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Last Updated Jul 13, 2021 — Richard Knaster - Chief Scientist, Value Stream Management, Digital.ai

15th State of Agile Report: Agile leads the way through the pandemic and digital transformation

The longest continuously running annual Agile survey is releasing its 15th edition. Read on for more insights.

Value Stream Management

I’m excited about the 15th edition of the State of Agile report. It’s the longest continuous annual survey of agile techniques and practices. In recognition of this anniversary, our team spoke with many notable agile software delivery experts and influencers to get their take on the past, current, and future states of agile software delivery. Throughout the report, you’ll see their views intermixed with survey data, providing more depth, color, and context to the findings.

This year we also reached the 20th anniversary of the “Manifesto for Agile Software Development.”  We feel it’s an especially important milestone to look back and reflect on the remarkable journey agile has experienced over these past two decades. 

Impact of COVID-19

Before the pandemic, digital disruption already required enterprises to adapt and change and make decisions more quickly than ever. COVID-19 vastly amplified these needs. Organizations across all industries and of all sizes felt tremendous pressure to make their business models fit the physical constraints of the pandemic. In record time, companies launched new omnichannel initiatives like buy online, pick up in store, ship from store, curbside pick-up, same-day delivery, virtual professional appointments, and more. 

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Massive acceleration in agile adoption

How was it possible for this rate of change to occur?  Simply put, it was adapt or die. Agile methods were a bright spot, enabling IT and development teams to collaborate with the business and quickly adapt. This allowed many companies to remain in business and some to even thrive. In response to the pandemic’s impact on work, our survey reflected a massive acceleration in agile adoption, both in software development (37% to 84%) and IT (26% to 60%), but also in non-IT departments, including finance, human resources, and marketing, where agile adoption doubled. 

The need for speed will not be temporary — digitization, artificial intelligence and machine learning, analytics, globalization, and other external forces such as cyberattacks will continue to accelerate. The world has never moved faster and will never return to being this slow again.

More focus on value and alignment

When assessing the metrics organizations use to determine agile transformation success, the survey shows three in five respondents look to externally focused measures of success such as customer satisfaction (59%) and business value (58%). In contrast, under half of the respondents identify internal metrics such as product scope (19%) and project visibility (30%).

It’s clear that respondents continue to see the value of broadening agile adoption as a way to achieve critical business outcomes. Two-thirds of survey respondents identified managing priorities, visibility, and alignment between business and IT as seeing the strongest positive impact from agile adoption. 

Organizational culture no longer the great barrier?

Surprisingly, organizational culture — once regularly cited as a barrier to adoption — is no longer a top challenge, with only slightly more than four in 10 respondents identifying it as a barrier. This is an exciting development that will require further follow-up and validation.

DevOps and value stream management gaining momentum

More than ever, organizations are under increasing pressure to deliver features that provide greater value and new solutions that improve efficiency and reliability. Year after year, more respondents tell us their organizations view both DevOps and value stream management (VSM) initiatives as essential to achieving these goals. 75% of respondents say DevOps transformation is important or very important to their organization. 66% are involved with implementing or planning a VSM initiative.

The future of work

While those of us who have long pushed for broader adoption of agile adoption across the enterprise will, no doubt, feel heartened by the data in the 15th State of Agile Report, I believe we’re actually at a crossroads. As the world starts to slowly envision a post-pandemic reality, one thing is clear – the majority of IT workers will not return to the office full time. 

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According to our survey, distributed and hybrid workforces are here to stay: 56% favor a hybrid approach, returning to the office regularly but not daily.

Hybrid work will be even more challenging than an entirely remote workforce. When everyone was remote, everyone was at the same disadvantage. In a hybrid world, some people will be remote while others will be onsite together in a conference room, making collaboration more challenging.

What’s next?

We can take away from the results of the 15th State of Agile Survey as an endorsement from large enterprises as to how agile processes and methods can help attain valuable business outcomes and demonstrate the incredible value and leadership that IT and development teams can drive. 

Long a champion of agile and DevOps processes, IT can lead the enterprise into what I believe is the next frontier for business alignment: value stream management (VSM). More than 50% of respondents stated they have implemented or plan to implement VSM across their organization.

We invite you to explore the 15th State of Agile Report for the status and trends in agile software delivery, key highlights from past surveys, and to see how agile has the potential to be a steadying force in uncertain times to come. You can download the report here: https://stateofagile.com/

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