Building a Competitive Advantage With Organizational Agility and Operational Resilience

Posted by Deltek Partner Guest Blog on June 24, 2020

Vanessa Edwards, CPI

OK, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: we are now officially in a recession. As some of the largest institutions in the world are saying, COVID-19 will force a rebirth of many industries, pushing us to reimagine how business is done.

This fast-moving recession has clearly exposed flaws in our business models and is forcing us to be more agile and flexible just to survive. Have no doubt, our industry, and the broader economy, has reached an inflection point and we must evolve. The combination of Organizational Agility and Operational Resilience will help you succeed where others fail.

Organizational Agility for Your Agency

Through my consulting, I’ve found that many agencies think they’re already agile. However I’d say many of my clients have been operating in chaos and mistaking that for agility, negatively impacting culture and profitability. This has to end if we are to take advantage of the inflection point.

Agility requires stability, and I define stability as a strong financial and operational discipline that acts as the foundation for your organization to quickly respond to the marketplace.

Align Around a New Vision

The best place to start is to work hand-in-hand with your core leadership team to redefine your ideal market niche, verticals and/or capabilities. Perhaps this is the time to pursue new markets or new capabilities that were too scary or too tough to break into in the past. The catch is that 100% of your leadership team must be aligned to achieve this pivot.

Modernize Your Operational and Financial Model

Modernizing your operational and financial model to your new vision will help you determine the right amount of investment and timing for your pivot while making sure you keep financially stable. To build the model, you must forecast new revenue + COGS based on your pivot, as well as the direct labor needed to produce that work, all the way down to indirect labor and OpEx needed to support the business.

Become a Data Expert

You need to be able to align your teams and respond quickly to changes in the marketplace – and without good data, you’ll lose the organizational agility you need to compete in the new landscape. In order for your leadership team to be aligned and stay agile, they need data they can all agree upon that is real, timely, relevant and impactful.

Embrace the In-House Model

While you may not want to hear this, in-house is here to stay. Agencies need to develop a new model of increased integration and collaboration. A new level of organizational agility will be required for the ongoing success of your agency as your clients continue to grow in-house capabilities aligned to what they do best – leaving you to focus on the things that YOU do best!


How Your Agency Can Emerge Stronger in the New Normal

Learn more about how organizational agility and resilience will define both short- and medium-term success in this webinar.

Watch Now


Operational Resilience for Your Agency

Operational resilience looks beyond risk management and that it’s not just about surviving in the short-term; it’s about flourishing in the long term.

My agency clients with strong PM disciplines, engagement models and documented workflows have been the most resilient to the impacts of our current economic crisis. The more resilient your organization is, the more resilient your culture will be and the more capable you will be of getting back on your feet.

Design a New Engagement Model

Executing work against ideally designed client engagement models and workflows, with clearly defined integration points and checks and balances, allows you to use your secret sauce to produce your best work, in the most efficient way. This more proactive approach to working with your clients is one of the best ways to switch from defense to offense and get ahead of things.

Adjust to Remote Work and Collaboration

Now is the time to define an ideal, optimized approach that works for both in-person and remote teams, where you can address meeting protocols, communication expectations as well as tools to enhance or speed up processes. In addition to processes and tools, you also need to make sure your managerial model evolves. In the New Normal, without in-person oversight, work ethic, self-discipline and accountability will be even more important for overall success.

Adopt a New Approach to Compensation

It’s time to consider some new shared risk compensation models that are common in many other industries. An example of this could be negotiating a reasonable base salary combined with a quarterly agency-performance profit share plan utilizing excess net profit. This type of compensation model gets everyone to take personal accountability in the profitability of their projects and clients, in a way that will improve overall agency profitability.

Empower Your Project Managers

I believe there is no more important time than now to have a good grasp on how you scope work, intake work, produce work and get it out the door – and the only way to do it efficiently and effectively is with a solid PM discipline. Great PM disciplines are proactive, financially savvy and experts in your specific workflows, all of which allows the agency to stay resilient and bounce back over and over again.

Leverage Your Data

Leveraging financial AND operational data is now a requirement to build agility and resilience into our organizations. It’s no longer enough to just KNOW the numbers…you have to be able to dissect operationally why the numbers are the way they are, so you can determine what you need to do operationally to fix them.

Building a Competitive Advantage for Your Agency

We’ve reached an inflection point, and you have some decisions to make.

  1. To stay in the game, you have to change the way you do business.
  2. The world is evolving quickly, and if you don’t act, decisions will be made for you.
  3. It’s time to reassess and reimagine your business model, and create a new vision for your organization in order to not just survive, but thrive during and after this crisis.
  4. Great creative and strong strategy are now the minimum for all agencies…what will really make you competitive in our new normal is Organizational Agility and Operational Resilience.
  5. And the only way to win the game is to measure actionable data to answer the tough questions and make the right decisions quickly.

Hear more best practice tips from Vanessa on how to find greater agility and resilience in this on-demand webinar: Move From Defense to Offense: How Your Agency Can Emerge Stronger in the New Normal.


About the Author

For the last decade, Vanessa and her team have helped over a 100 organizations (Agency & In-House) through complex organizational change, adopt agency management software, embrace business intelligence and prepare for future growth.