Explore Cisco
How to Buy

Have an account?

  •   Personalized content
  •   Your products and support

Need an account?

Create an account

What Is Business Agility?

Business agility is an organization’s ability to anticipate change, accelerate digital business and drive innovation to compete effectively in the face of disruption. It stems from having the right combination of people, insights, processes, and technology to make and act on data-driven decisions, fast.

Is business agility the same as resilience?

No, but both are critical capabilities in the digital economy where the rate of transformation continues to accelerate, and disruption is the norm. Organizations need to be agile to adapt rapidly to changes in the market, and resilient to respond fast to market shocks and recover from them.

Here’s a brief comparison of business agility and business resilience:

Business agility

Business agility is an organization’s ability to stay ahead of and even advance change when needed. A business that is agile adapts quickly to rapid, disruptive change and takes risks designed to maximize opportunities that the change may introduce or help to accelerate.

Business resilience

Business resilience is about responding to change effectively and embracing digital transformation and new ways of working to recover fast from shocks and realize sustainable business benefits in the long term.

Resilience is also about being prepared, to the extent possible, for any type of disruption, including an unexpected crisis. That preparation, which often includes business continuity planning, helps the business recover swiftly from an adverse event, such as a natural disaster, or cyber-attack.

Why is business agility important?

The pace of change in technology and business is exceedingly rapid, but the global pandemic accelerated timelines for digital transformation projects even more, with many organizations needing to switch to remote working almost overnight. When coupled with the dramatic changes in digital behaviors and expectations of users (both consumers and employees), organizations are being forced to re-assess and, in some cases, completely rethink their business models.

Operating in the digital economy requires businesses to be perpetually "future-ready”. They must anticipate disruption, try to stay ahead of it, and ensure they're not weighed down by legacy processes and technology. They may also become disruptors themselves as they continue to innovate.

What are the benefits of being more agile?

Agile organizations are able to embrace change faster and thrive because of it. They can:

  • Anticipate and respond rapidly to changes in the market or their customers' needs
  • Employ fast feedback loops to manage projects and processes
  • Adopt new technologies faster, such as cloud and artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Create new teams quickly to support emerging products or opportunities
  • Collaborate across different business units seamlessly and at high bandwidth

Key elements that drive business agility

Business agility enhances decision-making

Business agility is an outcome when an organization has the right people, insights, processes, and technology in place. The business knows what decisions it needs to make and when, and how to act on them. That type of strategic and data-driven decision-making requires the three key elements outlined below.

Visibility

The technology and business landscape is evolving fast. The cloud is the new data center. The Internet is the new network. Software as a service (SaaS) is the new application stack. And working on any device, from anywhere, at any time is the new norm.

Exponential growth in the interactions and interdependencies between multiple systems and clouds, and increased reliance on digital experiences and application performance, require organizations to be diligent about identifying and reducing blind spots that can create risk and undermine business agility.

To manage blind spots, organizations need to gain greater visibility into:

  • Areas they have not traditionally monitored, such as home networks
  • Areas not under their control, such as those controlled by ISPs and cloud providers

For example, an organization seeking to increase its business agility—and resilience—would want to equip its IT teams with real-time visibility into each employee’s experience with SaaS and cloud-based applications, as well as underlying wireless LAN, WAN, internet connectivity, and system health.


Insights

Providing relevant and timely insights to IT teams is critical to driving business agility—and better visibility is foundational to getting those insights.
Many businesses today want to centralize visibility into their applications, workloads, networks, and security policies so they can gain better insight into their entire IT environment.
With greater visibility into the full stack of available data (business, application, infrastructure, and security) across the digital experience, IT teams can:

  • Monitor systems more effectively
  • Identify issues and fix them faster
  • Understand how data is being used, who is using it, and whether it's protected
  • Focus on innovation and provide more value to the business rather than just maintaining the status quo

See Optimized Application Experiences


Accelerating agility through automation

Automating processes is the path to linking visibility to insights and acting on those insights faster and at scale.

What does that look like in practice?

Here's an example:

A growing number of organizations are adopting containers, but their IT teams struggle with the complexity and ability to scale, e.g. installing open source packages, configuring storage, networking, maintaining consistency between platforms and versions, etc. This can be addressed with a lifecycle management solution for hybrid cloud environments that’s powered by automation and a curated stack. Time-to-market for provisioning Kubernetes clusters can be reduced significantly, while driving consistency and compliance for app developers.


Any organization can be agile

A business that can automate processes across the organization, connect its networks and people to enable next-level collaboration and greater adaptability, and secure every user, app, and data, will be well-positioned to achieve business agility.

Focusing on only one area—automation, connections, or security—won't do it. It must be all three.

It's also important for organizations to understand that business agility isn't just an attribute of startup, "born digital" companies, or of the "new disruptors" that have emerged during the global pandemic.

Any company of any size can be agile, and ultimately, more resilient, when it has deep visibility and insights that enable fast, strategic actions, and the right people, processes, and technology in place.