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Enterprise Agility and AgileSHIFT

White Paper

Enterprise Agility and AgileSHIFT

White Paper

  • White Paper
  • Project management
  • Business solutions
  • Behaviour
  • Customer engagement
  • Methods & frameworks
  • Value
  • AgileSHIFT

Author  Allan Thomson - PPM Product Ambassador, Axelos

December 12, 2018 |

 11 min read

  • White Paper
  • Project management
  • Business solutions
  • Behaviour
  • Customer engagement
  • Methods & frameworks
  • Value
  • AgileSHIFT

Technological innovations over the last few decades have made markets much more dynamic and volatile. If organizations wish to survive and thrive in this rapidly changing environment they need to be responsive to change by demonstrating enterprise agility. This paper explores what enterprise agility is and offers a summary of how Axelos' AgileSHIFT can offer valuable guidance and support in this area.


Technological innovations over the last few decades have made markets much more dynamic and volatile. If organizations wish to survive and thrive in this rapidly changing environment they need to be responsive to change by demonstrating enterprise agility. This paper explores what enterprise agility is and offers a summary of how the Axelos product AgileSHIFT can offer valuable guidance and support in this area.

Challenges for today's organizations

Today’s organizations face several challenges:

  1. The increasing pace of change
  2. The increasing role of technology
  3. Disruptors


Organizations have always been affected by dynamic, diverse and sometimes conflicting changes in society. According to the PESTLE analysis1 these include:

  • Technological innovations
  • Geopolitical instability within existing and new markets
  • Changes in the global economic landscape
  • Changes in social demographics
  • Working practices (for example outsourcing, partnerships and mergers)
  • Changes in legal and regulatory requirements
  • For the public sector: change of government and/or policies.

In recent times the extent of change has been so significant that many large and mature organizations have been seriously disrupted or even eclipsed. Organizations naturally want to maintain stability, but many are uncertain how to respond to change because the new environment is so complex and ambiguous.

Business people going up and doacwn a small flight of stairs as further businessmen sit working at a table at the foot of the stairs


Digital technology now touches everything we do and has become one of the leading causes of change in the world. Events such as economic growth and recession, globalization, political upheaval and behavioural and cultural changes could not have taken place on their current scale without it.

The increasing influence of technology has had a significant effect on the relationship between the customer and the supplier. This shift in the relationship dynamics has been described in certain circles as a move into ‘the age of the customer’2. Customers now have access to goods and services 24/7; they can research information online about alternative products from competitors and gain advice about which services to use. Websites and social networks allow customers to view the thoughts and opinions of influencers within the sector and to post their own reviews.

Now more than ever organizations need to develop closer, more interactive relationships with their customers to create a deeper sense of brand loyalty. They can record and respond to customers’ current preferences and predict future needs through reviews and discussion forums. In this context, data management and the use of artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly important.

Businesswoman's hands accessing data on a smart device with a pointer

As well as affecting the customer and supplier relationship, the rise of technology has impacted the way organizations function. It has resulted in a ‘tech-shift’ comprising three distinct yet overlapping phases:

  • Tech-supported: this refers to activities that were previously manual, but which can now be carried out with computer- based support. For example, using digital instead of paper systems for banking transactions.
  • Tech-enabled: this refers to previously manual activities that have now been improved by automation. For example, customers can now use apps instead of physically going to their local bank branch to perform daily banking activities.
  • Tech-centric: this refers to activities that would not exist without technology. For example, the introduction of the many forms of artificial intelligence (AI) and the growth of distributed ledger technologies like blockchain.

It is important for organizations to understand tech-shift and to utilize technology to be more efficient, deliver better value to customers and remain competitive.


As well as being threatened by changes in society and technology, organizations can also be challenged by disruptors in their market. Disruptor companies change the way in which a market operates and may create a new market in the process. Disruptors uproot established ways of working and can even change how we think and behave. They can be new entrants to existing markets or current operators with an innovative new offering. Disruptors don’t just meet customers’ current needs but also anticipate their unstated and future needs. By doing so they can enter a market and rapidly displace established organizations. Disruptors are therefore one of the main reasons organizations need enterprise agility.

Those who seek to disrupt, whether they are individuals or corporate-led, are enabled by several factors, including:

  • The gig economy, characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelancers, as opposed to permanent roles
  • Remote working enabled by technology and not requiring the physical co-location of workers
  • Cloud storage and processing provide a cost-effective solution for new entrants
  • Online platforms allow small organizations to appear more successful and experienced through smart design and branding of their online presence
  • Inefficient markets where there is a large gap between what is being offered and what the customer requires or wants, even if they don’t know what they want yet.Business colleagues looking at data in Post-Its and documents on a perspex wall

What is the difference between Agile and agile?


‘Agile’ is an umbrella term for a collection of frameworks and techniques that enable teams and individuals to work through collaboration, prioritization, timeboxing and iterative and incremental delivery. There are several specific frameworks that are classed as Agile, and these include Scrum, XP and Kanban.

Two colleagues examining information in Post-It notes before them on the wall


Agile applies to ways of working that focus on user and customer value and are defined by the following:

  • xtagstartzDelivery oriented: suited for the delivery of products, services and change

What is enterprise agility and why do we need it?

Enterprise agility is the ability to move and adapt quickly across the whole organization in response to shifting customer and market needs. To do this, organizations need to leverage their technology, people and assets. While agile is mostly concerned with how an organization delivers its products and services and implements change, enterprise agility is an organization-wide mindset. Agility must be present not only in the delivery parts of the organization but also in all parts that support those who deliver.

Colleagues at meeting in office sat around a table where one is stood and highlighting key points on flipchart

How AgileSHIFT can enable enterprise agility

AgileSHIFT3 is the latest AXELOS guidance, training and certification programme to prepare every single person in an organization for transformational change. It is an enterprise solution which provides insights into organizations’ need to transform and offers a simple framework to support a shift towards enterprise agility.

AgileSHIFT is composed of the following elements:

  • AgileSHIFT and the wider organization — how all parts of the enterprise must be in strategic alignment to ensure successful transformation
  • The AgileSHIFT principles — a set of fundamental rules that guide an organization in all circumstances
  • The AgileSHIFT practices — a set of practical approaches that will bring real benefits to any team wishing to work in more agile ways
  • The AgileSHIFT delivery approach, comprising:
    • Three key roles — the AgileSHIFT team, the AgileSHIFT coach and the AgileSHIFT sponsor, and guidance on how a team can perform more effectively
    • The AgileSHIFT workflow — describes a cycle of iterative steps, with further detailed information about the specific actions to be taken in each AgileSHIFT iteration
    • An AgileSHIFT iteration — a detailed look at the activities within an iteration
    • Tools and techniques that can be used as appropriate to help any AgileSHIFT initiative.


Figure 5.1 AgileSHIFT framework

AgileSHIFT supports people and organizations through transformational change by creating an environment of enterprise agility. It encourages all areas of an organization to embrace agile ways of working wherever appropriate and offers a simple, flexible delivery framework with specific roles. AgileSHIFT drives a culture of enterprise agility and does this by understanding and adopting agile ways of working across the entire organization, instead of just adopting an Agile method or tool. It has an emphasis on front line and back office support teams who are often on the ‘receiving end’ of transformational initiatives.



For an organization to keep up with societal, technological, market and customer relationship changes it must:

  • Encourage a ‘survive, compete and thrive’ attitude in its personnel through buy-in of enterprise agility at all levels
  • Enhance its governance, controls and processes to get closer to its expectations
  • Embrace a range of new approaches in the way teams work together, such as by adopting AgileSHIFT principles, practices and roles.

AgileSHIFT offers a lightweight framework that is easy to tailor to each organization’s needs and provides practical tools to help organizations embrace enterprise agility, remain competitive and thrive in today’s rapidly changing context.


About the author

Allan Thomson has over 25 years’ project and programme experience. He has worked with companies such as British Gas and BP in Customer Relationship Programme Management and Risk Programme Management respectively.

He joined AXELOS in 2014 and has acted as a Programme Manager and SME (Subject Matter Expert) for PRINCE2 Agile, and as an SME on the PRINCE2 2017 update. He is presently a PPM (Project and Programme Management) Product Ambassador.

Enterprise Agility and AgileSHIFT White Paper