In brief

In brief

  • Three quarters of businesses report an increase in the disruptive impact of constantly shifting customer demands and new market entrants.
  • Yet their operating models aren’t changing at pace. Most are too big, too slow and too expensive to be effective.
  • Companies in the UK can improve their agility by making five characteristics part of their operating model DNA: Human. Liquid. Enhanced. Living. Modular.

Agility pays

Today’s operating models are better suited for a time when the major competitive strategies were focused primarily on either scale or local responsiveness. The conventional wisdom: Companies couldn’t do both.

Yet there are players that prove scale and responsiveness aren’t mutually exclusive. How do they do it? By gaining competitive agility through operating models that continuously keep pace with the market. Accenture Strategy research shows that agile organizations have 16 percent long-term EBITDA growth compared with six percent for non-agile organizations.

Essential for gaining this level of agility: Embracing five characteristics and making them part of the operating model DNA: Human. Liquid. Enhanced. Living. Modular.

Move fast to thrive | Intelligent operating model

Accenture's video shares how can companies improve their agility by making five characteristics part of their operating model DNA. See more.

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Five characteristics of the operating model DNA:


How can big incumbents get nimbler? They need to start by designing around humans and what they care about, from employees to end consumers. With a culture that promotes authenticity and continuous learning to deliver on a purpose—one beyond a pure profit motive—that keeps the best employees and customers. This lays the foundation for the other characteristics: Liquid, enhanced, living, modular.


Before the dawn of digital, operating models used to be about building walls and keeping an organization impenetrable. Now competitive muscle comes as much from what can be harnessed outside—across partners, suppliers and adjacent companies—as it does from what’s within. Leading companies are building structures that are porous and liquid to seamlessly access people, processes, systems and assets from anywhere.

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Continuously adaptive organizations ensure that humans and machines enhance one another. They empower people and automate lower-value activities. They employ machine learning to transform core linear operating processes into non-linear ones that can dynamically respond and evolve. And they harness the power of technologies to make the workplace a strategic platform to drive productivity and wellbeing.


With the help of new technologies and unprecedented levels of transparency, organizations can create entirely new, more flexible ways of structuring and organizing work to adapt to the market. Nimble, self-organized teams―more “organism” than “organization”―prioritize progress over perfection, with a willingness to disrupt the status quo to act at a vastly accelerated pace.


Modular organizations create independent, discrete businesses or capabilities that can be “plugged and played” at will based on well-defined, standardized interfaces. These players can enable multiple operating models under one company to respond faster to their customers and more quickly and effectively partner with the wider external ecosystem to enhance or drive new offers, platform-based businesses and faster innovation.

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10-year EBITDA growth (2007-2017)

When it comes to pursuing ecosystem business models, many organizations in the UK face a gap between their ambitions and capabilities.


of executives say ecosystems are important to their strategy.


possess the capabilities and organizational model to accommodate them.

Guiding principles

Human. Liquid. Enhanced. Living. Modular. These characteristics will transform operating models from static and mechanistic to flexible and fast, through individual empowerment guided by purpose and driven by data. There are no prescribed routes to start the journey, only guiding principles.

About the Authors

Diana Bersohn

Managing Director – Technology Strategy & Advisory

Till Dudler

Managing Director – UKI Strategy Practice Lead, and Europe Lead, Consumer Goods​

Paul Jeruchimowitz

Managing Director – Accenture Strategy, Global lead Intelligent Operating Model

Kent McMillan

Managing Director – Global Lead, Organizational Development and Europe Lead, Intelligent Operating Model


Roger Ellison

Senior Manager – Accenture Strategy​

Benjamin Gaunt

Senior Manager – Accenture Strategy​

Sanam Gill

Senior Manager – Accenture Strategy

Tim Henshaw

Senior Manager – Accenture Strategy​

Samuel Holmes

Managing Director – Accenture Strategy​

Alessandra Zanetti​

Senior Manager – Accenture Strategy


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