How Agile Methods Helped Enterprise Product Companies Adapt to the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic tested organizations. Business leaders had to respond quickly and businesses had to be adaptive, flexible, and creative to survive. Those organizations with Agile practices in their operating models were able to manage the impact of the COVID-19 crisis better than their peers. Agile methods also helped enterprise product companies adapt to the pandemic. Let’s see how Agile played a key role for organizations during the pandemic.
It is a practice that promotes continuous iteration, planning, learning, improvement, and collaboration throughout the product development cycle. Agile is about concurrent development and testing to promote accelerated outcome delivery.
It emphasizes four core values –
- Focus on the team and individual interactions rather than tools or processes.
- Focus on working software rather than extensive documentation.
- Focus on collaboration with the client rather than negotiating the contract.
- Focus on quick adaptation rather than strictly following a plan.
Agile methods helped organizations to recover from the financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis by:
- Building a resilient leadership.
- Creating a central response.
- Partnering with stakeholders.
- Creating an inclusive communication strategy.
- Upskilling of the workforce.
- Adopting new digital ways of working.
- Building resilient leadership:
As per Capterra, about 71% of companies (about 7 in 10) use Agile approaches in one way or the other. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Agile helped organizations adapt to the challenges and build resilience through crisis planning and business continuity.A key aspect of developing resilience included identifying critical processes and developing back-up plans. Those organizations proved resilient that displayed the following characteristics during the pandemic –
- Establishing a common purpose across the entire company. Through clear communication, the organizations were able to engage and motivate employees to work towards a common purpose.
- Enabling rapid decision-making. Organizations reallocated existing resources against new priorities to act as rapid-decision-making bodies. These entities were composed of senior decision-makers who met daily and quickly reallocated resources as part of the COVID-19 response.
- Ensuring clear accountability. Organizations created networks of local teams with specified roles. These local units had clear accountability in terms of what they were responsible for. It also led to several organizations reducing hierarchical barriers by bringing central teams in direct contact with local operational teams.
- Creating a flexible culture to empower employees. Many organizations used the crisis as an opportunity to develop a culture where employees can make a positive difference.
- Using technology. To adapt to the new normal of remote working, many organizations quickly secured access to technology tools for collaboration, communication, and continued work. Technologies like the cloud, enabled seamless work.
- Creating a central response:
During the COVID-19 crisis, organizational leaders established cross-functional teams to deliver a coordinated response. Creating a multidisciplinary central response office helped organizations adapt as the conditions changed. Daily meetings with these cross-functional teams helped guide executives on where to focus their efforts. These central response offices also helped identify gaps and strengthen the core capabilities of organizations to manage challenges. It helped organizations create a collaborative, open, and inclusive virtual work environment.Some key aspects of a central response included –
- Consistent messaging across the organization.
- Sharing updates on the latest public advisories from health officials.
- Providing consistent guidelines to managers.
- Managing multi-channel communication.
- Setting the governance to enable cross-functional teams to work together.
- Partnering with stakeholders:
Identifying various stakeholders like customers, staff, investors, media, etc. was critical in minimizing the negative impact of the COVID-19 crisis. Identifying and partnering with all the stakeholders helped organizations protect people and find new ways to serve customers. Organizations also figured out ways to reach out and collaborate with stakeholders by using alternative channels or online tools.Some key aspects of this step included-
- Identifying stakeholders to understand the effect of the pandemic on employees and partners of supporting organizations.
- Providing direct support to contractors and employees that were impacted by COVID-19.
- Creating tailored solutions to help resolve the specific needs of each impacted group.
- Creating an inclusive communication strategy:
Organizations had a focused approach to connect with employees to effectively lead them during periods of uncertainty. Since the employees felt anxious and confused because of conflicting information received from various sources, it was essential for organizations to create an inclusive communication strategy. The communication strategy put in place was based on a clear understanding of internal and external audiences.Some key aspects of this step included the following –
- Having a dedicated hotline for inquiries from employees.
- Bringing in a medical expert to facilitate Q&A sessions.
- Developing a one-stop solution for all the information, FAQs, policies, etc.
- Upskilling of the workforce:
During the lockdown, employees across levels had to adapt to change. Agile organizations used this as an opportunity to upskill their workforce. This helped ensure that the employees have the knowledge and skills to meet future demands. Organizations also promoted and enhanced digital learning to benefit the workforce.Some key aspects of this step included the following –
- Leadership training
- Role-based and process-based training
- Cybersecurity training
- Wellness sessions
- Training on adapting to the virtual work culture
- Adopting new digital ways of working:
The new normal comprises virtual interactions among employees. A slew of technologies and tools have come up to support remote work including VPN infrastructure, video calling applications, and access control mechanisms, etc. During the peak of the pandemic, organizational leaders adopted Agile working principles to support organization-wide remote work deployment.
As per McKinsey, the companies that fully adopted an Agile model before the pandemic outperformed those that didn’t. Enterprise product organizations that embraced Agile ways of working were able to pivot effectively, release more relevant product functionalities, and build stronger relationships with their enterprise users and customers. They were able to redesign, refresh, and redeploy their products for maximum impact and success.