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Agility: the cure for UK businesses amid turbulent times

(Image credit: Image Credit: Rawpixel / Pixabay)

Business agility – the ability for companies to react quickly to market changes, mitigate issues proactively and respond flexibly to customer demand – has long been posited as a crucial element for organisations to succeed in today’s increasingly complex and dynamic environment. And as we currently face rather gloomy economic prospects due to the coronavirus outbreak, being prepared to pivot and manage available resources effectively will be essential to ensure business continuity.

At a time when organisations cannot let their customer experience suffer at the expense of other priorities, however pressing they may be, adapting rapidly to a changing landscape will enable businesses to remain consumer-focused. Poor customer service can weaken a company’s reputation at the best of times, let alone when our society is on the brink of a crisis. Therefore, business agility – which enables organisations to maintain a customer-centric mindset, even when they find themselves under increasing pressure – is essential.

However, this concept of business agility usually raises questions and concerns around change management and associated cost. The assumption that business transformation to achieve greater agility is an expensive and time-intensive endeavour can be understandably off-putting, but is it actually true? Or are organisations running the risk of missing out on a key ingredient to long-term resilience and strategic success? Major and rapid changes to operational process used to be the domain of large corporations with budgets to match; now, smaller organisations across all sectors can build agility into business as usual by making the right platform choices.

The power of planning

Business leaders should take a more considerate approach to investing in technology, to ensure resources are used effectively. Developing a strong tactical plan will help identify an organisation’s position on the market and its specific needs.

This is of course done best before any crisis emerges. After all, we’re all familiar with the adage around what happens if we fail to plan…  However, it is vital that business leaders take the time to devise a plan of action, however brief it may be, even at a time when action is needed quickly. This level-headedness amidst the panic pays off in the long term, and particularly benefits resource-poor organisations that can afford to waste neither time nor money.

Once a set of objectives has been established, along with specific action items, assigned to each of these goals, it is time to evaluate the role of technology in the transformation towards greater agility. Without a doubt, technology will underpin the process, so gaining a good understanding of the solutions available and their suitability for the tasks ahead is an equally important part of the plan.

Technology, a key agility enabler

As barriers to technology adoption continue to fall, and associated offerings multiply, the opportunity to create IT systems that support agile businesses is widening. This is particularly benefiting the organisations that would previously have struggled to find the required investment and expertise to make the move. The emergence of low-code technology has undoubtedly helped speed up this democratisation of technology. The industry is seeing the growth of low-code on a daily basis, and this is reflected in the latest market reports.

Forrester Research forecasts that the total spending on low-code development platforms will hit $21.2 billion by 2022, representing a compound annual growth rate of roughly 40 per cent. Gartner predicts that by 2024, low-code application development will be responsible for more than 65 per cent of all application development activity. Low-code’s proposition is proving increasingly irresistible to organisations of all sizes.

With low-code technology, entrepreneurs, small businesses and public bodies with minimal resources and limited IT expertise are able to quickly develop simple, flexible apps that enable them to automate tasks and make their processes more efficient. For example, specialist Hampshire Trust Bank has developed and rolled out a brand-new application to replace manual processes in its mortgage division four months earlier than planned, and at less than one-third of the anticipated cost.

This remarkable increase in speed of return makes the customer experience better, whilst the time of doing business is reduced. London-based financial institution Liberis has developed a low-code application to improve its customer experience and back office processes in just three months, as opposed to the 18 months originally estimated, whilst the app builder time was only 12 per cent of the original estimate. These are just two examples of organisations using low-code, where practically any employee can develop new solutions that live up to the fast pace of modern business – not just tech experts.

When times get hard, businesses need to flex

Having the simplicity, speed and flexibility of low-code application development comes to the fore particularly during times of uncertainty, when both customers and employees need to believe that organisations can handle the crisis. Communication is a priority, and the more companies can keep people updated the better. For example, developing emergency alert applications for customers, or deploying internal workforce management tools, in the traditional way often takes weeks or even months, so users of low-code platforms have a significant advantage.

Not only are they able to quickly access and deploy existing applications that others are happy to share; low-code users usually also have access to external support from the technology vendor and the community of other users of the same platform. Part of the beauty of low-code lies in the ability to collaborate and share experiences and best practice with others, rather than being stuck with a rigid proprietary solution from a third-party provider that may not always be easily approachable. And besides the ability to quickly build new apps, low-code platforms enable rapid adaptations of online applications to address the challenge of surging volumes of inquiries.

To ensure that customer service remains high on the agenda even during difficult times – the perfect example of which is now – an organisation’s online services must be in the best possible shape to satisfy changing business and consumer needs.  Global crises only highlight just how much investing in scalable technologies enhances organisations’ resilience and agility, and low-code offers itself as a great solution for businesses and public bodies to get on the front foot and prepare for the unexpected.

Richard Farrell, Chief Innovation Officer, Netcall