Achieving Business Agility – Part 2 of a Three-part Series

Part 2: Look in the Mirror - See the Business in the Reflection

Given the progress and benefits of agile in delivery (IT, R&D, Technology), agilists may have a false sense of optimism that it can easily be applied to the business. That’s because over the many years of practicing agile, delivery has been interfacing with product owners (or product managers) who give direction on what products and features must be built. Unfortunately, many product owners drive delivery based on a limited knowledge of what the customer wants or what constraints might exist in the operating model. There is an assumption that because delivery has been meeting their commitments and have scaled agile across the enterprise, that they have been building the right features, but it’s not that simple. Looming disruptor competitors, with their finger on the pulse of the customer and able to deliver to their needs quickly, has created the need for orchestrated and collaborative urgency.

Sticking to narrow product owner/manager dependencies can inadvertently hinder a company from sensing and responding to the market, which of course, can be a death knell to a competitive effort. From a business agility perspective, this myopic view and false sense of success for delivery is dangerous and can lead to their demise while agile disruptors swoop in and eat your lunch.

If your company keeps sticking to this traditional delivery-product owner interdependency, you will waste delivery development time and resources building solutions the customer won’t use. There’s only so much a product owner will know about the customer (sense) and so much impact they can have on customer use (respond). They are taking the company to battle agile business digital disruptors while “sensing” with one eye covered and “responding” with one arm tied behind their back.


Today, with the volatility of customer desires changing constantly, high performing companies have their product owners fully in sync with the rapidly changing demands of the customer. In turn, delivery is more sure that product owners know the right thing to build and are more in touch with current fast-changing customer desires, and thus build in the right features that customers value.

These same “business agile” companies are not just building the right thing, they’re also building the right things on time. When delivery builds something fantastic that the customer will love, they need to deploy it fast. It’s very exciting to know when delivery has created a breakthrough that customers have been asking for. Best practice is showing that communication with the entities that are actually taking the product to market is key. Finance, marketing, and channels all participate in the go-to-makret strategy and need to be in the loop around the pricing, marketing and selling elements of the strategy.

Everyone needs to look in the mirror to reflect and realize, in this new digital era, that a company’s success depends on the ability to create products that the customer values and can use on time. It’s about the entire organization improving its ability to build “the right things at the right time,” which depends on a better relationship with business. Success goes beyond agile in delivery and must extend into the business at a new level.

Today, delivery must form closer relationships with the customer-facing pillars to build the right products and to get these products to market. Without forming closer relationships with finance, marketing, and channels, delivery will continue to be at risk of building products that customers don’t use either because their voice was not heard or because it’s too late and they found other alternatives.

Please click Part 3 of the series.

Bill WaltonComment