits by bringing new products to the market faster, reducing project overheads, reducing risk and increasing take-up through frequent user testing.

 Transform your customer service experience

Today’s consumers are used to one-click ordering, next-day delivery and on-demand customer support via whichever channel suits them. As a minimum, when your customers engage with your business they expect efficient, responsive online customer service and they’ll quickly turn their backs on your brand if they don’t receive it.

Despite high customer expectations, a 2022 survey by Forrester found that although many businesses excelled at their customer experience during the pandemic, many failed to maintain that quality once restrictions were lifted. In their survey of over 96,000 US consumers, Forrester found that the overall quality of customer experience had fallen for more than 19% of brands.

What’s more, a 2022 survey by Hootsuite found that only 26% of organisations that use social media as their primary customer service channel use chatbots on social media channels and other instant messaging apps.

Platforms that enable customers to engage with your business whenever and wherever they want must be backed up by a 24/7 customer service function.

By adopting a digital strategy with tools such as chatbots and AI, which complement your team and offer flexibility to your customers, you’ll provide a seamless, omnichannel customer experience.

Create a company-wide culture of innovation

Don’t make the mistake of tackling tech before culture. If you don’t have the right culture in place, technological innovation and digital transformation isn’t going to deliver the results you’re looking for. In a study of infrastructure and operations organisations, IT and research company Gartner found that 90% of companies looking to leverage DevOps without specifically addressing their cultural foundations will fail.

The bottom line is, you can’t achieve agile development practices without also establishing a culture of innovation within your teams. And that’s not only engineering teams. For example, if you’re replacing the old Excel spreadsheets with an integrated digital CRM system, you’ll be disrupting the habits and processes across the entire organisation, including HR, Marketing, Sales and Finance. To launch the innovation successfully and make it last, you must clearly define your vision, track progress, establish open communication channels and embed a culture in which teams embrace change.

To embed an agile culture and innovation within your organisation you should model the culture you want to see, and adopt the ‘HAVE’ model of agile leadership – ensuring you demonstrate the core values of humility, adaptability, vision and engagement. Do this consistently and over time, your culture will be as agile as your products.

Agile teams make up an agile business that thrives in any condition    

Unlike traditional ‘waterfall’ projects, agile products are tested and refined throughout the development process, relentlessly nudging them in the right direction based on the latest feedback. This eliminates the risk (and cost) of spending months or even years building a product that isn’t fit for purpose when it eventually launches.

A case study on ING Bank Śląski in Warsaw, by Agile Business Consortium, perfectly illustrates how embedding agile principles can turn a struggling team or business around.

The bank’s Global SME & Digital Platform Centre Director, Adam Walendziewski, knew that something needed to change within his team. Projects weren’t progressing and the team were frustrated and in danger of compromising quality.

Adopting agile transformed their operation in Poland and beyond, but it wasn’t an overnight fix.

Talking to the Agile Business Consortium, Adam commented:

‘We knew that getting the best results wasn’t simply a case of introducing an agile framework for working practices. We needed to build an agile mindset. This was the hardest part. It’s a process that should never end, and we are now constantly looking for ways to improve.’

Adam’s team was the first in their division of ING Bank Śląski to explore agile working. Encouraged by their success, ING Bank has since rolled out agile ways of working in other areas.

This is a great example of agile in practice. By starting small in one area of the organisation, the bank built a foundation of applied agile experience, which is now enabling their wider digital  transformation to move forward smoothly.

Taking time to reflect on what you are building, what’s working and what isn’t, will enable you to identify and remove any barriers, and adapt your services to meet your business objectives.

 A company’s vision grows with a company’s employees

If your teams are clear about your company’s vision and goals and understand how their work directly relates to the achievement of business objectives, they’ll be better able to recognise the importance and value of their work.

A study by BMC Health Services Research found that an integrated, shared organisational vision is directly related to improved employee creativity, performance and perception of the organisation.

In his viral TED talk and book ‘Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action’, business author Simon Sinek urges business leaders to connect with their ‘why’, and use it to inspire and lead their teams.

Sinek looked at the shared characteristics of great leaders and argued that if business leaders can effectively articulate their ‘why’, or their vision, purpose and passion, then their message will resonate strongly through a connection with the listener’s limbic brain.

In practical terms, spend time optimising your training, induction and internal communications programmes, to make sure they capture your ‘why’ and are structured to ensure that your employees understand the collective vision and buy into the journey you’re all on as a business.

Work with your HR department to build agility and optimisation into individual and team KPIs, and tweak your feedback and appraisal systems to ensure your teams fully understand and acknowledge their contributions to the business.

As a result, your teams will be far more engaged in agile development and the digital optimisation process, as well as being more open to feedback and new ways of working.

In short, don’t overlook the importance of taking your people with you on your optimisation journey.

Digital transformation isn’t just about tweaking your systems or changing your development processes. To be truly agile, you need to consider and refine all aspects of your business, from the customer journey to your company culture.

These small, incremental improvements may seem minor at first glance, but together they add up to a far bigger whole – a robust and resilient business that actively seeks out customer feedback, evolves at all levels and changes with the times. And that’s never been more important than it is right now.   

If you need help implementing agile digital optimisation in your organisation, we can help. To find out how we can help your business to take small steps that lead to significant digital transformation, get in touch: