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What Big Businesses Can Learn from the Agile Small Guys

February 23, 2023
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Legacy companies are notorious for sticking to the old ways of doing things. This can be frustrating for their customers — as you’ll know yourself if you’ve ever used an online portal from a decades-old firm that seems like it’s stuck in the early 2000s. But the crime legacy companies are most guilty of may be failing to examine their operations and processes until the ultimate hour.

For many, the pandemic served as a wake-up call that forced organizations to switch things up, no matter how complex or immune from the usual rules they thought they were before. Let’s look at the challenges legacy businesses face, and the biggest takeaways from the past few years.

The challenges of legacy businesses
Legacy businesses are generally defined as companies that are more than 50 years old. They’re well-established in their industry, have thousands of employees, and likely have bases across the globe.

To survive for so long and reach this level of success, most of them have been through numerous transformations and reorganizations already. In some cases, they’ve completely changed their business models to keep up with the times, such as moving online or shifting from one-time purchases to subscriptions.

It’s likely that they’ve also had to change their internal operations at some point, whether to implement a new kind of software or introduce new departments to cater for fresh products or needs.

These shifts are incredibly challenging for legacy companies due to the scale and complexity of their operations. If they’ve performed a task using a certain technology or process for many years, much of the organization’s knowledge will be embedded within them. For example, information about a firm’s supply chain from the last ten years may all be stored within Excel files, with no other way of accessing them. Plus, different tasks may be interlinked in complicated ways.

All of this can lead to organizational resistance to change, which is when the company as a whole remains wedded to the status quo. But an external “shock” can shake things up every now and then.

The impact of COVID-19
Sometimes, leaders have to take directions they never planned on or make decisions they never thought were impossible. This was the case when the pandemic hit. Beforehand, many senior executives in large legacy companies believed their organizations were too complex to change certain processes or to involve their entire team in strategic discussions and decisions.

Yet when the need arose for most employees to work remotely, it soon became apparent that everyone can take ownership and play a role in identifying blind spots and solutions. The pandemic also showed there’s no way of knowing what will happen next, so it’s vital to improve inefficient processes before they become a more significant issue. For instance, tasks that had to be carried out manually and a lack of cloud technology became a bigger problem when teams worked remotely.

One survey of supply chain executives found that (pre-pandemic) 22% of respondents used Excel for planning operations, while only 15% used transport management systems (a more modern option). Plus, 55% used manual processes for planning decisions, and 15% said systems didn’t have mobile access. Many of these were legacy companies. Something good can come from this

The pandemic has served as a wake-up call and the perfect opportunity to switch things up at last. Companies that have put off change management due to believing they were anomalies finally embraced it.

Key priorities include adopting automation instead of relying on manual processes, using AI for accurate forecasting instead of ending up with human errors, enabling remote work, and taking advantage of integrations to link software together.

Overall, there are four aspects to pay attention to: People, processes, technology, and customer experience. However, many of these are linked together — for instance, technology can help to provide better customer service, and new processes may boost employee satisfaction by reducing workload.

Something good will come from this
It’s never easy to change your ways when you’ve been following certain processes and routines for a long time. But events like the pandemic prove inefficiencies that don’t seem like a big deal today can turn into nightmare situations tomorrow.

To prepare yourself for the unknown, make sure that change management is a regular part of how you run your business. At Cornerstone Paradigm Consulting, we’re used to working with legacy companies to help them move away from operations that are no longer serving them. To find out more about what we can offer, contact us to book a free consultation.