Revealed: The ‘agility gap’ preventing businesses from thriving post-COVID

May 10, 2021
Written by
Marc Lankhorst
Marc Lankhorst

Revealed: The ‘agility gap’ preventing businesses from thriving post-COVID

The first annual Bizzdesign survey of enterprise architecture practitioners reveals an ‘agility gap’ between preparing for change and executing change. It must be closed if firms are to thrive.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced change on businesses like never before. We’ve all seen or experienced the upheavals of switching to remote working overnight, moving whole business models online, and adapting physical workspaces to prevent infection.

Now we’re emerging – we hope – from the worst of the crisis, some organizations are better placed to thrive than others. Our annual survey of enterprise architecture practitioners found that:

  • Over one in ten (13 percent) said their organization is fighting to survive after a tough 2020
  • A further 43 per cent said they’d survived the crisis, but need to adapt further in 2021
  • Forty-four per cent are in growth mode after adapting to (or benefiting from) the crisis

For the 56 percent of organizations in the first two categories, change needs to happen – and fast.

Agility will be key to positive recovery – but our survey highlights a critical gap
To thrive in the new post-COVID environment, organizations must be able to identify the changes they need to make, and make those changes swiftly and effectively.

Our survey revealed that they may be better at the first than the second. When we asked respondents to rate their organization’s agility using our Bizzdesign assessment framework, 23 per cent agreed with the statement “We research and anticipate change”.

Organizational agility self-assessment – Bizzdesign survey results


But knowing what needs to happen is only half the story. When asked about ability to execute change, respondents’ confidence dips. Only 21 percent agree their organization “executes planned changes well”, and even fewer – just 20 percent – agree that it “out-changes industry competitors”.

Even adding those who “somewhat agree” into the equation, still less than half (49 percent) would agree with the statement “Agility is in our DNA”. They may well be right. Using the matrix to calculate an agility score out of 100, we found that the average organization comes out at just 42.

In other words, levels of organizational agility are below where they need to be if organizations are to adapt and thrive in the post-pandemic era.

EA leaders display the highest organizational agility

The picture changes significantly, however, when we correlate organizational agility with enterprise architecture maturity.

By asking respondents to fill in our enterprise architecture maturity assessment framework, we were able to identify enterprise architecture leaders. These are organizations that score highly on a range of criteria, from having a clear and well understood EA mission, to using a sophisticated EA management tool.

Enterprise architecture maturity self-assessment – Bizzdesign survey results

We found very high levels of correlation between EA maturity and organizational agility, with EA leaders outperforming EA laggards by a significant stretch.


What’s more, we found that EA leaders not only display higher levels of organizational agility, but also report tangible business benefits from their EA programs – from faster time to market to an improved customer experience.

Pandemic-era agility in action at South State Bank
One such EA leader is South State, a bank based in the south-eastern United States. In a guest blog for BiZZdesign written in April 2020, South State chief architect Kunal Das explained how EA helped the bank to meet the challenges of the crisis and start adapting to post-pandemic business realities.

“EA’s overarching goal is to ensure that South State continues to develop agility in order to survive and thrive,” he wrote. While he admitted the bank’s initial response was “not perfect” given the speed and scale of the crisis, it provided lessons that the bank quickly learned from.
“Every issue that was not optimal has presented a path to understanding what went wrong, what could have been done better, and once solved, becomes a capability for the future,” he wrote.

“Every issue that was not optimal has presented a path to understanding what went wrong, what could have been done better, and once solved, becomes a capability for the future.”

– Kunal Das, chief architect, South State Bank

In particular, its focus on maintaining high levels of customer service via digital channels set the bank in good stead for the future: “Mobile deposits have increased by 65% during the pandemic, and we’ve also experienced a 30% increase in consumer loan applications online,” wrote Das.

Das said the pandemic served to highlight the benefits of a mature EA program: “This event will have a lasting impact across all organizations, including South State,” he wrote. “Enterprise Architecture can play a key role in supporting the evolution of an organization in the context of this new normal.”

Assess your own EA maturity with our white paper and demo
Given the correlation between EA maturity and the agility needed to thrive post-pandemic, you may be keen to assess where your own organization lies on the EA maturity scale.

You can find out more about our EA and agility assessments in our white paper, Assessing and Improving Your Change Capabilities – or by asking us for a live demo of our assessment model.

You can also download a copy of the full survey results here: State of Enterprise Architecture 2021.