How to Improve Business Agility

A person wearing a suit balances precariously on a skateboard.
A person wearing a suit balances precariously on a skateboard.

Originally published on April 4, 2022 and refreshed April 27, 2023.

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 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.


What Is Business Agility?

Business agility refers to an organization’s ability to adapt and thrive in uncertain or complex business environments. Recent years have provided numerous examples of the importance of agility. Following the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the most agile businesses transitioned to remote/hybrid work environments with minimal disruption, while less agile companies foundered. 

There are a number of components to agility. One is culture. The most agile companies tend to be ones that have cultures focused on collaboration and innovation as opposed to more narrowly defined performance parameters. Leadership matters, too. Agile leaders listen to employee needs and are constantly thinking about process improvement. Finally, a focus on data analytics can help companies to make more informed decisions and effectively manage risk, even in business environments that are fraught or uncertain.


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Business Agility Benefits

Research shows that organizations of any size benefit from agile practices. Consider just a few of the most significant benefits that agile businesses can expect:

  • Increased competitive advantage. Companies that regularly monitor and respond to market fluctuations have an edge over less responsive companies.
  • Employee development. Employees who are encouraged to be agile tend to develop a more robust and cross-disciplinary set of skills.
  • Improved productivity. Agile businesses usually get their products to market sooner, as teams focus on problem-solving and product creation.
  • Increased resilience. Companies focusing on agility are usually much better at weathering economic downturns or significant disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic.

These are just a few of the reasons why business agility is worth pursuing, no matter the size of the company or the industry.

Turning up the knob on business


The Benefits of Business Intelligence in Improving Business Agility

There is only so far that a company can go if the driving force behind pursuing agility is anecdotal or merely thematic. When it gets tough to implement 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 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 just a few examples of the practical benefits of business intelligence.


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 make its data and applications available to employees working remotely. Second, Nabil Foods needed more precise, quicker company insights to make business decisions accordingly.

For Nabil Foods, the answer was Oracle’s cloud-based infrastructure, which 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%
  • 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 creating data visualization dashboards and reducing the time required to prepare monthly reports from three weeks to three days, reducing the time to complete formerly five-hour financial queries to a few seconds

The Nabil Foods journey demonstrates just how significant business intelligence tools and practices can be to agility and overall company efficiency, innovation and success.


2. 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 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:

  • A 14.5% increase in congestive heart failure mortality score
  • An 18% increase in sepsis guideline compliance
  • A 62% reduction in revenue cycle deficiencies
  • A 76% increase in daily patient visits
  • A 220% 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 patients' lives. Before the changes, patients rated SMH in the 15th percentile for patient satisfaction. After the transformation, that number skyrocketed to the 72nd percentile.


3. Higher Compliance and Greater Speed

The 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 could 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:

  • A compliance increase that reduced hour-long compliance meetings to 20-minute check-ins
  • A 25% increase in the speed of sales transactions
  • A 66% 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 benefits of business intelligence were 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.”


4. Insight-Based Investing and Small Business Growth

Triumvirate Environmental is an Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) and on-site waste management service. Recognizing the immense opportunity to reach potential customers digitally, Triumvirate Marketing Manager and New Media Trainer Mark Campanale wanted to increase the company’s online presence. 

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.


Become a Business Agility Leader

Do you want to leverage key business analytics, collaborate across teams and approach company challenges with transformation in mind? The Online Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA) - Business Intelligence at Marymount University can prepare you for this kind of career.

Students are empowered to tailor the fully online DBA in Business Intelligence according to their aspirations. The program can be completed in as few as three years and equips you to lead business intelligence initiatives in organizations of any size. 

Gain the data analytics skills you need to lead others on a meaningful journey toward business agility with a DBA in Business Intelligence.


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