The Three Agilities

by Philip Boxer
We refer to three forms of agility.

Agility Type I – within an existing organization

  • Stretch resources across the organization more effectively
  • Extend access to the workplace to mobile and remote workers


Agility Type II – in relation to existing (anticipated) forms of demand

  • Reach customers more effectively
  • Act intelligently by capturing and driving key information and knowledge through the organization and value chain
  • Co-ordinate relationships and processes between multiple players across the value chain
  • Leverage existing investments in infrastructure

Agility Type III – in relation to new (unanticipated) forms of demand

  • Balance and harmonize competing priorities, multiple strategies and technologies
  • Sense and respond to competitive and market forces, to grasp new opportunities and withstand change

Consider the benefits that these levels of agility bring to the client:

  • Level I benefits: High quality capabilities received from the supplier, resulting from improvement and rationalization of supply chains.
  • Level II benefits: Effective joint response from appropriate parts of the supply chain from when the initial requirement arises, through using smart acquisition processes to secure better through-life teaming between the client and suppliers.
  • Level III benefits: Greater agility in the effective and timely synchronization of performance within the customer’s context-of-use, through the development of demand-side systems of systems independently from their supply-side support infrastructures, based on a high degree of demand-side cross-project cooperation from suppliers that compete at lower supply-side levels.

Looked at in terms of competitive advantage, Agility I and II can contribute to greatly improved operational efficiencies and effectiveness in relation to defined forms of demand. But it is Type III agility that is needed to cope with turbulent or dynamic markets in which the supplier faces significant variety in the forms of demand it is encountering.

Service Oriented Architectures are designed to improve the ability to deliver Type II agility. But what is required to deliver Type III agility?

Source for dimensions of agility: “The age of Agility”, Gartner, July 2002

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