Three pitfalls to avoid when striving for business agility

Javier Diez-Aguirre
May 21, 2018
By Javier Diez-Aguirre
There is no single “true path” for innovation. In fact, there are as many ways to innovate as there are problems that need solving.

The speed and complexity of today’s market means SMBs must be able to quickly make the most of new opportunities and proactively manage change that could threaten their very survival. To maintain a healthy business, it’s imperative that SMBs place agility at the heart of their organization.

Today, understanding agility is key to long-term success. With an agile approach, SMB leaders can more easily pivot their business model, drop unpopular products and introduce new ones, and update the services they offer in response to changing customer expectations as and when they need to.

In the context of business, agility is both the mind-set and the ability to respond quickly to changing market pressures. New research commissioned by Ricoh Europe reveals that 75 percent of SMB leaders place ‘improving agility’ high on their business agenda. This is undoubtedly great news. But in the race to attaining agility there are pitfalls that even the most savvy SMB leaders might fail to avoid. Here are three areas to consider:

• Processes that slow employees down and put them in a spin
Internal processes are in danger of becoming a ‘blind spot’ that too many SMB leaders ignore in their effort to become more agile. Our research found that 73 percent of SMB leaders failed to mention office processes when looking to improve their agility. Often these leaders forget that agility and process flexibility go hand in hand. This can only mean that internal processes are not scrutinized as rigorously as they should be. SMB leaders need to examine their company’s processes with a fresh eye. One way to combat this is by investing in new tools that update traditional physical and paper-based ways of working, such as e-invoicing and document management.

• Spending budgets on the latest craze, rather than what you need
Even though SMB leaders understand the importance of technology in helping them improve their agility, 37 percent say they lack the resources to invest in new technology. When budgets are limited, prioritizing the right workplace technology investment is crucial to thriving in an increasingly fast-paced and digitally driven environment. Our research into the attitudes of employees towards new technologies revealed that 31 percent believe using old technologies is the single biggest factor stopping their business moving forward. For SMB leaders, identifying the technology that’ll have the most tangible long-term benefit for their staff rather than seeing it as simply an opportunity to save cost in the short-term.

• Steadfastly sticking to old habits
In business, the general preferred rule of thumb is a clear structure where all employees follow a set management framework. At face value, this model might initially make sense, but it leaves no room for employees that are bold, innovative thinkers to contribute creative ideas that will and deliver new visions for the future. It’s no surprise that this kind of management culture fails. Rigidity doesn’t allow businesses to capitalize on changes in the market. Ultimately, business decision-makers need to take a long-term view, replacing old managerial hierarchy (managing from the top to bottom) to new frameworks that encourage innovate ways of thinking and that empower employees to make quick, accurate decisions. After all, agility is a team game.

Businesses might display agility at certain times, but if it’s not continuous it’s arguably just a form of crisis response rather than a truly agile mind-set. SMB leaders need to bear in mind that business agility is not a precise methodology but an ongoing process of interactions and collaboration toward greater outcomes. It’s a continuous learning process, one that enables the organization to embrace change and deliver value to its customers.  

With the right attitude and approach from decision-makers, realizing the full contribution of true business agility to their organization’s overall growth is an achievable goal. SMB leaders need to be proactive in creating a fundamental shift. This starts with adjusting their mind-set to embrace new forms of leadership, technology and overall deliverables.

Javier Diez-Aguirre is the Vice President, Corporate Marketing at Ricoh Europe.

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