What is your standard for agility?


I've received a lot of reactions to my sascom article Getting a real return on your ERP investment. Many questions have focused on my statements about agility and the differences between agility in operational (ERP) and decisional (Business Analytics) environments.

Agility in an operational environment means that your IT department can implement quickly any changes in business processes. To that end, SAP is developing its Business Process Platform, which remains to be proven in real life environments. Such agility is technology driven.

Agility in a decisional environment means that any change in business strategy, competitor landscape, governmental regulations, emerging markets and product development is reflected immediately (within days, not years) in predictive and optimising business models, adapted analytical and decision processes and management reporting. Such agility is business (strategy) driven.

I have met many IT and business users who tell me the agility and business analytics offered by SAS could not be implemented because their IT standards don’t allow for that kind of agility. Being a former management consultant, this is against all business logic. IT should support the business, not the other way around. Time has passed since monolithic IT departments locked up in secured buildings could dictate what is possible and what isn’t. To survive in an ever changing competitive world, organisations and their strategies need to be agile.

So I like to ask you the question: What is your standard for agility?

Do you believe that business change can be implemented rapid enough in your organisation and supported by your IT department? I can paraphrase the question as: What is your time to intelligence?

Everybody knows what time-to-market means. In analogy, time to intelligence measures the time needed to make a fact-based decision based on corporate intelligence hidden and extracted from legacy and ERP systems. Such decision making happens on all levels in your organisation, from the shop floor to the top floor.

Imagine the time needed for monitoring and alerting on a new trend or changed business condition, the time needed to analyse its impact, the time needed to to predict its consequences, the time needed to mitigate all risks, the time needed to decide how to react, the time needed to come up with an optimised solution, the time needed to dissiminate the decision to all constituants in and outside your organisation and the time needed to monitor the impact of the decision. The sum of all these times is your time to intelligence and I can imagine that this time to intelligence can be shortened a lot in your organisation.

To do so, you need to select the right standard for agility. A wrong choice will have serious consequences on the success of your organisation.


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