A new report on the state of Agile reveals that while adoption is high, most organizations are struggling to scale Agile across the enterprise.
Agile software development is an approach to building applications that emphasizes iterative steps in short bursts of time. The 17th Annual State of Agile Report published by Digital.ai surveyed 788 software professionals on the use and effectiveness of Agile methodologies. The report found Agile is widely used but scaling it is difficult.
Key highlights of the report include:
- 71% of respondents use Agile methods in their software development lifecycle (SDLC).
- Only 11% say they are "very satisfied" with Agile.
- 52% of small companies say Agile works well enterprise-wide, compared with 43% of large companies.
- 47% blame resistance to change as a top barrier to Agile adoption.
- 29% are exploring how to utilize large language models and code assistants.
"The biggest surprise is this conundrum: Overall, interest in Agile remains strong as more and more companies want to be guided by Agile principles and approaches," Joyce Tompsett, GM, State of Agile project at Digital.ai, told ITPro Today. "At the same time, despite the incredible breadth of knowledge and experience found in the Agile tools and frameworks available, we're seeing declines in utilization of them at the enterprise level."
Organization Size Matters for Agile Success
The report found that Agile seems to be working better for smaller companies versus large companies.
As to why that's the case, Tompsett said it comes down to complexity. Smaller teams have a focus on work and goals, she said. However, because larger organizations have multiple groups, sometimes with very different ways of working or ways of measuring success, there can be conflicts in how best to solve the problems Agile addresses.
Additionally, Tompsett noted that knowledge and experience are also challenging. Agile often requires resources to train people on tools and different ways of working, and businesses are in a fast-changing world where many leaders need results now. Teams have more autonomy to do what they need to get done and choose their own tools, working approaches, etc., while at higher organizational levels there are tendencies toward more traditional, centralized ways of decision-making.
"Our research shows that the most successful Agile enterprises do have leadership that strongly embraces Agile from the top down," Tompsett said. "A lot of the focus is on open communication and transparency, as well as shared knowledge and tools — open cultures seem to do better than hierarchical cultures."
How to Improve Agile Outcomes and Enterprise Satisfaction
Only 11% of respondents said they were very satisfied with Agile, which is hardly a positive statistic.
"Our respondents indicate Agile is not well-understood among the C-suite and that there is a cultural clash in scaling between teams and businesses," Tompsett said.
A challenge is getting business leaders and Agile teams to understand each other.
The focus of Agile teams is making Agile a success, following the rules, making a full commitment, and so on. Meanwhile, business leaders are centered around making the business a success — they don't have the time to relearn how to work. In other words, what each team thinks is a reasonable expectation is not how the other team sees it.
Tompsett said that when the priorities do align, there is satisfaction. However, if the priorities are perceived as conflicting, then business leaders will devalue or possibly even push Agile aside.
"The way to achieve more Agile success is to lean toward agreement on metrics and measured outcomes between technical and business leaders," she said. "This is how business and Agile come into alignment."
About the authorSean Michael Kerner is an IT consultant, technology enthusiast and tinkerer. He consults to industry and media organizations on technology issues.