by Flint Brenton

Lessons learned from the 12th State of Agile Report

Jun 01, 2018
Agile DevelopmentIT LeadershipTechnology Industry

A few observations...but it's important for any executive team dependent on software for delivering key services to customers to spend some time reading this research and other similar surveys to better understand how changes and trends will impact the industry as a whole in the coming years.

blazing speed leaving a glowing trail along a road
Credit: Thinkstock

The software industry has grown enormously over the last few decades. For many businesses, software development is the most important aspect of the organization.  The software of an enterprise, for example, must deliver real value to customers, and represents the future of the company’s innovation as well as the vital first impression given to new customers or prospective customers. CTOs, CEOs, CIOs, investors and all levels of company management should be very interested in following the movements of the software industry for obvious reasons. Growth for the industry means growth for every enterprise riding on the waves of the digital transformation.

One of the most significant movements in software development over the past two decades has been the adoption of agile software development. The way software development is managed has risen in importance as organizations strive to be more flexible and respond to needs quicker. Agile has enabled just that.

For the past 12 years the State of Agile Report, conducted by VersionOne, has compiled results from a global survey of software professionals focused on agile development — its growth and use in organizations of all sizes. Each year the data in this report is cited in discussions and articles on how organizations are modernizing to bring about a more collaborative, responsive software development lifecycle. The trends in this report speak to greater trends happening in our industry.

The need for speed is the greatest motivator for change in a software organization

We see in the State of Agile Report this year and in recent years that the primary reason for adopting agile is accelerating software delivery. It’s no coincidence that agile adoption is spreading because survey respondents also said that one of the top benefits to using agile is delivery speed. Likewise, with DevOps initiatives, delivery speed is the number one means of measuring success. Businesses are clearly motivated by the desire for quicker delivery speeds.

This makes sense when you consider the rapidly changing performance standards required for a business to keep up today. Every time new innovation becomes available, management does not want to have to wait several months before rolling out the feature or function to customers.

Survey respondents (84 percent) show in the State of Agile Report that they would like to see improvements in the ability to measure cycle time, wait time and bottlenecks of business value flowing through delivery cycle. That’s a lot to unpack, but all of those abilities are related to time and ultimately being able to increase delivery time and responsiveness.

This need for faster software delivery will likely continue to be the driver for agile and DevOps practices in the coming years. It is because of this need that once agile is adopted by certain teams in an enterprise there is motivation to scale the practices throughout the organization.

One of the greatest leaps from last year’s State of Agile Report to this year’s was the number of respondents who said almost all their teams are agile. We’ve already established that agile works (given that 61 percent of respondents said agile projects were successful), we can safely say that when one team begins delivering software faster and achieving goals such as better managing changing priorities or increasing productivity, then agile will continue to spread.

User experience has become more important than the product or service itself

This year’s State of Agile Report indicated that the number one factor for measuring agile success is customer satisfaction. We’ve seen this as a major driver for the software industry, particularly with the competition presented by “Unicorn” companies such as Amazon or Netflix, which unencumbered by legacy systems or data, are able to offer things like predictive search, automation and overall a very fast, smooth customer experience.

Every business now understands that the quality and functionality of a company’s software affects everything from competitive differentiation to customer support and even employee satisfaction. A discount travel-planning website, for example, may be able to offer incredible bundled deals for flights and hotels, but if I’m struggling to set the filters exactly how I want them with the dates and locations, if it’s difficult or taking too much time, I’m out. How often do we make quick decisions about which services to use based on ease of use within an application or on a website?

User experience via software is the new customer service. Customers aren’t necessarily driving somewhere to speak face-to-face to engage with your brand, likely they are visiting a website or opening an app to find help. Therefore, the better the software, the better the customer service.

That is exactly why mapping value throughout the software development lifecycle is so important. When you can see the value streams contributing to customer satisfaction, capturing performance indicators along the way, a company has exponentially more control over the way a software organization impacts customer service and retention.

Good communication between development and other parts of the business is not optional, it’s vital for an organization’s success

I’ve observed that the 12th Annual State of Agile Report speaks to a need for cross-team and cross-functional communication and collaboration within the enterprise. This is something I’ve been talking about for years as it is the bread and butter of what CollabNet provides organizations. It was a bit surprising at first for me to see that 90 percent of survey respondents participate in daily standup meetings at their organizations. With more than half of the professionals surveyed using Scrum this starts to make sense, but don’t daily standup meetings represent a lot of time for more than 1,400 IT professionals surveyed in this study? Absolutely, and that is exactly what tells me that communication is so essential to agile success.

Moreover, the fact that 65 percent said DevOps transformations were important or very important to their organization, confirms that communication is key for the modern enterprise.

Siloed teams are simply less innovative and less efficient. As DevOps moves from being just about collaboration and more about measuring value we will only understand more and more the value of uniting cross-functioning teams.

These are only a few of the many observations and conclusions that can be made about the state of software development from looking at the State of Agile Report. It is important for any executive team dependent on software for delivering key services to customers to spend some time reading this research and other similar surveys to better understand how changes and trends will impact the industry as a whole in the coming years.