There have been various attempts to define business agility out there. Many are bogus definitions and very incorrect, so I thought I shed some light on the proper meaning of being agile, and what it means to an enterprise. Michael Hugos defines agility to be a product of visibility, motivation and training. I do not fully agree with his point of view, it is too specific and focused on enablers rather than the definition of agility. Agility needs enablers, and these could be some of the required enablers, but not necessarily all, moreover, each environment and enterprise might require different enablers.
According to Webster's College Dictionary, agility is being in a quick and well coordinated state, or nimble, active and lively. So agility is a state when one is able to act quickly and to the extent needed. Over-acting is not agility, its actually exerting more than needed, and under-acting is low performance.
So applying this to an enterprise means that it is able to act quickly and in a lean way. The terms quickly and lean are a little vague, so its not a bad idea to add some context to them.
- Quick is being able to respond to a stimulus in a time-frame that allows the enterprise to capture an opportunity or mitigate a threat.
- Lean is being able to respond with only what is needed to accomplish the point above, no more and no less.
An agile enterprise is one that has the capabilities to execute and realize what needs to be accomplished, without overstretching itself or wasting resources.
Some close definitions to mine are Brad Appleton's, which is a little too specific by listing energy and also specifying it along with economy and efficiency; and Wikipedia's definition which ties it specifically to cost. There are many ways to enable agility in your enterprise. Nicholas Evans promotes mobility solutions as one approach. I believe cloud computing will also make possible many enablers for an agile business. An example of how cloud can make telecom providers agile is illustrated in my recent patent.
Agile = Quick + Lean
Some examples of lean enterprises are those that:
- Can quickly change their website to respond to a trend, or customer need
- Can easily and without introducing additional cost reposition a product line
- Can enter a new market area with no additional overhead
- Can serve new types of customers with no impact on its customer support resources