Agile Organisations and Business Continuity

‘Agile’ is a common buzzword in organisations today. Intuitively, it fits well with the notion of business continuity – an agile enterprise, able to respond iteratively to whatever today’s business conditions or events throw at it. The old concept of long-term corporate planning is light years behind; many businesses don’t know what will happen in five months, let alone five years. But does it make sense to try to define ‘Agile’ further; even with a praiseworthy goal of trying to create a blueprint for ever more effective enterprise resilience? After all, the more you try to nail down ‘Agile’, the less agile you are likely to become. What’s the solution?

Guidelines rather than hard specifications are what help organisational agility and enable it to avoid business interruption. Making the creation of value a priority is central keeping a company on track for business continuity. Working in agility in the sense of regular, short cycles of value delivery and feedback then helps to keep a business aligned to what its market requires. This is in stark contrast with large, monolithic projects whose value can only be realised after months or more of work. Of course, there is a place in the world for both kinds of approaches. Office blocks, hydro-electric dams and long haul passenger jetliners may all require longer total periods before release for general use. Yet within many such projects, there is still room for many short value-feedback cycles too.

If an organisation is agile in its everyday operations, it can be agile in its business continuity planning as well. The same principles apply. Work in short cycles to extend and improve business continuity coverage, with an eye on the value that is being brought to the enterprise at the same time. Agile business continuity planning also favours higher speeds of reaction to sudden or unexpected events including anything from server crashes to floods or major supplier failure. Finally, for the above to work, an ‘agile attitude’ has to be inculcated in the organisation. So if you want ‘Agile’ in your business continuity, remember to make it a plank in your communications platform as well.