It is no surprise that agility is top of mind for many modern corporate leaders. Technology is evolving rapidly and opportunities for business innovation need to be met with strategic investments, lest you get left behind. This trend has only accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which required fast, high-pressure decision making. Complex issues ranging from cyberthreats to supply chain delays to shifts in consumer trends mean leaders need to be ready to respond at a moment’s notice.
Leaders can guide their organizations to become more profitable, competitive, and sustainable by investing in becoming more agile to better respond to rapid changes in the marketplace. One of the key elements of business agility is business intelligence, which leverages data in business decisions.
Through business intelligence, leaders can gain a competitive advantage in these challenging times and not only survive, but thrive.
Agility in Companies of All Sizes
Research shows that organizations benefit from business agility whether they are small or large. The COVID-19 pandemic made this clear, as every organization from a one-person business to Fortune 500 companies had to make split-second decisions.
Jon Smart, author of the “The Business Agility Report,” noted that he heard the words “we were at our best at the beginning of the pandemic” from leaders at every organization he spoke to and worked with regarding business agility. The leaders noted that they saw:
- Collaboration and cohesion across functional silos
- Clarity on highly specific goals and outcomes
- A spirit of collective ownership
- A sense of psychological safety that encouraged experimentation
Smart found that smaller organizations tend to exhibit more agility than large corporations, specifically in the areas of having a growth mindset and excelling in people management. Organizations that pursue business agility in more than one way also tend to see higher results than those with a singular approach.
Agile business practices such as optimizing workflow, developing employee skills, and providing mentorship tend to create positive value for companies of all sizes. Fifty-five percent of agile firms achieve top-quartile financial performance compared to only 25 percent of average firms.
Consider a few more statistics about the power of business agility from McKinsey & Company’s “Enterprise Agility: Buzz or Business Impact” report, which found that agility can:
- Improve the customer experience by up to 30 percent
- Create a 20-30 percent improvement in employee engagement
- Unlock performance improvement of up to 30-50 percent
- Reduce time to market by 40-70 percent
- Elevate financial performance by 20-30 percent through internal and external cost savings
Agile business practices make a considerable difference no matter the size of an organization, from employee morale and customer satisfaction to product deployment and faster workflows.
The Importance of Business Intelligence as the Foundation of Business Agility
There is only so far that a company can go if the driving force behind pursuing business agility is anecdotal or merely thematic. When the going gets tough in implementing change, or as leaders or employees become resistant to new ideas, merely reminding people that they are pursuing a certain ethos or culture may not always be enough to motivate change.
That’s where BI solutions — which leverage data analysis to inform business decision-making — can play a vital role in defining and sustaining an organization’s journey toward business agility. Business analytics provide leaders with key metrics that can drive their pursuit of change and give them concrete evidence to back up the rationale of major decisions.
Data-driven decisions as the backbone of business agility have led to positive outcomes for large and small companies, as well as their leaders, employees, and customers. Here are 10 ways business intelligence leadership helps business become more agile, through the lens of five real-world company success stories.
1. Safe Secrets and Instant Insights
Frozen and chilled food manufacturer Nabil Foods had a two-fold problem. First, it was struggling to protect its proprietary recipes from malicious hackers, a problem that was exacerbated as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the company to have its data and applications made available to employees working remotely. Second, Nabil Foods needed clearer, quicker company insights so that it could make business decisions accordingly.
For Nabil Foods, the answer was Oracle’s cloud-based infrastructure that brought its data out of siloed applications and onto a secure, cohesive platform. The cloud addressed the challenges Nabil Foods was facing in several ways, including:
- Reducing hands-on administration, which cut down on human error risk that could lead to outages and security risks
- Decreasing the cost of operations by 80 percent
- Providing machine learning capabilities that regularly provide new insights and make predictions
- Reducing product time to market by highlighting opportunities for efficiencies
- Enhancing business agility by reducing the time required to prepare monthly reports from three weeks to three days, and reducing the time to complete formerly five-hour financial queries to a few seconds
The Nabil Foods journey demonstrates just how powerful business intelligence tools and practices can be towards contributing to business agility and overall company efficiency, innovation, and success.
2. Stopping Silos and Maximizing a Medium-Sized Enterprise
As one of the largest providers of engineering services for fire protection in Germany, hhpberlin Ingenieure für Brandschutz GmbH was faced with managing over 1,000 complex projects — a quarter of the nation’s special construction projects — annually. In order to do so with agility, it had to find a way — as a small to mid-sized enterprise made up of 200 employees and six locations — to map its business process in an optimal way.
“You have to move away from the minimizing principle of ‘How can we cut IT costs?’ to ‘How can we use IT to increase profits?’” said Stefan Truthän, CEO of hhpberlin. “In other words, a maximizing principle. To achieve this, we need an IT solution that is also not stuck in silos, but that connects all players with each other. And that’s how we set ourselves up at hhpberlin.”
Truthän led his company in adopting Microsoft’s Dynamic 365 software.
“You need a toolbox with which you can equip yourself for the special task at hand,” Truthän explained. “This way, we can give every employee the tools they need to perform their best. Dynamics 365 turns data into information that’s visible to all employees. This enables hhpberlin to design its project processes to be both sustainable and dynamic, and it lets us add value to future projects and to every role in the company.”
With the business intelligence that Microsoft Dynamics 365 provides, hhpberlin has been empowered to achieve greater business agility as it eliminates company and departmental silos, manages organizational individuality and processes, and reduces complexity.
3. Improving Patient Results and Increasing Revenue
Sheridan Memorial Hospital (SMH) in Sheridan, Wyoming had gleaned a key insight from its business intelligence — its daily visit numbers were too low. How could its leaders determine the right business decisions to make to improve their visit rate?
Enter Simpler, IBM’s consulting branch that assists health care organizations in reshaping their operations and building a culture of continuous improvement, which is at the core of a business agility perspective. Through changes such as alleviating the administrative burden from physicians, reducing waste in the revenue cycle, and standardizing job tasks and processes, SMH saw stunning results, including:
- 14.5 percent increase in congestive heart failure mortality score
- 18 percent increase in sepsis guideline compliance
- 62 percent reduction in revenue cycle deficiencies
- 76 percent increase in daily patient visits
- 220 percent improvement in point-of-service collections
In starting the journey toward business agility, SMH not only improved its profits and decreased costs, but it also made a positive difference in the lives of patients. Before the changes, patients rated SMH in the 15th percentile for patient satisfaction. After the transformation, that number skyrocketed to the 72nd percentile.
4. Higher Compliance and Greater Speed
The business agility of interior finishings company Metrie was limited by the capabilities of its System Applications and Product (SAP) infrastructure. As one of the leading North American manufacturers and distributors in its field, the company needed a cloud provider that was able to keep up with the company’s growth in demand. It chose to transition to Qnovate and Microsoft Azure.
“In the Quality Triangle, there are inherent tradeoffs in cost, project speed, and performance. Usually, you get to pick two as your benefits. With SAP on Azure and Qnovate, we got to have all three,” said Andrew Taylor, Manager of IT Systems at Metrie.
The data affirms Taylor’s enthusiasm, showing that the transition yielded:
- Compliance increase that reduced hour-long compliance meetings to 20-minute check-ins
- A 25 percent increase in the speed of sales transactions
- A 66 percent reduction in call times from customers needing information on product specifics or other data
- Real-time insights and updates that take just a few hours to produce, rather than the prior workday-and-a-half required
The impact on business agility at Metrie is clear, and was captured perfectly by its Director of IT Operations, Will Crichton.
“In the past, when we wanted to update or change our infrastructure, the process could take several weeks. With Azure, we can now make those changes in a matter of hours.”
5. Insight-Based Investing and Small Business Growth
Triumvirate Environmental is an Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) and on-site waste management service. Recognizing the immense potential for reaching potential customers digitally, Triumvirate Marketing Manager and New Media Trainer Mark Campanale wanted to increase the company’s presence online.
As far back as 2006, the company had used Google AdWords to promote its business, but the data analytics were not showing the results the company wanted. As they began to learn more about online marketing and the importance of a multi-pronged approach to digital content, they expanded to incorporate blogging, SEO, whitepapers, social media platforms, and email marketing in addition to their pay-per-click advertising.
Rather than building one company blog that housed every post Triumvirate published, the company leveraged its insights into keywords by starting 13 separate blogs. Some are considered “general industry,” like “Industrial” and “Life Sciences.” Others are granular, centered on topics like “PCB Remediation” and “FDNY New Standards” — blogs created based on business analytics that revealed customer, and potential customer, interests.
The result? $1.2 million in company revenue that can be directly attributed to search engine optimization, blogs, and social media.
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