How to adapt – the importance of business agility

Columnists

Over the past decade, advancements in technology have transformed businesses. Just ten years ago, most companies used a now-obsolete fax machine every day. Taking artificial intelligence (AI) as an example, the term and technology is referred to in corporate environments without a blink of an eye – a dramatic difference to ten years ago, where it was viewed with suspicion.

Amid the rapid pace and ever-changing landscape of today’s business climate, organisations of every size are seeking every avenue possible to stay one step ahead of the competition. Amazon continues to spearhead innovations in business – and its pioneering agility should be recognised by any business leader.

Ensuring a business is equipped and able to adapt to shifts in technology is essential – it is the key to the success of any company.

Top down change

As technology continues to advance, business leaders have a tremendous amount of responsibility to keep up and ensure any changes are properly implemented. According to a study by Willis Towers Watson, 28% of CEOs who were fired by their board were dismissed because they “mismanaged change”. Employees look to senior figures to show they are completely committed to the initiatives they are implementing.

To progress, leaders must be at the forefront of understanding and believing in the transformations they are investing in. With competitors and challengers looking to get ahead by readily investing in the latest technologies, there is pressure for legacy companies to play catch up and stay relevant.

App-based challenger bank Monzo distinguishes itself from legacy banks by creating a philosophy of constant adaptation and open and honest communication with its customers to distinguish itself from the less technology-savvy communication style of legacy banks.

Halifax recently updated its app and was widely criticised for taking a little too much inspiration from rival Monzo – quite literally copying and pasting the challenger’s card, including the details of a Monzo employee – in its launch marketing materials. Change must be implemented in order to keep abreast of the competition – but it must be original. Monzo’s CEO gleefully pointed out its rival’s clumsy mistake, and Halifax was open to ridicule.

Research from a survey of 2,000 people with a bank account in the UK found that 46% of UK consumers would be more likely to try out a new bank account if it provided features based on preference and lifestyle, such as visual spending, bill splitting and travel insurance.

When it came to consumers in the Generation Z age bracket, figures rose to 70%. By offering these and many other forward-thinking functions, Monzo and fellow challenger banks have distinguished themselves from traditional banks and won firm support from Generation Z.

The banking example can be applied across all sectors: in order to remain competitive, leaders must adapt their service offerings to suit the needs of today’s consumers.

Effective change management

An agile business has processes and leaders in place to effectively manage any changes, such as the introduction of new technologies. Taking AI as an example, there must be a clear application for the technology before steps are taken for implementing into a business.

Accountancy firm PWC predicts UK GDP will be up 10.3% higher by 2030 through successful use of AI, so it’s little surprise that so many companies, spanning the full spectrum of sectors, are pushing to automate and add machine learning wherever possible.

However, McKinsey data shows that change management as a process often fails AI- 70% of programmes do not reach their goals, due to factors like employee resistance and lack of belief in managers. Agile businesses, however, understand these limitations, and keep going – they continue to experiment with ways that technology can help their business even if the original plan fell short.

IBM, for example, uses AI and machine learning to predict (with a staggering 95% accuracy) which employees are going to leave. The technology has replaced just under a third of its HR team and is used to complement the essential human skills required for that function.

It’s a brilliant – albeit slightly 1984 – example of a successful way to use technology to quite literally manage changes in a company. As of last month, it saved the technology giant just shy of $300m in retention costs.

IBM’s CEO has been quoted as saying AI will change 100% of jobs in the next five to ten years. This may be true but it hinges, again, on a company’s ability to be able to constantly adapt and measure implementations of technology and think: is this actually helping?

With IBM, there’s a clear cause and effect of how it has saved them money and also aided reatining talent, but there are a multitude of examples of how AI didn’t serve its intended purpose. It’s vital to always take stock of technology and have effective change management processes to make sure it’s truly helping the business, employees and leaders alike.

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