Agility is the ability of a business to adapt rapidly and cost efficiently in response to changes in the business environment. Strategic agility, or “business agility,” can be achieved by quickly adapting goods and services to meet customer demands. Agility is a concept that incorporates the ideas of flexibility, balance, adaptability, and coordination under one umbrella. In a business context, agility typically refers to the ability of an organization to rapidly adapt to market and environmental changes in productive and cost-effective ways. The agile enterprise is an extension of this concept, referring to an organization that utilizes key principles of complex adaptive systems and complexity science to achieve success. In the context of cloud computing, agility often refers to the ability to rapidly develop, test and launch software applications that drive business growth. Whether you are developing new mobile applications, rolling out a new client-facing SaaS application, entering a new market to reach a new client segment, or exiting a market, cloud computing’s ability to deliver on-demand compute and development resources is critical.

Agility is achieved in a number of ways:

  • Faster Time-to-market: cloud computing allows companies to significantly decrease the time it takes to provision and de-provision IT infrastructure, speeding delivery of IT projects that are critical to revenue growth or cost reduction. While a physical server could take days or weeks to procure and provision, a cloud server takes minutes. Faster time to market means faster time to revenue
  • Automation: cloud computing simplifies provisioning, de-provisioning and re-deploying resources through automation and easy-to-use web consoles and APIs. The efficiency of cloud computing reduces the amount of time an IT systems administrator has to spend on managing and supporting infrastructure. The average number of server administrators to servers in a typical data center is 50 servers: 1 administrator. The average ratio of cloud-based data centers is 500:1.2
  • Flexibility and Scalability: the ability to rapidly increase or decrease resources on-demand to meet unpredictable application development or production needs. In the case of cloud computing, this might mean being able to spin up 10x to 100x the average utilization of computing resources to support a new project or sudden burst in demand or website traffic. Due to the pay-per-use flexibility of the cloud, end-users are able to scale fast or “fail fast” based on the demands of the business. Common workloads that require on-demand scalability: testing and development, load testing, seasonal spikes in traffic, a new application,
  • Adaptive Auto-Scaling: because of the API accessibility of cloud platforms, it is typically easier to automate IT management and provisioning in a cloud environment. Integrating business intelligence and analytics platforms and IT monitoring tools with the cloud allows systems to be more adaptive. For example, new servers can be automatically provisioned (or de-provisioned) when load balancing thresholds are met.
  • Faster Innovation: cloud computing allows companies to support an increased pace of product development and marketing programmes that better align IT infrastructure and management costs with the goals and objectives of the business.

While cost, risk and agility are the primary drivers for cloud computing, many companies are driven to the cloud by more strategic goals such as improving innovation, competing more effectively, mobilizing their workforce or improving governance (through automated control and tracking).