Skip to Content

The New Normal is… agile and customer oriented

October 19, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the biggest tests of agile maturity and companies’ agile transformation progress. It is forcing organizations both to respond quickly to the crisis and its business impact, and to rethink their business approach in general.

In the second of ‘The new normal’ blog series from Capgemini Invent, we look at an uncomfortable truth that many organizations are waking up to: They still face a long journey to get to a new normal where agility is the norm. And we ask what business leaders should do to embed agile and customer-centric ways of working into their operations in the knowledge that times of uncertainty and big change are best met with a mindset of dynamic thought and action.

Why agile is worth the effort

The concept of agile is nothing new. It has been on the agenda for many years as organizations seek the promised benefit of being able to respond quickly to opportunities and threats, whether internal (e.g. failing business operations) or external (e.g. shifts in trends or competitive markets). But the global pandemic has thrust agile ways of working into the spotlight like never before as organizations ask just how agile they really are.

Every aspect of business has been challenged by COVID-19, from business models and supply chains, to the very reason for existence. Organizations need to know that they can tailor their services and products to customer demands, and rapidly restructure resources and operational systems to adapt to changing organizational needs and expectations.

The agility to respond to evolving societal attitudes is just one aspect of this. For example, take the 78% of consumers surveyed for Capgemini’s “Why purpose-led organizations are winning consumers’ hearts” study who agreed that companies have a larger role to play in society than just looking after their self-interests. Quickly changing processes and structures to give back to society is a solid concept that has been proven by many companies throughout the COVID-19 crises. For example:

  • Coca-Cola quickly shifted its supply chain to produce and provide hand-sanitizer to law enforcement and hospitals in France
  • Michelin used its metal and plastic 3D printing production tools to manufacture masks.

However, it is not just having the agility to rapidly change and give back to society that gives these companies an edge. They are also on the forefront of adapting their services to individual consumer needs. For example only 30 minutes after tweeter Paul Franks raised an issue with Tesla CEO Elon Musk about the company’s cars, Musk promised to fix it in the next software update.

The common denominator for these companies: Radical focus on customer demand with an agile mindset as the driver for acceleration.

The challenge with agile – culture and mindset

Our Change Management study: “Leaping Forward – Paths to Organizational Dexterity” stated that around 75% of respondents were already embracing agile ways of working, or elements of it. Now, COVID-19 has demonstrated that even large organizations can turn around rapidly when there is both agility and a clear alignment on customer focus.

So why aren’t all companies switching to an agile way of working? Our Change Management study found that culture and mindset were the main barriers to transformation for 73% of companies. What’s needed is a digital culture that embeds, among other things, an agile mindset in day-to-day operations, linking both internal and external customers into the business operations.

An enabling corporate culture can take on many different faces. While nobody would ever admit to liking silos and hierarchy, they are a natural, often counterproductive, attempt to control one’s surroundings. Companies with a digital culture tend to be less siloed and hierarchical. Rather they work in self-coordinated, empowered teams that respond collectively to changes.

Embedding agile ways of working

At Capgemini Invent, we have supported many organizations in their cultural transformation towards a more agile and customer-centric mindset. At EoN for example, we helped to initiate a culture change with a focus on the implementation of agile tools and structures in the areas of innovation and learning, collaboration and customer centricity. Find out more in our EoN Success Story

When scaling agile for clients across diverse industries, we focus on reducing development lifecycles to increase customer satisfaction and minimize cost. We’ve identified a number of key success factors on this transformation journey:

  • Leverage the most valuable resource there is – data, both internal or external – to identify trends and prioritize accordingly
  • Have clearly defined roles and responsibilities, or create new ones like the role of a product owner, to ensure customer demands are continuously validated and met on time. This ensures that teams and processes adapt in accordance with internal and external needs, and changing priorities
  • Measure key customer metrics to ensure goals are aligned across all stakeholders.
  • Empower people for agile ways of working. Equip your leaders to drive the transformation, going beyond just the practical side of agile to focus on their core leadership skills. This includes creating an environment that fosters the right mindset to facilitate a culture shift or team empowerment and celebrating successes to encourage teams in their agile transformation.

Focus on your customers and being agile – your survival depends on it

Accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis, companies, can no longer afford to postpone their agile transformation efforts. The ability to move and act in a volatile environment while continuously putting customers and their changing needs at the heart of all thinking and doing is crucial for survival.

Get this right and the benefits are clear. New drivers can be quickly adopted, analyzed and implemented. Agile processes and structures can be adjusted dynamically and underline the company’s willingness to adapt. Organizations that currently lack the culture to achieve this feat need to act. Right now.

Find out more

To gain an initial understanding of how future-ready your corporate culture is, try our free Digital Culture Assessment teaser version here.

Discover more about how we’re Reinventing Work.


Isabell Schastok

Manager – People & Organization

Capgemini Invent