Global Study: How Media Companies Lead in Organizational Agility

The streaming wars rage on with renewed urgency as people seek solace, escape, or understanding from the comfort of their homes. In the middle of this, organizational agility is more important than ever.

The media industry is accustomed to change—something that there’s been no shortage of in 2020. The streaming wars rage on with renewed urgency as people seek solace, escape, or understanding from the comfort of their homes. In the middle of this, organizational agility is more important than ever. When it comes to business innovation and flexibility, media companies—especially cloud-first ones unencumbered by legacy technology, as we examine below—are leading the way.

Our global survey of 998 executives, “Organizational Agility at Scale: The Key to Driving Digital Growth,” conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic, shows the majority already recognized that organizational agility is key to driving long-term digital growth. And, perhaps more tellingly, we found that there is a strong relationship between digital revenue growth and organizational agility. Phase 2 of the study is being conducted as you read this, and we’d venture to guess that agility will be seen as an even more urgent imperative for business leaders.

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 media industry, 23% were identified as leaders, 29% were identified as laggards, and 48% were aspirers. This industry is tied with higher education as having the highest percentage of leaders among all our respondents, and had the lowest percentage of laggards.

Here are a few key insights from survey respondents from media companies: 

  • Access to digital tools. 91% shared that they have the tools they need to measure performance of digital products and new service lines. 

  • Digital innovation and agility go hand in hand. 93% said that their strategy for growth by digital innovation is constantly evolving.  In the media industry, investments in understanding audiences and tailoring content to specific segments is an example of where innovation has taken hold. Broader digital efforts that encompass other areas of the business haven't always seen the same level of investment.

  • Growth through upskilling continues. 86% answered that employees in their companies are encouraged to grow through upskilling rather than by promotion.

  • Digital revenue streams are here to stay. 59% expect digital revenue to make up over half of their revenue three years from now, which was the biggest number of all industries surveyed. We expect this number to grow in light of the global pandemic.

  • They can make moves when necessary. 82% said they’re ready to reallocate people when new opportunities arise or their skills are needed elsewhere. 

  • Investing in the first impression is a priority. 81% shared that customer-facing employees have the power to make decisions that make the customer experience better. 

The Barriers to Organizational Agility  

Even though media companies are at the top of the leader category and are making great strides toward active planning, it’s not always easy on the path to organizational agility. In fact, while 38% of media respondents say they agree with the statement, “my organization is able to react with agility and speed to market shifts,” (compared to 18% of organizations overall), that means that 62% of media organizations can’t or don’t react with speed and agility. 

The most common challenges cited in the media industry are inflexible legacy technologies, lack of relevant employee skills, and difficulty aligning the right internal stakeholders. 

They also face hurdles when trying to update processes to respond to the changing needs of the business: Lack of motivation to move away from legacy processes, lack of insightful data and market intelligence, and failure to engage the wider organization. 

You’ll notice a theme: Inflexible legacy technologies and processes. Although most media organizations excel at giving consumers a smooth and well designed digital experience, many are apparently still weighed down by back office technology. The survey did not break down media companies by age or type, but our guess is that some of the older, more established brands haven’t invested yet in the technology needed to run the business with the efficiency and agility that’s needed in our quickly changing world.

Upskilling and Constant Evolution Unlock Doors to Agility

It’s possible media companies had the largest percentage of leaders in our survey due to two key areas: their focus on upskilling and a willingness to constantly evolve their strategy for digital innovation. As mentioned above, 86% say that upskilling is a key strategy for employee growth. And 66% have plans to upskill more than half of their workforce in the next five years to keep pace with the changing world of work. This could very well be a reflection of the “Hollywood model” of work, where highly skilled (and, always upskilling) freelancers come together in complicated but relatively short-term projects. We should note that some experts on the future of work say that this project/freelance-based model will likely be adopted by more and more companies.

The second key for media companies to make progress toward organizational agility is a willingness to constantly evolve their strategy for growth through digital innovation. Higher than any other industry surveyed, 93% said this strategy is constantly innovating, which likely explains why they have such a large percent of leaders. 

So, to take away a few lessons from an industry that’s blazing trails: Focus on empowering employees to build new skills, and be willing to change on the fly to make progress towards true organizational agility. 

Get an overview of "Organizational Agility at Scale: The Key to Driving Digital Growth" findings or download the full report.

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