Agility with customer-centricity: Learning from innovative brands 


Written by: Alok Uniyal, Vice President – Quality & Head – Agile-DevOps Services, Infosys.


Haier, Tesla, CVS Health and Peloton are all landmark firms that have fostered a product-centric, agile culture even as their share prices have swelled. All these firms focus on developing superior customer experiences in innovative ways to stay one step ahead of market sentiment, delivering exciting solutions at scale. And all have reimagined both business and operating models to put customers at the center of everything they do and touch. 

The agility imperative 

Haier focuses on self-sustaining, accountable, customer-oriented micro-enterprises that deliver value to the enterprise mothership. Tesla has adopted product thinking and innovation, with Elon Musk nurturing his teams to work from first principles. CVS Health has its product acceleration units and MVP approach to product experience development. And Peloton, with its expertise in digital platforms, has an uncanny aptitude for designing and delivering new value to its already excited fanbase. 

All these firms infuse both agility and customer-centricity into the way they run day-to-day operations. All four firms are growing, and they are growing fast. Customers trust them to produce digital components, products and experiences that make their lives better. These same customers care that at Tesla, the dictum behind world-class delivery includes values like “moving fast,” “doing the impossible” and “thinking like owners,” and that at Haier, the CEO has defined its empire around the unique wants and needs of myriad customer personas.

The building blocks of a customer-centric, agile firm 

So how can other firms follow suit? What specific techniques can leaders foster to quickly onboard digital technologies, processes and ways of working that give rise to this level of customer- and human-centricity?

Our Agile Radar research, in which we surveyed over 1,000 executives across the globe, found that firms do better when they transform from “doing” Agile to “being” an Agile organization. This means cascading vision from the boardroom down to cross-functional teams that are owned by both the business and technology units. It means giving teams autonomy to change things to satisfy client needs or when they want things to work better. It also means building dedicated product teams around high-impact customer journeys, monetizing the data, for example, embedding artificial intelligence into operations for better customer insights. All in all, we found that using these “levers” can increase business growth by as much as 63%. 

The need for better data

To align the whole organization and become agile, firms must have a great handle on data, which is one of the missing building blocks that most challenger firms are suffering from. The more data driven a firm is, the more quickly it is able to take advantage of business opportunities and offer sticky, superior interactions across all customer touchpoints (in times of both sunshine and drought). As the pandemic put a nail in the coffin of many firms, Peloton was able to seize the opportunity because data from its own machines gave cross-functional teams an intimate understanding of how to price their signature stationary bikes and fitness classes. This data, coupled with knowledge of the complete customer journey, from first contact to app subscriptions, also poured into sales and marketing, which quickly rebranded the firm during Christmas 2020 as the go-to purveyor of chic gym ware for the upper-middle class. In doing so, Peloton unlocked the motivations that might prove a barrier to entry (expensive prices) and those that engender loyalty (a large collection of curated fitness classes). 

The human-centric workforce

Other research we’ve conducted this year has proved that technology adoption alone doesn’t drive profits. Instead, firms must also become human-centric, experimental and innovative. Those that do are more effective in their use of technology, accruing an extra $357 billion in profits across all firms surveyed. Human-centricity means thinking both in terms of products and all ecosystem personas that use them; it means faster delivery, using DevOps in software deployment; and it means giving all employees the chance to build both soft and hard skills, and, as Apple’s head of product Mohit Bhatnagar says, the freedom to “think and act like a CEO.” In this setup, firms like Apple, Tesla and Haier reward innovation as a learning process, with product-centric delivery teams invested in growth beyond launch of the capability or service in the market. 

By doing so, these visionary firms adopt Agile methodologies to deliver high-value customer solutions at speed. Through persona-based insights — powered by DevOps, AI and data analytics — your firm can follow suit and provide all ecosystem partners with engaging experiences that they didn’t even know they wanted. 



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