Explore Cisco
How to Buy

Have an account?

  •   Personalized content
  •   Your products and support

Need an account?

Create an account

Operational Agility: Executive Summary

How operational agility will sharpen your competitive edge

The momentum toward digital transformation continues to build. Like any game-changing innovation, digital transformation presents both compelling opportunities and new challenges.

Today’s IT teams face rising complexity, which threatens to undermine the business agility they’re seeking. Operations leaders specifically are up against a complicated patchwork of technology and stakeholders that is expanding all the time. 

To help shoulder the massive increase in operational burden, IT must be more flexible, resilient, and intelligent. Automation will be a critical factor in achieving these goals and dealing with the unprecedented business changes underway.

To understand more about how automation enables operational maturity, we commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct primary market research that includes organisations of varying sizes across industries globally.

The study, Operational Agility is the New Imperative, found that most organisations are focusing operations work on improving data quality, resilience, remote worker inclusion, and technology dependability. However, it revealed two major learnings:

  • Leaders are placing strong bets on data quality and IT/OT convergence, rather than investments generic cost-saving initiatives
  • Automation maturity determines business results, both for the top and bottom line

What sets leaders apart?

The Forrester survey reveals a lot about where organisations are focusing their operations—and what distinguished market leaders from their beginner counterparts.

Today’s market leaders:

Outpace beginners in adopting automation.

Leaders aggressively moved forward automating cloud management, network adaptation, back-end business processes, and other processes. Front-end customer engagement processes were an exception, and an area that both leaders and beginners have automated.

Take full advantage of automation tools.

Leaders make the most of well-defined automations like robotic process automation (RPA), low-code app development, and infrastructure orchestration. They also applied more advanced tools such as cloud management, digital process automation (DPA), and workload automation.

Emphasise high quality data.

Leaders understand that the better their data is, the better their insights are and, ultimately, the better their automations are. The old saying, “garbage in, garbage out” remains true. Without high quality data, leaders cannot produce high-quality automations. 

Capitalise on emerging technology.

Leaders outpace their slower competitors in adopting emerging technologies such as private 5G networks. They can capitalise on new opportunities like this because they have already built the right data and technology foundation and understand the need to converge IT and operational technology (OT).

Invest for the future, even in trying times.

Even economic downturns offer new opportunities to capitalise on previous tech investments with targeted spending. Real innovators strategically spend their way through a recession and continue to plan more investments in critical solutions.

Operational maturity powers major business benefits

Forrester’s study shows that automating IT and business processes is important work for everyone, regardless of maturity level.

Automating processes leads to business benefits such as better customer experiences (CX), improved employee productivity, decreased costs, and increased revenue. However, the most advanced operational organisations, referred to as leaders, are more likely to both experience positive outcomes and benefit from greater returns.

We found that leaders:

Accomplish what they set out to do.

More than three-quarters of high-maturity organisations report making positive progress toward top goals, compared to little more than half of low-maturity organisations. Nearly all leaders—94%—have been able to unite IT and OT for fuller busines automation and set the stage for adoption of emerging technologies like 5G.

Outpace beginners at business critical KPIs.

Leaders are more likely to experience benefits, especially in key outcomes like customer satisfaction, revenue growth, and cost reduction. Our study reveals that 91% of leaders experienced positive impacts to revenue KPIs, compared to 75% of beginners. Leaders also reported an average 3.65% increase in annual revenue from operations automation, compared to just 3.04% for beginners—a big difference that can translate to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Experience better business resiliency.

When it comes to KPIs that help advance the business resilience of organisations, we see leaders making more positive improvements to critical KPIs like application and infrastructure uptime and mean-time-to-repair (MTTR). The ability of leaders to make a difference on both big picture metrics and the KPIs that allow them to limit disruption, while also preparing for the next major crisis, bodes well for their success.

Are more agile, collaborative, and responsive.

Mature organisations are more likely to use fast feedback loops to manage products, projects, and processes; deploy high-bandwidth, cross-functional collaboration; and are nearly 2.5 times more likely than beginners to quickly stand-up teams to support emerging opportunities.

A world of differences

Forrester’s study illustrated that although market leaders share a common focus, there were some stark differences from a regional perspective.

Asia Pacific emphasises speed and cost.

Organisations in Asia Pacific are highly aware that they will need to quickly introduce new and improved products and services to keep their market position. They understand that even during times of crisis, disruptive entrants will continue to drive fierce competition. Yet at the same time, many are implementing cost-cutting measures that put large projects on hold.

Although 47% of all respondents in Asia Pacific saw improvements to their organisations’ employee productivity because of their automation efforts, this is lower than other regions. Working to overcome some of their top challenges will help improve returns in this area.

EMEA is burdened with aging technology.

Outdated infrastructure is a major issue for many European firms. This top technical challenge is slowing many organisations down. Operations professionals in Europe are also more focused on quickly identifying the root cause of issues compared to their peers in North America and APAC. Addressing this goal and improving the ability to track mean time to repair (MTTR) will go a long way to limiting downtime and improving agility.

North America works smarter, not harder.

In North America, respondents said reducing human error is significantly more important to the success of their IT operations. By minimising errors, they are more likely to see higher-quality business execution compared to other regions. This focus on reducing error has led North American firms to pull ahead in the race to automate, with 57% of North American respondents reporting improved productivity through automation.

Moving forward on your operational maturity journey

If you’re exploring ways to move forward on your own journey toward operational maturity, take a few moments to chart your progress with Forrester’s assessment tool (available in English only).

Or take a deeper dive by watching the webinar with a special guest speaker from Forrester Research: "Accelerating Digital Agility to Move at the Pace of Business." (available in English only)

For more information: