Catching up with global trends: SA business to tap into agile know-how

SA is positioned to catch up with global agile business trends, with the help of an international community of agile organisations.

Johannesburg, 13 Jan 2020
Read time 3min 00sec
Evan Leybourn, Head of the international Business Agility Institute
Evan Leybourn, Head of the international Business Agility Institute

Businesses in Africa and South Africa may have started the move to business agility later than those in leading agile nations, but they are positioned to learn from the mistakes of others and catch up to become globally competitive.

This is according to Evan Leybourn, Head of the international Business Agility Institute, which is set to bring Africa’s first Business Agility Institute conference to Johannesburg next month.

Leybourn says business agility has become a top priority for leading organisations around the world, as disruptors enter traditional markets and force rapid change.

“Our annual surveys indicate exponential year on year growth in the number of companies adopting business agility approaches. Banks and financial services were among the first to make inroads, but we are now seeing organisations across all sectors looking to agile to become more responsive, resilient and competitive.”

While market disruptors are a major driver for a shift to agile, Leybourn says customers may be an even more important factor prompting change. “We have long spoken of information asymmetry – in which the person with the most information controls the price. Today, for the first time in history, the customer has more information than the seller. The customer knows more and expects more, so if the seller can’t provide products or services that meet customer needs, the customer will simply go elsewhere. To stay relevant in this new environment, the modern agile organisation needs to be able to adapt quickly, and – crucially – must become customer obsessed.”

Not all organisations striving to become agile businesses are successful in their efforts, however. Business agility demands a culture shift, which goes far beyond cosmetic changes. Successful agile transformation also requires change and support from departments once sidelined during transformation efforts.

Leybourn says many organisations have looked to the IT department to drive agile transformation, but that departments such as finance, HR and compliance are potentially more important in the transformation process.

“Our research finds that key predictors of success in agile transformation include factors like how companies fund work. Traditional methods with annual budgets are too slow to support change and  innovation. In many organisations, agile transformation hits the wall at finance, HR or governance and compliance teams.”

To help South African businesses move beyond paying lip service to agile to become highly resilient agile businesses, business agility South Africa will stage the Business Agility Institute conference in Johannesburg in February. This event, modelled on the sell-out success of international Business Agility Institute conferences, will present two days of expert advice and case studies to help businesses transform and mature their agile initiatives.

Leybourn will open the conference, speaking on the domains of business agility and participating in a panel discussion on enabling leaders.

Speakers will also include renowned futurist Graeme Codrington speaking on the future of work, and Jon Foster Pedley – Dean and Director of Henley Business School, speaking on developing agile leaders in Africa. Presentations will include lessons learnt in leading digital transformation, bringing agile to sales, the difference between operational and strategic agility and flexible approaches to lean portfolio management. To see the full agenda and reserve your seat, please go to

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