How Agile businesses work

We talk all things Agile with an industry expert – what it is, why your business needs it and how to adopt it.

No two businesses are the same. They face different problems and have different goals.

What almost all businesses share though is their desire to be more efficient and streamlined. As a result, many have developed an appreciation for agile working, which is tranforsming the business world.

Agile working is helping businesses to solve their day-to-day issues and reach their goals, but what is it and how do you know if it's the right move for your business?

We spoke to Keith Richards, CEO of agileKRC, which provides expert advice to organisations who want to improve their working capabilities. In this interview, Keith reveals how to create an agile culture, and proves it’s for all businesses, of all sizes.

When did you realise more businesses could benefit from agile working?

At first I worked in IT and I realised that a lot of projects were failing, so a more agile approach was needed. From 1997 to 2007, I spent most of my time trying to convince people it was the right way to go, which was hard work at times. Now, it’s a lot easier as everyone can see the benefits of working in an agile way. Throughout the last twenty years, I’ve spent a lot of time helping companies of all sizes, and in a variety of sectors, through agile training and consulting.

What is stopping small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from adopting agile methods?

I think SMEs consider agile working to be an enterprise or IT thing, and if you go back 15 years, that might be true.

In my view though, everyone needs to be looking at a more agile way of working. If you’re an SME, there are many agile concepts that you need to use in today’s world because it’s so fast-moving. It’s always moved fast, but with things like digitalisation, the model of how we work is being broken. The key word to focus on is ‘responsive’. As a business, you have to be able to adapt quickly to change and being Agile is a part of this responsiveness.

How does a business know if agile working is something they need?

One mistake made by businesses is going agile just because others are. First, you need to identify the problems you’re having, then you have to understand what being agile means and work out whether or not it’s going to solve these problems. If you want to be on time, handle changing situations, and do so without compromising the quality of what you’re doing, then it can help immensely. It’s also important to realise agility is a way of getting to something – it’s not the destination.

“When you work this way, nine times out of ten, employees prefer it to a more traditional way of working because they feel more valued.”

What’s the technology that best enables agile working?

There’s no one-size-fits-all technology for agile working. An SME can go a long way with Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel. When you hit a pain point, you have to work out how you want to solve it and then look at the tools that will support you. SME’s often make the mistake of investing in tooling before investing in the mindset and philosophy of a new way of working.

What is the benefit of agile working for employees?

Agile working can be of huge benefit to an employee’s autonomous decision making. You’ve got to empower them to make quick decisions, and be collaborative. When you work this way, nine times out of ten, employees prefer it to a more traditional way of working because they feel more valued. If you want to be quick, be on time and be responsive, then you have to trust them in their decision-making approach and not just rely on senior management.

How can SMEs measure the success of their agile methodology?

Agility is an enabler, so measuring the success of it is very difficult. You don’t immediately know if increases in productivity are because of your new way of working or because of a stroke of luck. It may be a case of doing a subjective survey to discover what your workplace was like before and after agile working, but it’s definitely worth doing. In fact, many businesses are surprised at how successful it is.

If you are interested in agile working and want to prepare for the changes it could make to your business, discover the six technologies that will make you truly agile.

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