Agility: A Scalable Way for Businesses to Survive a Crisis

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Click to learn more about author Matt VanderZwaag.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the business landscape. We have seen restaurants offer curbside pick-up, retailers launch new inventive ways to boost online sales, and tech companies release new apps and features to adapt to this new reality. The sudden and unexpected changes are causing businesses to plan out new — or change current — IT projects and initiatives.

However, things don’t always go according to plan when implementing or adjusting these IT initiatives. When this happens, it can be catastrophic, or at the very least, it can cause unexpected costs, downtime, and unsatisfied end-users. The solution to avoid this is agility. Being able to quickly and efficiently respond to or adapt to changes on both the service provider side and the customer side is critical.

Unfortunately, a change in direction can be a struggle for many companies, as the fear of incurring extra costs, delays, and having to scramble to make the necessary adjustments makes them very resistant to change. The current crisis has highlighted this.

The recent rise of agile software development has been a great benefit to the current climate businesses find themselves in. Agility requires that companies be not only open to change but also ready to act, and we are beginning to see more and more companies starting to integrate the basic tenets of being agile into various aspects of their business operations. However, there are still many businesses that are refusing to stray too far from their normal business practices.

The businesses that choose to avoid these tenets have been heavily affected by crises and/or man-made and natural disasters, such as COVID-19. By not adopting the basic tenets of being agile, businesses are stopping themselves from benefitting from a disaster recovery (DR) or business continuity plan.

Most organizations operating in the mindset of “business as usual” don’t plan for a sudden catastrophe or change and don’t put the time and resources into developing a DR plan. Then there are the businesses that have a disaster recovery or business continuity plan, but due to their adversity to agility, they have never tested these plans. Thus, they didn’t perform as expected when needed. Overall, both scenarios boil down to a failure resulting from a resistance to changing priorities.

We have, on the contrary, seen many great examples of companies adopting the tenets of agility during this pandemic, which has enabled them to thrive during this time. New York automated accounts payable and cost intelligence platform, xtraCHEF, is a great example of this. The company works with the restaurant industry and adapted its business operations to not only defer billing for March and April but to also set up an early release of its xtraCASH feature, which gave customers access to up to 1 percent cash back on purchases through manufacturer rebates — thus helping its customer base survive the economic downturn, so they can continue their partnerships.

Another great example of this is the tech giant Google. Google updated its search engine to provide a feature that showed live-to-date COVID-19 news and released new features and updates to its Google Meets application due to a boom in virtual meetings.

Embracing agility can be a useful step towards business success, and while there is no set guideline on how to do this, listening to customers and being responsive to changing market needs and trends is crucial. But it doesn’t end there. Agility is more than just responding to market and industry changes; it is also about being equipped to handle the unexpected such as COVID-19. Successfully handling change is what solves problems, earns customer loyalty, and opens doors to new opportunities.

In a world in which change is more the norm than not, and where we experience drastic events such as cyberattacks, hurricanes, earthquakes, and even pandemics, agility is critical for business success.

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