Agility: How the Future of Work Can Sharpen Your Competitive Edge


Disruption is central to how we do business; in fact, it’s almost fair to say that disruption is the new business as usual. To compete effectively in a disrupted marketplace, businesses need to be agile. That means getting on board with tools that empower flexibility, accommodate constant change, and facilitate smooth processes.

The way we work has changed 

In the past, companies needed entire teams to manage manual tasks like sorting and sending mail, recordkeeping, and paperwork. Now, we have technologies like big data and artificial intelligence (AI), both of which are dramatically changing the way we work.

No one needs to stuff envelopes anymore; a marketing automation system keeps in touch with customers for you. No one needs to ‘crunch the numbers’; big data has you covered and can help you make the right decisions, faster. 

While this means some jobs may become redundant, it also means humans are more valuable than they’ve ever been. Freed from the burden of manual work, people can spend more of their time on creative thinking and innovation. This is exactly why organisations need to respond faster to changing conditions and to compete more effectively.

Businesses are also understanding the importance of engagement, pushed in no small part by the growing proportion of millennials in the workforce. These digital natives have different expectations and aspirations compared to older workers. They tend to be less motivated by salary and more interested in the capacity of a business to solve problems relevant to them. They want relationships with organisations based on trust and respect. Transparency is critical in how they work and they want to be supported by a culture that permits failure and promotes continuous learning; in other words, an agile culture.

The office itself is also changing. From wearable devices and smart appliances to intelligent lighting and instantly-configurable meeting rooms, the physical aspect of work is geared towards agility. Always-on videoconferencing can create a seamless connection between workmates regardless of distance, letting them collaborate more efficiently, making decisions and acting fast.

Businesses that can create these conditions will attract the most talented people who can deliver the agility and competitive edge required. 

The importance of moving faster

For many business leaders, agility equals moving faster in the right directions. Usually, achieving this speed isn’t a matter of dramatically changing one thing but of making many small improvements across the organisation. Sometimes, however, a dramatic change is just what the doctor ordered.

For example, the 3D printing process, also known as additive manufacturing, lets manufacturers move much faster, potentially helping to overcome the challenges posed by cheaper overseas competitors. Using 3D printing technology, buyers can download designs and create products in the comfort of their own home, while businesses can rapid-prototype and scale product creation like never before. 

Data can also facilitate dramatic changes.

Effectively storing, aggregating, and analysing data delivers invaluable insights and helps companies make the right decisions. This, in turn, helps them react faster to and, in many cases, predict market changes.

Moving faster means automating workflows and processes, and letting content move without barriers and people move without borders. This clears the way for employees to add value through innovation and flexibility. 

Moving faster can manifest through collaboration solutions that connect people wherever they are in the world, printing solutions that let people print from mobile devices to the nearest printer, and cloud-based services that are always available. 

Automation creates the time and space for the kind of agile innovation it will take to thrive in years to come. By getting out of employees’ way, you can keep them happy and engaged, which sets the scene for responsiveness and agility. As business needs change and business models evolve, digital transformation that harnesses cloud, mobility, analytics, and machine learning will deliver the agility that creates a better customer experience and lets humans apply their time, talent, and brainpower to the bigger picture.  

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