Now More Than Ever, It’s About Agility

In the age of urgent, rapid digitalization, businesses that take on an agile philosophy for planning have a strategic advantage over those still clinging to old ways of planning. Read more from Tom Bogan, executive vice president, Planning Business Unit at Workday.

If it seems like the forces of change bearing down on your business are accelerating, it’s only because they are. Globalization and digitalization are rapidly causing markets to flatten. Disruptive competitors can shatter the prospects of long-standing leaders. Customer expectations are soaring—causing companies to realize that in the concierge economy, “good enough” is nowhere near good enough.

Even the data we run our businesses on presents uniquely difficult challenges. The pace of its growth is staggering: 90 percent of all the world’s data was created in just the past two years. Apply that curve to the data that feeds your enterprise stack and drives your most crucial decisions, and it becomes clear that in less than two years, you will have to process, store, and analyze twice the volume of data you do today. Possibly more.

Any one of these forces could be capable of disrupting your business. But taken together, they converge into a kind of perfect storm that will test even the most resilient, prepared, and innovative organizations.

In the Age of Urgency, Agility Is Existential

Now more than ever, agility is the currency of success. Nothing we see in the marketplace today suggests that change is slowing, so companies aiming to thrive must gain the visibility to see what’s happening, the insight to form a strategic plan in response, the control to execute meaningful and coordinated action, and the tools necessary to measure the results. And if they are to flourish long term, they’ll need the technology required to anticipate what’s next and plan for that as well, even if what’s next could be any of 40, 60, even 100 scenarios.

All of these capabilities are necessary to operate with agility. The future will be an exercise in continually optimizing your organization to the changing conditions around you. Strategic direction is vital, but so is the ability to course-correct when needed.

The companies that recognize this will be able to capitalize on the chaos that is certain to consume their less-agile competitors. Those that wait too long to make the necessary changes will find themselves outpaced, outperformed, and outmaneuvered.

The Key to Agility Is Planning

Agility may be about responding intelligently to the mercurial nature of the marketplace, but those responses must be rooted in a plan. Not the kind of traditional, static planning companies have engaged in for decades—disjointed, slow, and manual—but a new generation of business planning enabled by powerful cloud computing technology. Businesses around the world are replacing their old static planning process with an active planning environment that is designed for the age of urgency. Quickly outdated annual plans, siloed views of the business, and cloistered top-down planning are all giving way to company-wide planning that’s comprehensive, continuous, and collaborative.

Agility is always within reach no matter what size your organization.

The future will be complex and you’ll need all the help you can get. So your planning environment must be built to handle complexity but still be easy to use. Addressing complexity means having a planning engine that scales quickly and painlessly across different systems, locations, and environments. And ease of use means ensuring the people closest to the business can plan—the people who see the problems and obstacles the moment they arise or who spot the opportunities for your next revenue stream. Though finance is the function that’s best suited to orchestrate company-wide planning, the process can’t solely reside there. It must involve the stakeholders—Rachel in purchasing, Ujesh in sales operations—who run your business day to day. They should be able to model what-if scenarios so they’ll have a plan for when a key supplier is hit with a hurricane, or a competitor sets off a price war. After all, this is their future too.

Tomorrow’s Winners Will Be the Most Agile

Modern business planning is now a strategic advantage, which logically puts every business still clinging to old ways of planning at a strategic disadvantage. Stuck in static planning, they will be slower to respond, and less able to anticipate problems and opportunities. The gap between them and their more agile competitors will widen. Every day, they’ll fall further behind and lose a little bit more.

If we’ve learned anything from helping more than 4,000 companies transform their business planning environments from static to active, it’s that agility is always within reach no matter what size your organization.

But achieving agility means taking action—and soon. Because the age of urgency waits for no one.

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