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InfoQ Homepage News The State of Agile – December 2014

The State of Agile – December 2014

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Given the approaching end of the calendar year, when InfoQ editors and others were questioned about the state of agile, then the results were compiled into this opinion piece.

 “Agile” is now a brand with global recognition, the term was first coined in the context of software development in 2001 and has been the impetus for a global change in the way software is built.  At its core agile is about a highly disciplined approach to building products, recognising that software development is a collaborative activity which requires human creativity, communication and imagination to be successful. 

Recently we polled a small group of InfoQ editors, consultants and trainers asking them for their thoughts on the state of Agile adoption and what ideas, practices or techniques are emerging or being recognised as useful at the end of 2014.  This is not a scientific study, rather an informal collection of opinions.

Here are some highlights of the feedback we received:

  • In terms of the innovation adoption curve, Agile adoption has “crossed the chasm” and is in the early majority stage, most organisations are using agile techniques for at least some software development projects, a small number have made agile their primary or sole development approach and those who have made the mind-set shift, coupled with strong technical practices, have definitely seen measurable improvements in time to market, product quality and customer satisfaction.
  • Software Craftsmanship is a hot topic, with a realization that trying to do agile without strong technical practices is a recipe for disaster. 
  • In a lot of organisations the management and executive layers are seen as impediments to effective agile adoption – leadership culture, mindset and command & control management styles stifle creativity.
  • Web and mobile technology are presenting challenges to achieving cross-functional feature teams (e.g. specialisms in UX, front end UI development, android/ios/window mobile platforms etc.).
  • For many organisations a second wave of agile adoption is starting to happen, with a focus on the disciplines and technical practices and an emphasis on “do it properly this time”.
  • The use of retrospectives to truly inspect and adapt will enable teams and organisations to become learning entities and adopt a continuous improvement approach.  
  • Scaling is a challenge at many levels – figuring out where the need is to scale, what it means in terms of breadth and depth of adoption, and which of a number of competing scaling frameworks to adopt, if any.  Options include Scrum of Scrums SAFe, LeSS, DAD, the Spotify model of tribes, squads and guilds.  
  • The age of the big project is starting to die, with a slow move towards flow based rather than big bang date driven or iterative agile.
  • Agile practices and principles are starting to spread beyond the IT department and Business Agility will be a hot topic over the next couple of years.
  • Estimation continues to be a hot topic with #noestimates gaining some traction but it is still seen as a major challenge in most organisations.
  • Beyond Budgeting and the Stoos Network are gaining traction as potentially viable management approaches.
  • Kanban is moving into common use, either in conjunction with agile (eg Scrumban) or as a stand-alone approach to improving the flow of work through development teams and beyond.
  • The wider project management community are beginning to understand how agile approaches can be leveraged to achieve better project outcomes.  They are coming to grips with the changes that adopting agile practices will have on the traditional project management way of working and measuring success - moving from the triple-constraint to the Agile Value Triangle.
  • Portfolio Kanban and other PMO level approaches are starting to make inroads to the decision making process regarding project prioritisation and funding.
  • Lean Startup is moving into the enterprise and some organisations are adopting ”Experimental thinking" to design the experiments that agile, design thinking and lean projects require for assumption testing and "Analytics" for gathering information directly from the system that is implemented.
  • More and more certification programs are appearing, with competing certification bodies offering similar credentials: ICAgile,, PMI-ACP, Kanban University, SAFe, Scrum Alliance, DSDM etc
  • The Internet of Things (including wearables) will impact development teams in ways they have yet not imagined.  One of the biggest impacts will be in the testing community – the complexity of testing will increase by orders of magnitude and there will be a strong push to much more test automation to be able to cope.
  • Agile beyond the development activities means more pressure on keeping the flow of work coming into the teams, which will influence the move away from project based funding towards product/feature funding.
  • Likewise the ability to develop faster means that DevOps will become a must for organisations that want to take advantage of the potential for agility they get from rapid development.

How much of this is wishful thinking remains to be seen, but 2015 could be a good year for agile in information technology and business agility.

With contributions from: Shane Hastie, Glenda Mitchell, Horia Slușanschi, James King, Steve Barrett, Craig Smith, Katherine Kirk and Ben Linders.

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