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Traits of truly agile businesses

Exploring the best practices leading companies adopt to drive business agility.


Our latest research on business agility shows that leaders stand apart from other companies on nearly every dimension of agility—making faster decisions, distinguishing between strategic and operational decisions, and investing in and using analytics to run their organizations.

We surveyed 1,300 C-suite and senior-level executives in 13 industries and 16 countries in mature and emerging markets. The online survey probed into business agility in dimensions such as strategy, organization, marketing, operations and finance.

We found that most executives have a sense of what agility means for their companies’ future. However, there is still a big gap between awareness of the need for agility and taking concerted action to become truly agile over the long term.

The research shows significant variance between the responses of leaders—defined as companies with a self-reported increase in sales of greater than 10 percent in the last fiscal year—and the laggards—companies that experienced negative growth in the last fiscal year.

Traits of Truly Agile Businesses
Learn more about how the Accenture study on agility explores the common characteristics of agile businesses.


The substantive quantitative online survey was administered in the respondents’ native languages.

Characteristics of the research sample:

  • Nearly 25 percent of respondents are CEOs and 33 percent are business unit heads.

  • Approximately 25 percent of respondents reported prior fiscal year revenues of more than US$20 billion, and more than 50 percent reported revenues of more than US$5 billion.

  • Close to 40 percent of companies operate in 11 or more countries and nearly 80 percent operate in four or more countries.

Key Findings

Our research found that key characteristics of leaders in business agility include:

  • Leaders stand apart from laggards on nearly every dimension in our agility research. For example, 62 percent of leaders cite building the right leadership team as the most important factor to improve their organization’s agility versus 44 percent of laggards.

  • Leaders are confident and self-aware. They have a keen grasp of what they do well and exhibit a strong bias for action. For instance, 51 percent of leaders indicate that their organizations have made changes to accelerate decision making, while just 26 percent of laggards have done so.

  • Leaders have a more nuanced view of uncertainty—seeing it as an opportunity and a threat—whereas others tend to see only positive or negative.

  • All respondents believe they have room to improve, even the leaders. Half—if not more—of the leaders believe that they are not among the top of their industry in performance on all of the dimensions of agility in our study.


Based on our survey findings, we see the following best practices that leaders adopt to become more agile:

  • Build seasoned, diverse leaders and management teams: Leaders ensure that executives and managers at all levels of the organization are fully accountable and have the mix of competencies that help them handle a diverse set of circumstances.

  • Prioritize strategic decisions: Leaders distinguish between the decisions that affect day-to-day operations and the bigger decisions that concern the company’s strategic direction.

  • Speed up decision making: Leaders have established a culture of making critical decisions at speed—always ensuring that those decisions are tuned to market conditions.

  • Prepare business ecosystems to act quickly: Leaders arm their business ecosystems—suppliers, customers and a range of third-party partners—with the resources, information and tools to take decisive actions—and to quickly measure the results and course correct when needed.

  • Invest in and make more use of data and analytics to run the business: Leaders understand the competitive value of actionable insights and ways to mine multiple sources of data—not just their own—to obtain those insights.


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