Reality checkpoint: Bain & Company, "Doing Agile Right"
Agile has become such a buzzword it’s almost lost its meaning. So we thought it a good time to review. Overly cumbersome and bureaucratic processes and data silos create sluggish business models that are unable to react quickly to changes in plan and slow, rather than foster, innovation. But agile isn’t a destination. It’s a means to becoming an effective and prosperous organisation. As we learned long ago, Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candlestick. Organisations need to learn to be like Jack, learning to jump before disruptions impact their business.
Agile is being hailed as the magical antidote to organisational woes. But although it does have the power to transform how you work, it must be implemented in the right way, in the right areas to get you there.
Bain & Company thought leader and HBR author Darrell Rigby and colleagues Sarah Elk and Steve Berez check us on what agile really means, clearing up the myths and misconceptions surrounding all the buzz. Agile teams can, in fact, fuel innovation and make jobs more rewarding, but only if done right. It is not, however, a magic pill and can’t transform your company with a single swallow. Nor should it be used in all types of work or in every function.
As is with most things in life, the key is in finding the right balance, identifying where there is a need for tight control and strict governance for optimisation. As says, “Agile, done well, frees and facilitates vigorous innovation without sacrificing the efficiency and reliability essential to traditional operations.”
- How Agile Really Works
- Agile Planning, Budgeting and Reviewing
- Agile Organization, Structures and People Management
- Agile Processes and Technology
- Scaling Agile
- Agile Leadership
- Agile in Crises
- Doing Agile Wrong
- The (Un)balanced Company
Author Darrell Rigby responds to a question on how organisations can work together effectively and whether common goals should be established. “In my experience, Agile teams actually do better when they have separate rather than shared goals. The goals should be aligned so that teams are not wasting resources or working at cross-purposes, but aligned goals are different from shared goals. Take Saab Aeronautics, which develops the most cost-effective fighter jet in the world (the Gripen) using about 100 Agile teams. The teams are aligned on the goals for the overall jet, but teams working on propulsion have different goals from those developing brakes, for example.
“We often create what we call taxonomies of teams to show how Agile teams fit together and to make those relationships transparent to the entire organisation. We design the taxonomy to minimise interdependence while making sure that each module quickly and easily plugs into the others. This gives teams autonomy to act quickly without wasting time and energy on constant coordination. We think of it as creating a microservices architecture for technology, deploying loosely coupled applications that are self-contained but with clear interfaces. Amazon, as you probably know, uses microservices. Those microservices are mapped to autonomous teams that are generally capped at 10 members. We, too, consciously design business architectures and taxonomies so that each service ties closely to a development team.”
Coupa Launches US$50 Million Ventures Fund
Operational resilience and agility. Following the events of the last twelve months, companies have focused on these strategic areas like never before. Some, as we’ve noted, have started to wonder whether this trend will continue post-pandemic—or will we go back to the same old supply chain? Not if Coupa Software has its way.
Last week, the company launched Coupa Ventures, a global fund that will invest US$50mn in early- and growth-stage companies that target business spend inefficiencies. “Coupa Ventures enables us to invest in a future where businesses and their suppliers can harness the power of their spend to constantly adapt, transform, and innovate”, said Rob Bernshteyn, Coupa’s Chairman and CEO.
What’s Business Spend Management (BSM)?
Let’s be honest, it doesn’t sound particularly sexy—it sounds like a subsection of the finance department. But business spend management, together with ERP (enterprise resource planning), CRM (customer relationship management) and HCM (human capital management) make up the core operating process of any company out there. When companies spend money, sign contracts, analyse supplier costs, take inventory or budget for the future, that’s BSM. Overall, business spend management is made up of three main areas: procuring materials, managing invoice, and handling expenses. Essentially, it’s the engine of the entire operation.
Why Change It Up?
According to Coupa, the next wave of BSM is now. It wasn’t always this way: in March of 2016, advisory giant Gartner claimed that BSM was dead. At that time, the firm was partly right. Companies couldn’t handle trillions of bits of data by themselves—and they were sinking as the waves of big data swept over their heads.
But recent developments have meant that BSM isn’t fated to die just yet. “The key to optimisation is data—and not just any data”, Coupa stated. The company has supported community intelligence, in which machine learning uses anonymised data from hundreds or thousands of client companies to suggest better spend tactics. This way, companies can get better insight into their suppliers, track supply chain disruptions, and investigate procurement alternatives.
This network effect is part of what makes Coupa Ventures so exciting. Said Eric Christopher, co-founder and CEO of Zylo, “We’re excited to join an expansive ecosystem of customers, suppliers, and partners”.
First Companies in the Ventures Portfolio
- Zylo, a leading SaaS management platform that helps companies manage cloud-based applications, offers visibility into what software is being used, how much is present, and how a company can optimise its software investments.
- SourceDay, a leading supply chain performance solution, bridges the gap between a company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) and its supply chain network.
At SourceDay, Coupa’s investment is heralded as a chance for the company to really take off. “The investment from Coupa Ventures will...enable our joint customers to save money and leverage supplier performance as a competitive edge”, said Tom Kieley, SourceDay CEO. “We’re honoured to expand our relationship with the Coupa ecosystem”.
Looking ahead, Coupa will capitalise on community intelligence to help its partners make smarter spending decisions. “[Organisations will] place bets on which investments will quickly pay off to accelerate their growth and resilience in the post-pandemic economy”, said J.J. Freitag, senior vice president of Corporate Development at Coupa. “[And] we’re looking to back the best ideas across Europe and beyond to help businesses build back even stronger”.