Agility, however you want to define it, should help to speed up iteration and therefore increase profit and customer satisfaction.

The working methods agility predicates may also help to increase staff satisfaction.

It can be argued that agility is achieved through innovation:  setting aside some time to focus on ideas that may not be central to the core business. At the moment, I’d argue innovation isn’t particularly widespread, as many organisations’ attitude towards it is ’70:20:that’s not what we pay you for'.

Indeed, the double whammy of the recession and many governments’ subsequent focus on ‘the need for efficiency savings’ has set a tone that makes innovation even riskier.

The fact is though, fortune favours the brave, and in times of economic hardship (darn it, I’ve slipped into bureaucratese), those that spend money adapting to a surfeit of new and relevant technologies may well see success.

But what about all those non-innovating, anti-Eric-Schmidt business leaders? They must be struggling with something. They aren’t wilfully blind. Perhaps legacy technology and the difficulty of extricating an organisation from its knotted innards is what’s holding some business leaders back.

Ahead of our first Digital Transformation Leaders' Conference, I wanted to mull over technology.

Econsultancy’s recent research into agility and innovation (Digital Transformation: Agility and Innovation Best Practice Guide) is based on interviews with senior digital and non-digital marketers, academics and practitioners across different sectors and markets.

The research indeed highlights legacy technologies, alongside company silos, as the most notable barriers to greater organisational agility and change.

IBM’s Institute for Business Value, too, has conducted research, recently publishing ‘The Customer-activated Enterprise - Insights from the Global C-suite Study’.

It echoes Econsultancy’s findings:

The most common barrier to agility and change mentioned by interviewees was legacy technology and systems. This is consistent with previous research conducted by Econsultancy into organisational resourcing, indicating that this continues to be a major headache for those attempting to drive rapid change.

The IBM report also states that ‘CEOs consider technology the single most important external force shaping their organisations’.


The sectors where this is most evident are perhaps banking and travel, where the customer often feels like they are bearing the brunt of tech trouble, caused by companies’ unwillingness to re-platform. 

Thankfully, it seems that tech is firmly on the agenda. CIOs, for example, are anticipating the role of tech in setting strategy to become IT’s number one function over the coming years.


The vast majority of CIOs are also intent on investing in many areas of tech, with mobile technology at the top of the pile.


Despite the obvious need to improve say, outdated CRM systems, a website with poor UX, your marketing automation strategy or your poorly optimised mobile ecommerce presence, there is still the need to be circumspect.

Determining just what it is that could engender change in your business is not something worth rushing. 

The Econsultancy Agility and Innovation Best Practice Guide points out the danger of ‘digital magpie syndrome’. 

Businesses need to be wary of pursuing new digital technologies without realising the value of digital transformation through changed behaviours and management practices and a unified, transformative vision.

Basically, if you’re not managing your staff as well you could, even a new and slick tech platform may not improve the atmosphere significantly enough to demonstrate results.

Remember that any change to tech is inevitably met with the challenge of educating the workforce, too – during transition, people management and leadership skills will come to the fore.

This mirrors the focus on people, process and technology that Econsultancy has acknowledged and defined in much of its research. 

Check out our Digital Transformation page to see further resources.

Ben Davis

Published 12 November, 2013 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (1)


Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum Ltd

Ben - good report.

Weirdly: 'legacy systems' may in fact be only a couple of years old!

Legacy systems are not only a drag on momentum - they may also make it harder to achieve the best web performance (page speed responsiveness) too.

So why are some legacy systems so new?

If you build a site today using a cool-new-Framework for the visible bits - (lets say Twitter BootStrap) it's possible that in only 18 months you'll need to move away from that: because by then newer frameworks giving more for less coding effort may have come along.

Conversely, if serendipity goes your way - the cool-new-framework in 2013 is still cool in 2015, still being updated and improved. And you luckily have no legacy in that area.

I was talking to Andrew Betts, (clever guy at Financial Times labs - @triblondon) - and he was saying how it's good practise to budget not just for the initial cost of a new tech project - but also for:
* cost per year to maintain the code
* how many years, before it will need a re-write.

And that last number can be a small number!

I guess this is not really news to all the retailers who built 'mobile sites' 2-3 years ago, and are now dropping those altogether and going RWD!

almost 5 years ago

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