The Next Big Thing in Agile

June 17, 2020 Danny Presten

Innovation diffusion

In his 1962 book “The Diffusion of Innovation” Everett Rogers explained how innovative ideas become commonplace with a goal of helping companies recognize this pattern and respond to the innovation in an appropriate manner. This pattern largely holds true for innovative products as well as innovative ideas and practices.

The recently released State of Agile Survey is now in it’s 14th year, the longest running agile survey in existence. Looking back over the years, it’s clear that many key agile practices have been adopted by innovators and grown to be adopted by a majority of companies. With this in mind, we can look at the past and predict what the near future holds for agile advancement.

Expansion of agile practices

When scrum was introduced in 2001, it spread rapidly through the innovation diffusion curve. The State of Agile Survey has shown continued adoption and maturity to the point that today, it is becoming an expected norm. As organizations dramatically improved their ability to operate at the team level larger organizations sought to implement scrum practices ushering in the rise of scaled agile.

A few years after scrum was introduced, large organizations realized they needed to address cross team dependencies and plan work together. Scaling practices like SAFe, Scrum@Scale, LeSS, Nexus, and others were developed to address this need. SAFe has emerged as a market leader - in this space 35% of companies implementing scaled scrum report SAFe adoption. I believe this has reached the early majority and will continue to be a significant area of practice.

As companies began to develop software more efficiently, they found they needed to improve processes and tools for operationalizing these newly developed features; this resulted in the rise of DevOps. Today DevOps is pervasive in the industry. The 14th State of Agile Survey reports that DevOps is an important area of focus for 90% of companies participating in the survey.

As scrum and DevOps enabled faster cycle time from concept to production, companies discovered a key missing component - security. This began a shift to include security as part of the development and delivery pipeline. This area is experiencing rapid growth in both practices and tooling as companies are looking to ensure application security across their entire stack.

The concept of value stream management (VSM) has been around for decades but has been re-introduced to digital value streams in recent years. Organizations are beginning to look beyond just development - they’re now working to get visibility into how value is flowing through the entire company. New tools are emerging that are beginning to allow this end to end view. The 14th annual State of Agile Survey reports 40% of respondents are working to implement value stream management. This will certainly grow in years to come.

As companies implement their VSM solution, the business is better able to quantify delays and operational bottlenecks as well as customer value delivered. This has ushered a fresh discussion around business agility, effectively organizing the business systems and culture to take full advantage of agile ways of working. For many this conversation is just beginning but I see significant momentum in the industry and expect this to be the next major area of focus in the coming years. The 14th State of Agile Survey reports 30% of respondents are now considering agile practices beyond IT and Development.

Organizations are creating massive amounts of data related to development, DevSecOps flow, and real world post-production performance data. As this data is consolidated I expect to see a rise in AI to predict product behavior and prioritize backlog items so the most beneficial work gets executed first.

What does this mean for you?

Companies that have been making an investment in their agile ecosystem over the past few years are experiencing significant benefits. If you find yourself behind the curve, now is the time to focus on maturing your ways of working.

Agile is here to stay. Many companies have been going through the motions changing their terminology but not really implementing core agile principles. We know agile increases delivery of value when implemented correctly - it’s time to get serious about limiting WIP, developing a customer centric view that delivers small increments of value, and adjusting accordingly through fast feedback cycles.

DevOps is firmly established although it’s shocking that many companies I interact with are still not making investments to automate their pipeline or develop a DevOps culture. It’s important to prioritize these key components. These are the foundations you can build on to dramatically improve speed to market when it counts the most.

In a majority of companies that I consult with I’m finding the development organization is no longer the primary bottleneck. It’s time to take a broader look at how value flows through the organization and consider the time spent waiting for funding to be approved, for sales enablement, legal, and the myriad of other activities that take place prior to launching a new product. Agile principles often apply universally to other areas of the business. Collecting data on organizational throughput will allow an informed improvement roadmap that can significantly improve speed to market. Siloed wins have never been relevant; it’s time to take a broader view and focus on business and customer wins.

If you have questions about how to take your next steps in maturing your agile practices and maturing in your digital transformation, our solution experts would be happy to set up some time to define a custom approach that addresses your unique challenges.

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About the Author

Danny Presten

Danny Presten is Chief Methodologist at Digital.ai. Danny has several transformation tours of duty behind him in which he's worked in agile organizations, consulted with senior leaders, and led training initiatives.

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