A look at growing Agile trends

A high-level assessment of current industry trends in Agile for Executives to recognize and evaluate within their own organizations.

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This month, VersionOne released their 12th annual “State of Agile” report. Many companies use this report as a weather vane for software delivery trends. Let’s look at those changing trends and examine how they could impact your bottom line. Please note that executives comprise only 3 percent of the roughly 1,500 respondents. However, most leaders will be more interested in the overall results and not the details of Agile delivery.

The report provides plenty of metrics and conclusions and wading through that without detailed Agile knowledge will likely result in a loss of awareness of where the industry has changed in direct in response to the market, end user results, and competition gains/losses.

A great, high-level snapshot of VersionOne’s summary of the report can be found in their Top Agile and devops Trends web page. However, additional trends are overlooked or understated. Hence, here is my “alternative view” of the top lessons from a leadership perspective:

  1. Agile is easy to learn, but hard to master; that will not change
  2. Deliver valuable products as the customer sees it
  3. The product owner as the linchpin
  4. Scaling Agile has become the norm
  5. Devops must be adopted to stay competitive
  6. There should be one System of Record to rule them all

1. Agile is easy to learn but hard to master; that will not change

As acknowledged many times in the past, software development does not follow a simple repeatable rulebook like following a recipe or even building a house, and there will always be project failures under Agile. Uncertainty rules software delivery, especially early on and throwing the word “Agile” at it, by following a set of guidelines and ceremonies are not enough to be successful. Agile helps expose issues quicker, but then the real work is for teams and leadership to figure out together how to solve those problems quickly, efficiently and effectively.

2. Deliver valuable products as the customer sees it

Customer satisfaction is listed at 57 percent as the top measurement of success in the State of Agile report.  Before the “age of the personal device,” IT ruled product development since few had the technical skills as end users to recognize well made products versus poorly made products. Now that all users know technology, delivering desirable solutions while ensuring those solutions are both viable (will make money) and feasible (can be realistically made) are part of the “new delivery triangle” of desirable – feasible – viable.

3. The product owner as a linchpin

We have seen in the report that delivering valuable products as the customer sees it. To obtain valuable products, bridging business and IT to the needs of the customer is essential. The role of product owner (PO) in Agile focuses on interpreting the product prioritization and direction for IT to deliver. Having a full time PO enables further Business and IT alignment. Per the State of Agile report that is changing, now with 63 percent dedicated PO versus 55 percent in 2017 and 49 percent in 2016. Often in the past, only technical subject matter experts or inexperienced employees took on the PO role. That trend has been changing, where enterprises that product owners often take the role of the “CEO of the Product” along with the product manager and experience in these roles matter for the level of product success.

4. Scaling Agile has become the norm

Back in the early days of expanding Agile delivery beyond a single team ten years ago, the Scrum of Scrums (SoS) was the one and only ceremony. In 2016, SoS garnered 72 percent of the scaling responses, now down to 19 percent in 2018. What a radical shift!  That shift has replaced SoS with new more prescriptive frameworks such as Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Large Scaled Scrum (LeSS), Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD), Nexus, the Spotify model and a plethora of others, supporting that Scaling Agile provides a competitive edge. Managing multiple teams between business and technology in a unified and predictable manner has become a clear benefit for solutions involvement large teams and many dependencies. If you are part of large organization and not Scaling Agile for your digital products, you are falling behind your competitors.

5. Devops adoption to stay competitive

No longer considered optional by most businesses, devops has proven effective in bringing concepts to cash quicker. For the State of Agile report, devops was not mentioned and now it has rapidly gain its own section in this year’s report with 73 percent either adopting or planning to adopt devops. It’s no secret Amazon releases every 11.6 seconds through an advanced devops maturity. It’s no secret Netflix has built out a high performance, “always up” production environment through the Chaos Monkey tool intentionally breaking / disconnecting servers to improve automated recovery for greater resiliency. Now not every enterprise needs to be Amazon nor Netflix, but devops is at the heart of product delivery speed. Considering lean concepts of product delivery, devops enables businesses to deliver more predictable, resilient and dependable releases faster. Today, software solutions migrated to the cloud come with a suite of devops based tools for streamlining this journey even faster.

6. One System of Record to rule them all

Having a centralized system of record, shown in the report as recommended Agile project management tools, helps companies focus their business and technical direction in one place. Within the State of Agile report, a “common tool” for Scaling Agile is important for delivery. However, that importance exists for all Agile delivery. The rigor behind managing a single centralized tool along with the reports to track progress and the level of success are the keys in improved delivery.

Conclusion

For those in front of the Agile delivery wave (and those who took the survey), nothing in the VersionOne report will come as a surprise. We have already seen it. The report is more of a set of lagging indicators for those falling behind to recognize their gaps and for those getting ahead to validate their advantage.  Pave your own path through Agile delivery excellence!

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