Usually this time of year, the newest State of Agile Report is released from VersionOne (versionone.com) providing data points about the reality of Agile adoption as well as keen insights into what is working, tools in use, demographics, and what barriers continue to exist.

As the CTO at Daitan Group, I always appreciate reading this and reflecting on how their data compares with our own experiences. Straight away the report’s sub-title on the executive summary page caught my attention, “Agility Accelerates the Delivery of Business Value.” Based on our own experiences with clients, we believe this to be true, and in fact, would augment the idea to include DevOps. But, I wanted to look deeper and understand what they considered to be the validating proof points.

Noteworthy: VersionOne’s survey sample size in last year’s report was slightly less than 4000, and this year’s survey is estimated to be “in the thousands” again and broadly distributed beyond their own customer base (20%). I believe that combined with their demographics across industries, company size and geography amply covers companies that sit right in our own sweet spot as clients.

Adoption Rate High and Success Rates Great, But Mostly About Specific Teams

The sheer volume of respondents that practice Agile (94%), and of that 98% indicated success from Agile projects, which is an impressive outcome. But, reading deeper, it should be juxtaposed to another finding that indicates among these organizations, more than half (60%) are not practicing Agile company-wide. So the momentum is great, the effort is paying off, but there remains plenty of room for growth in Agile adoption as it continues to mature and expand across organizational teams. This definitely mirrors our experience with clients, and I would add that many are also embracing DevOps as part of their development initiatives to move closer to continuous integration and delivery of business value.

“98% of respondents said that their organization has realized success from agile projects. Respondents stated that the top benefits from adopting agile were accelerated delivery, better project visibility, improved team productivity, and management of changing priorities.”

It’s important to highlight the success, and it is also important to acknowledge the reality of challenges faced throughout the process of becoming more Agile. Our experience has shown that with Agile (and DevOps) environments, the biggest challenge is culture—organizations unprepared for the shift, and lacking sufficient executive sponsorship to drive it. The survey’s respondent feedback was the same, culture as the primary challenge followed by lack of experience.

Understanding the True Measure of Success

In addition to looking at success rates, I also wanted to understand how is that measured? And, interestingly, they distinguish between Agile Initiatives and Agile Projects.

  • With Agile Initiatives, on-time delivery of projects was the primary measure of success (53%), followed by business value (46%) and customer/user satisfaction (44%).
  • With Agile Projects the measures were more technical in nature, but the most important one matched up with Initiatives—the speed (velocity) of project delivery (67%). It was followed by iteration burndown (51%) and release burndown (38%).

When talking to corporate executives, I have noticed that they do frequently speak in terms of the measures that align with the Initiatives list; and it is engineering/product development teams that zero in on the project-related technical measures. Either way, both are a good reflection of strong Agile values and definitely emulate our own experience over the years. At the heart of it, growing beyond a project or team-based Agile environment to a company-wide practice is hard work and a journey. Along the way, we make a point to talk to the C-suite in their language and make sure we can quantify the value in their terms.

For further insights on this, let me suggest a white paper Daitan published in Jan 2016 on the topic of Agile—titled: “Software Continuous Integration & Delivery.” I’d recommend it as good reading to complement VersionOne’s State of Agile survey results, and to understand some of the best practices we recommend.

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