Swiss Cognitive – by Megan DeSomery, Director, Product Management, EPAM
The digital revolution is transforming the way companies across the world operate. Those that fail to change are being swept away by an innovation tidal wave, the likes of which we have never seen. Once stable and profitable sectors can disappear in a matter of years, or even months, due to fundamental disruption across all markets. To ride the wave rather than go under, you must adapt by becoming a digital company—whether you’re a retailer leveraging complex logistics platforms or an automotive manufacturer developing self-driving cars.
Driving transformation in today’s world requires a uniquely constructed network of connected teams working across silos to help tackle our company’s biggest challenges. Given that IT is at the core of most business initiatives, it only makes sense to adopt the proven agile methodology throughout every facet of your company. Applying agile principles and practices will enable you to thrive in a digital world. So, what does an agile transformation actually mean in terms of how to structure your organization and adapt your ways of working? Here are the six building blocks that your company needs to transform:
Shared customer-centric goals: Your organization must have a clear vision and purpose of what every goal means for your customers, defining how it delivers value. This means that customer needs are at the center of the innovation process, and their feedback is integral to success. Putting in place a process to proactively gather customer feedback will help keep customer centricity at the forefront of your strategy. By emphasizing customer-centric goals and not hyper-focusing on a specific product or services, you’re free to quickly shift resources when a new need or opportunity arises.
Flat, clear team structures: Traditional hierarchical or bureaucratic organizational structures are antithetical to the agile methodology. This is because innovations and customer insights slowly make their way up the chain of command and encounter a number of bureaucratic barriers before they trickle back down. Quite simply, this prevents your company from rapidly responding to market change. Truly agile companies depend on networked teams that are close to the leadership team, resulting in faster decision-making and response times to shifting priorities. The most successful organizations embrace simplicity, structuring their teams around products or services rather than siloing skill sets.
Rapid decision-making and deployment: IT companies have long known the value of deploying minimal viable products (MVPs) to experiment with new ideas and determine feasibility. This requires standardized ways of working, as well as a high degree of automation. To accomplish a culture of continuous innovation and change, your company must move away from waterfall—with all its gates and stages—and embrace the lean principles of agile across the entire business.
Agile workforce: In addition to creating a strategy, environment and organizational structure conducive to agile working, you must enable innovation at a more granular level by instilling the agile culture among your people. Agile employees embrace continuous learning, and therefore turn your entire organization into a learning organization. The first step to getting there is giving your employees the right tools and encouragement to be entrepreneurial in how they approach their work. They’ll also need a high degree of role mobility and autonomy, which can be accomplished through a ‘servant leadership’ style where the leadership focus falls on the needs of the team and how to best help them succeed.
Cutting-edge technology: Agile firms invest in innovative technology, giving employees the tools they need to innovate in a competitive market rather than being at the receiving end of disruption. To be an agile organization, it’s essential for your company to have full information transparency. Technology alone doesn’t solve all problems – you must have proper change management, governance and ownership of the technology in place.
Data-driven insights: Data collection is only the first step to delivering value. Agile companies know how to turn data into meaningful insights to guide their rapid decision-making and deployments both internally and externally—an agile company values data about its employees as much as it values data about its customers. However, if there’s any suspicion that the data is being used in a punitive or Orwellian way, it will ultimately disrupt your transformation. You must ensure that everyone understands that data collection is meant to help deliver value to customers, uncover career opportunities and identify people or projects that need more support. It also allows for the creation of new multidisciplinary teams and facilitates workforce mobility to allow the organization to react to market changes.
If your company is structured as a machine with a clear hierarchy, you’re likely experiencing the restrictions of siloed teams running on inflexible operating models. To adopt the flexibility you need to stay competitive, your organization needs to become a living organism that focuses on the customer first, with blended, self-steering teams that can deliver real value quickly. In fact, EPAM’s own growth is driven by five factors:
- Effective team composition
- Pervasive company culture
- Critical talent management platforms
- One-stop, unified access to people systems
- Robust project and productivity management and tracking
All of which are enabled through technology platforms like TelescopeAI™, which can help facilitate agile transformation and support your journey toward becoming an adaptive organization.