The UK could see a 7 percent boost to GDP if companies could improve business agility, according to a survey conducted by analyst firm Gartner for BT. The survey was based on interviews with 249 senior executives at large UK organisations, across six vertical sectors that included government. Gartner polled them on their views of business agility and the role of technology in helping to foster it. Findings of the survey, which are contained in a report called An Agile Age, indicate that an extra £68bn worth of revenues could be achieved by 2005 (about 7 percent of GDP assuming low growth in the next three years). The executives involved in the survey estimated agility could achieve an extra £1600 per employee. The report assumes a key role for IT in the agile enterprise, a view that was supported by the views of the executives surveyed: 81 percent want to see systems in place to benchmark themselves against peers, and 9 out of 10 of them believe IT will play a "significant role in delivering agility". Only 24 percent regard their organisations as 'agile' already. Sara Mayer, e-business marketing manager for BT, admitted there is a lot of hype around agility. "It has become a bit of a new buzz word," she said. In commissioning the survey, BT's intention was to try to dispel some of the hype. "(We wanted to) understand what agility meant to our customers," said Mayer. "Whether they had the same idea about it (agility) as BT, and to try and get some quantifiable facts and figures around the subject." Gartner's consulting director, Chris Boyd, said the results showed that the executives surveyed did have a common understanding of the term. "They all referred to agility as being the ability to be flexible and faster to market... introducing supply chain management, reducing inventory..." said Boyd. "We found they were very clear about agility, very clear about what it meant to their businesses, and very clear about what their priorities should be in creating that agile business." One of the reasons that agility seems to be bubbling up as a discussion point in business IT and, in Boyd's words, as a both a "buzz word and as a real thing happening in industry" is because only now are the technologies coming on stream to truly support agile business processes. For the business seeking to understand exactly what they should do first to boost business agility, however, good advice is hard to come by. "It's going to be one of those difficult things to button down because it includes technology, it covers process, it involves culture change," said Boyd. "It can be many things to many organisations... it's going to become an umbrella term for flexible working." Business agility will mean doing more with less, said Boyd, which he added does not necessarily mean reducing the workforce, "although in certain industries it might." More positively, Boyd said he believed that accepted methodologies for benchmarking business agility will be in place within months.
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