Using Agile to become the firm of the future

Agile working is much more than methodology. It’s a whole different way of thinking about how work is done and managed, how teams deliver and how we behave.

We’re all conscious that the world is changing dramatically. Technology moves on at an accelerated pace and the expectations of our clients are raised. Of course, it’s never possible to predict the future – and we can’t prepare ourselves for every eventuality – but by changing our mind-set we can equip ourselves to manage change.

Embracing Agile helps us prepare for, and respond positively to, this inevitable disruption.

A key element to the approach is building cross-functional teams on projects, so you can immediately add real value to the organisation by breaking down silos and making sure that all the expertise needed to deliver is brought together in one team. Maybe we should embed a digital or data expert alongside our tax advisors or corporate finance gurus? Bringing together a range of perspectives results in new ideas that help us deliver differently; we can use data from various sources to gain insight that we couldn’t before; we can manage our workload in new and innovative ways; and, perhaps most importantly, we collectively develop a better, holistic understanding of our clients and markets by considering all the ways they interact with our organisation. This exchange of knowledge, experience and insight produces highly effective results.

We’ve been through the process here at AAB as part of building our Firm of the Future.

We brought people together from across the business and identified 12 areas that we wanted to address and gave ourselves a 12-week period to work on them. A hallmark of Agile is that you break everything down into small, manageable and actionable tasks.

Graeme Allan, Managing Partner at AAB commented “the accountancy profession is about to see the biggest change to the way in which we operate probably since the introduction of a spreadsheet. This change influenced the introduction and focus of our ‘Firm of the Future’ project which is about creating a platform for our firm to be able to deliver the needs of a much more technology-driven client base, both now and in the future.

Having agile teams and agile working practices in place will continue to assist us in being able to deliver an awesome service to our clients. This approach also brings the added benefit of empowering our people to work in an agile way - in a way best for themselves, as well as for their clients and various project requirements.

Through this process of change, we have found that using external consultants has greatly assisted in delivering the programme. AAB Consulting has provided an external view of various different contributing factors to this new way of operating and we have utilised their expertise and challenge to guide us through the process. Their assistance has been invaluable.”

While our priorities were obviously specific to our firm, you could think in general terms about areas in your own business, such as billing processes, customer relationships or technology. What are the issues that are most important to you and the changes that you anticipate could deliver real value?

You approach the tasks in a structured way with fortnightly delivery deadlines, usually in teams of between three and nine people. It relies, of course, on participants being ready to jump in and embrace the process. It’s also important to have buy-in from senior people within the organisation and strong leadership in place. After 12 weeks the teams were really impressed with the amount of progress that they were able to make using the new tools, techniques and ways of working.

My advice is to start small and perhaps choose one area of your business to look at. It may not be the issue causing you the biggest headache (or be the one that is most difficult to address) but it will demonstrate the approach and secure some buy-in. Try to maximise the use of data as well, to help you make the right decisions.

Although different organisations will benefit in varying ways, Agile is a philosophy that can be adopted by both corporate companies and public bodies and by small and large businesses alike. A whole new way of working may not always be easy at the start, but in a world of fast-paced change, the approach is essential for longer term survival and success.

For more information please contact Lauren Cahill (lauren.cahill@aab.uk) or your usual AAB Consulting contact.

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