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InfoQ Homepage Articles Engineering Culture and Methods InfoQ Trends Report - January 2018

Engineering Culture and Methods InfoQ Trends Report - January 2018

Key Takeaways

  • There is no longer a question about should an organisation adopt an agile approach to software development - some form of agile is now the norm for software development
  • Craftsmanship is becoming more prevelant in software development 
  • Culture is recognised as a competitive advantage and an attractor for the best people and teams
  • Distributed and remote teams are becoming the norm
  • Diversity in all its forms matters today
  • Ethics in software engineering will become more and more important
  • Developer Experience and removing friction in the development process makes a difference to productivity and business outcomes

Every year at InfoQ we update our topics graph to show where we think different topics are in the technology adoption curve.  When we do so we look at the state of practice, emerging ideas and things we hear on the various grapevines the editor team is tapped in to.

If a topic is on the right-hand part of the graph, you will probably find lots of existing content on InfoQ about it – we covered it when it was new, and the lessons learned by the innovators and early adopters are available to help guide individuals, teams and organisations as they adopt these ideas and practices.

The things on the left-hand side are the ones we see as emerging now, being used by the innovators and early adopters, and we focus our reporting and content on bringing these ideas to our readers’ attention so they can decide for themselves which they should be exploring now, or waiting to see how they unfold.

Here’s what the graph looked like at the beginning of 2017:

Items in the Late Majority space haven’t changed much, and a couple of items from Early Majority have firmly moved into that space – Scrum-ban and Water-Scrum-Fall. 

Adopting an agile approach is not a new idea in 2018 – it’s simply the way we build software now. “Should we adopt agile methods” is no longer a question; even the most conservative of organisations are using agile ideas in their software development today.  This isn’t to say that all agile implementations are effective – without a focus on the underlying team and technical competencies, we see many organisations continuing to waste vast sums of money on building the wrong thing and/or producing unmaintainable products riddled with technical debt.

The various flavours of agile still compete, and in the late majority organisations the methodology wars are still being fought.  The wide range of ALM tools available, along with consolidation (both Rally and VersionOne have been absorbed into larger groups) in that marketplace are evidence of the maturity.  The different scaling frameworks are still competing and the differences are still causing confusion in the marketplace.  A useful tool to compare frameworks can be found here.

Early Majority items still include adopting Lean & Kanban, and added to them we have “Pragmatic Agility” – organisations who are on their second or third round of adopting agile approaches and have realised that there is no one-size-fits-all solution and that the best approach is to pick ideas that work, irrespective of their source and adapt them to their local context.  This concept is embodied in Alistair Cockburn’s Oath of Non-Allegiance.  

Another item which is slowly moving into this space is Craftsmanship - although this is probably spanning the chasm because it’s a hard change for many organisations.  The recognition that the need to produce truly high quality software requires strong technical skills and disciplined application of quality practices including the various Behaviour Driven Development and DDD (especially the focus on ubiquitous language to support effective communication) approaches, merging of development and testing skills, cross functional teams  and DevOps as the logical approach to delivering and deploying high-quality software.

Related to the teamwork and motivation ideas, modern management approaches such as Management 3.0 are gaining more traction and are at least straddling the chasm.

To support organisational change in the new ways of working, practices for coaching and mentoring have become important. Unfortunately, there is a lot of snake oil - the quality of the coaches and coaching varies a lot. The skills of this role will come under increasing pressure and good coaching will be a competitive advantage.

The use of self-assessment tools to support the need for increased self-organization on the "work floor" is becoming more prevalent.  They empower knowledge workers and help teams to take control of their own journey.

Early Adopters

Some organisations are moving away from the idea of multiple environments and adopting a Testing in Production approach, shifting left and building analytics and monitoring into the core of their products.

The idea and application of self-selected teams where people choose what they want to work on, who they want to work with, and the approach they want to take to building the products, is gaining more and more traction as organisations apply some of the ideas about teamwork and motivation.

Discrimination in tech was exposed, with events such as James Damore’s memo at Google and Jez Humble’s reaction to it at Agile 2017 highlighting the need to tackle openly something that has been an open secret in the industry.  This means that diversity in teams and organisation has become an important topic, building on the evidence that more diverse teams produce better products and better results for their organisations.  Movements such as Inclusive Collaboration which focuses on the intentional recognition, support and value returned from building diversity in teams. Valuing neurodiversity in teams is an area where this movement has positively challenged thinking.

Deliberate culture design - more and more organizations have become aware that culture is a key competitive advantage, an attractor of the best talent and customer loyalty.  Creating great workplaces where people joyfully build products and services customers love.  This is complimented and enhanced by ensuring psychological safety in the workplace.

Distributed teams, remote-only teams & flexible workplaces will start to become more of the norm in the enterprise, putting pressure on traditional agile processes. There is continued evolution of agile and lean practices, culture and tooling to support this, because smaller development shops have shown this can be successful and because of the difficulty in finding good IT skills locally for many organisations.

Analytics and measurements focused on metrics that matter, linked to customer value, time to market and product quality, rather than the easy to measure vanity metrics such as velocity and test cases.

Product Management coming back into focus, the move from the Scrum role of Product Owner back to the broader skill of product management which has been subsumed or lost in many organisations.

The realisation that the Scrum role of Scrum Master may not be appropriate in every context  – this role will also come under pressure as people move away from “pure” Scrum to a pragmatic agile way of working.

Ethics have become an important topic for software professionals, mainly because of the widely reported unethical practices which have been exposed over the last two years.  There is discussion about codes of conduct and even licensing for software engineers.

Agile UX - The integration of UI/UX skills and knowledge into agile teams is something that organisations are starting to get right, but there is still a long way to go. 

Fully Fullstack Product Teams: T/π-shaped product creators who have all the skills needed to go from product inception to deployment and support.  Going beyond cross-functional technical teams to complete end-to-end product teams who have business knowledge, marketing expertise, technical development, UX, design and support competencies and whatever other skills are needed to bring a product to market, respond to customer feedback and maintain it. 

Leadership at every level - with self-organization anyone can and will lead at times. At the team level Tech leads and Scrum masters must take the lead in helping teams become truly self-organized.

Business Agility – agile beyond software, remaking the whole organisation to be customer centric and responsive, resilient and able to cope in the VUCA world that is the business ecosystem today.  We are seeing a move from Agile for software and being introduced from the IT department to Agile for business and being introduced from CEO level.

Mob-programming & event-storming have moved from Innovator to Early Adopter.


DevEx – finding ways to remove friction from the Developer Experience – this requires rethinking many aspects of tooling, teamwork, leadership, social and cultural practices.

Bringing mindfulness into the workplace – recognising the whole person and supporting them to become the best they can be.

Enterprise Innovation through spinning-off new disruptive Start-Ups as a survival strategy. These 'lean'-startups have the advantage of a large parent to draw skills from and easy funding, but allow a safe ground for disruption.

Beyond labels: Collapsing DevOps, Lean and Agile into a single full-stack product focus.

Circles being elevated outside of Holacracy: wider spread separation of Holocractic Circles as an independent concept. The idea of "circles" being used to understand bounded concepts within organisations and communication boundaries. Circles offer a powerful and accessible concept to understand team topologies.

UX + SecOps = UX Friendly Security: Shift Left Security and SecOps coming together with UX to enable product accessible user experiences which make security less jarring.

Shift Left Security becoming the norm – DevSecOps and variations, bringing compliance and security into the product team rather than seeing them as independent specialisations. 

The intentional practice of Evolutionary Architecture which supports product development with incremental non-breaking changes. 

UX that goes beyond screen and keyboard – aspects such as calm technology and pervasive interfaces.

AI and ML will start to impact development teams and their development practices; using data to drive estimates and features more than they have in the past. There are a number of tools starting to make this a lot easier than it has been in the past.

Not moved: #noprojects, #noestimates, Sociocracy (and S3), Holacracy – some organisations are adopting these ideas but they are still a small minority.

Our January 2018  Technology Adoption Graph is as shown at the top of the article.


About the Authors

Shane Hastie is the Director of Agile Learning Programs for ICAgile, a global accreditation and certification body dedicated to improving the state of agile learning. Since first using XP in 2000 Shane's been passionate about helping organisations and teams adopt sustainable, humanistic ways of working – irrespective of the brand or label they go by. Shane was a Director of the Agile Alliance from 2011 until 2016. Shane leads the Culture and Methods editorial team for

Craig Smith has been a software developer for over 15 years, specialising in a large number of technologies in that time. He has been an Agile practitioner for over 10 years, is a Certified Scrum Master and Certified ICAgile Professional and a member of both the Scrum Alliance and Agile Alliance and currently works as an Agile Coach, fulfilling technical lead, iteration manager and Agile coaching roles on technology and business projects. He has presented at many international conferences and is a reviewer of a number of Agile and software development books. In his spare time, Craig is an avid motorsport fan.

Susan McIntosh is an agile coach and scrum master with a background in programming. A former teacher and consultant, she has been drawn to agile practices, especially the training and change management that are a part of transformations. She finds analogies to improving workplace culture in her varied experience in theater and dance, yoga, cooking, and parenting. Susan is an active participant in the agile community in Denver, Colorado.

Rui's great passion is the team. He spent the major part of his career influencing teams with a strong, self-motivated and positive attitude, always supporting a winning culture. He truly believes that following an Agile approach such as Scrum, he can get the most of a team.


Charles Humble took over as head of the editorial team at in March 2014, guiding our content creation including news, articles, books, video presentations and interviews. Prior to taking on the full-time role at InfoQ, Charles led our Java coverage, and was CTO for PRPi Consulting, a renumeration research firm that was acquired by PwC in July 2012. He has worked in enterprise software for around 20 years as a developer, architect and development manager.   In his spare time he writes music as 1/3 of London-based ambient techno group Twofish.

Rafiq Gemmail is currently Technical Lead with Bank of New Zealand. He is a passionate advocate for mob programming, having supported cross-functional teams through over a year mobbing at New Zealand's largest news site. He shared his learnings on this at JSCon NZ in 2017. Raf is also a champion for DevOps culture and one of the organisers of New Zealand's DevOps days. He is also an ICAgile certified coach.

Ben Linders is an Independent Consultant in Agile, Lean, Quality and Continuous Improvement, based in The Netherlands. Author of Getting Value out of Agile RetrospectivesWaardevolle Agile RetrospectivesWhat Drives Quality and Continuous Improvement.Creator of the Agile Self-assessment Game. As an adviser, coach and trainer he helps organizations by deploying effective software development and management practices. He focuses on continuous improvement, collaboration and communication, and professional development, to deliver business value to customers. Ben is an active member of networks on Agile, Lean and Quality, and a frequent speaker and writer. He shares his experience in a bilingual blog (Dutch and English) and as an editor for Agile at InfoQ. Follow him on twitter: @BenLinders.

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