Forrester: Barriers and Best Practices for Scaling Agile
February 25, 2016
3 min read
Here are some important points from Diego Lo Guidice’s recent Continuous Delivery Conference keynote that covers the barriers and best practices for scaling Agile development:
“A number of common challenges prevent Agile from being as successful or scaled as widely as we would like. In Forrester’s 2015 State of Agile Development study, both large and small firms cited the following as the top 3 barriers to Agile adoption:
- People’s behavioral change (59%): From top management down to developers, but it’s not as hard to change the behavior of developers. The developers I’ve talked to all tend to agree that Agile makes sense.
- Lack of skilled product owners from the business (49%): Why are you doing Agile if the business is not involved? I don’t get it. Business has to be involved. They should be leading these initiatives. Even at the team level, they are the ones that are prioritizing the requirements.
- Lack of dedicated cross functional teams (40%): We’ve created these silos, then we create great process and instead of communicating, we write documents (“Want to know what I did? Go read it.”) That’s a waste. That’s what cross-functional teams actually solve.
“Agile Experts” Break Through These Barriers
Not surprisingly, “Agile expert firms”—firms that have successfully scaled Agile practices to more than half of their teams— have determined how to work through common adoption barriers more effectively than “Agile neophytes”:
- People’s behavioral change: This is a problem for 78% of Agile neophytes, but only 42% of Agile experts.
- Lack of product owner commitment or skill from the business: This is a problem for 69% of Agile neophytes, 51% of Agile experts.
- Lack of Agile skills in the upstream: This is a problem for 58% of Agile neophytes, 24% of Agile experts.
- Lack of dedicated cross-functional teams: This is a problem for 54% of Agile neophytes, 17% of Agile experts.
- Lack of Agile executive leadership: This is a problem for 58% of Agile neophytes,17% of Agile experts.
- Lack of Agile skills in the downstream of DevOps: This is a problem for 53% of Agile neophytes, 22% of Agile experts.
What Agile Best Practices are Actually Applied?
The same survey also asked “What core Agile practices do you apply?” Results for upstream activities (activities that remove the barriers between business and the development teams) were:
- 86% have short iterations
- 84% use daily scrum meetings
- 80% have a product owner
- 78% gain early and frequent feedback
- 68% use burn-up/burn-down charts
Hybrid Approaches are Common
The study also revealed that only 13% of respondents used at least one Agile technique and interestingly, 54% mixed different Agile techniques and 27% deliberately mixed Agile and non-Agile techniques. Clearly, there are hybrid approaches emerging in the real world. The most popular methods are Scrum, iterative, Kanban, DevOps and Lean. The most popular hybrid method is waterfall and Agile mixed, “WaterScrumFall.”
For downstream activities (activities that remove the barrier between development, test, and operations), results indicated that:
- 58% apply Continuous Integration
- 58% practice Continuous Delivery
- 39% perform Test-Driven Development
- 51% of respondents indicated that they perform all of the above upstream best practices;
- 24% perform all of the downstream best practices.
- Only 15% perform all the key upstream and downstream best practices.
This question arises every year: Why Agile? What are the real tangible benefits? Forrester’s research points to the following from their report on Agile and state of the art testing methods. Agile isn’t about making software easy or cheaper to developer but rather achieve better outcomes with the amount of time, effort and money poured into the development:
- Alignment between the business and IT
- Delivery of solutions that meet requirements
- Ability to make corrections during development
- Increase agility by removing the testing bottleneck
The Good News
Some positive news from the study indicated that testers are becoming peers to developers and first class citizens of the Agile process. As an organization’s test capability matures, testing becomes a critical function and testers need to be part of the team as peers. Clearly, the leading organizations are making testers part of an integrated team. They don’t have a test center of excellence decoupled from development. Testers are truly part of the team.