The COVID-19 pandemic likely exacerbated what we found in our global study, conducted before the crisis: The majority of professional services businesses experience competing challenges moving to real-time planning, including lack of relevant skills, a bureaucratic culture, and inflexible legacy technologies. Professional services organizations are also significantly more likely than other sectors to perceive a bureaucratic organizational culture as a central barrier to updating processes to respond to changing business needs.
Our global survey of 998 executives, “Organizational Agility at Scale: The Key to Driving Digital Growth,” shows the majority recognize that organizational agility is key if they want to drive long-term digital growth. And, perhaps more tellingly, we found that there is a strong relationship between digital revenue growth and organizational agility.
We also found that the professional services industry comes in last among the sectors predicting the highest digital revenue three years from now. This could be a reflection of the highly personal, long-term nature of professional services engagements. Or, it could mean that many professional services organizations need to put their firms into high gear to stay on top. We're currently conducting an update to this study as you read this, and we’d venture to guess that to stay afloat, many more professional services firms have been forced to focus on digital revenue streams much sooner than they’d anticipated.
We identified five key behaviors that are crucial to organizational agility, and then grouped survey respondents based on their level of adoption of these behaviors. “Leaders” (15% of respondents) achieved high performance across all five of the behaviors, while “aspirers” (30% of respondents) achieved high performance in four of them, and “laggards” (55%) achieved three or fewer of the behaviors.
Here are the five behaviors that are necessary for organizational agility:
Continuous planning. They plan in a continuous, real-time manner, which gives them the speed, agility, and dynamism they need to innovate successfully.
Fluid structures and processes. Leading organizations build fluid organizational structures and processes. Nearly half claim the ability to reallocate people quickly to where their skills are needed.
Building the future workforce. Leaders are much more likely than laggards to have plans to upskill the majority of their workforce and push specific initiatives to increase employee engagement.
Informed and empowered decision making. At 80% of leader organizations, all employees have access to timely and relevant data and are empowered to make appropriate decisions.
Measurement and guidance. Leaders have made significant progress in developing tools and metrics to measure the performance of digitally driven innovations. This is giving them a “fail fast” mentality: 94% say they are able to steer away quickly from unsuccessful projects.
Our survey broke down organizational agility by industry. In the professional services industry, 10% were identified as leaders, 66% were identified as laggards, and the remaining 24% were aspirers.