- The move to Agile is gaining momentum with application developers, according to research from Forrester. Nearly 60% of the 152 respondents to the firm’s Q4 2021 Global State of Agile at Scale Survey have embarked on a “five-year journey” to adopt Agile practices, up from just 4% a decade ago.
- Challenges of scale remain. Only one-quarter of the survey’s respondents reported their teams were “highly proficient” in Agile practices, and only 17% felt their company had fully invested in structural changes to support agile transformation.
- While Forrester found a regression to waterfall practices had taken place in the two-year interim since the last survey, the firm’s analysts believe disruptions caused by the pandemic will advance the adoption of Agile over the next year.
Agile processes are closely tied to modern application development and have spread to other areas in IT — and beyond.
Adapting to the iterative processes, team dynamics and overall flexibility that are central to the Agile methodology nonetheless remains a challenge for companies as they move beyond the nascent stages of implementation and attempt to scale Agile.
The commitment to Agile remains particularly strong for application developers and their end-user clients, Forrester found. Tech teams have embraced daily scrum meetings, iterative project advancements, continuous integration and delivery practices and other key elements of Agile within more than half of companies in Forrester’s Global State of Agile 2022 report.
Teams that were “anti-Agile” prior to the pandemic have had to shift to more Agile practices, according to Diego Lo Giudice, VP and principal analyst at Forrester and the report’s lead author. “The pandemic proved to the naysayers that they needed to speed up their newer technology stack innovation to work Agile with totally distributed teams,” said Lo Giudice.
The accelerated move to cloud-based applications, and the use of video conferencing platforms such as Webex, Zoom and Microsoft Teams has helped to overcome resistance to technologies that facilitate Agile.
Successes at the team level are another factor driving the desire for Agile. “A lot of the organizations we have talked to have adopted Agile in pockets,” said Chris Gardner, VP and research director at Forrester and a co-author of the report. “Small product teams have been spun up alongside DevOps teams, and those little green-field wins have driven them towards trying to scale Agile.”
The news is not all positive. Significant obstacles to enterprise-wide adoption of Agile persist in areas such as executive leadership, workplace culture and technology assets. Waterfall practices have even made a comeback and are present in 43% of companies surveyed, up from 29% in 2019, Forrester found.
There are a number of reasons for this regression, including the persistence of bimodal approaches in which waterfall and Agile coexist. Gardner described it as part of a “hybrid world.”
"Some of the folks that want to adopt Agile universally are unable to do so because they have waterfall projects within their organization,” he said.
Lack of experience is also slowing businesses down. Only one-quarter of the respondents felt that their teams were highly proficient in Agile. More than four in ten respondents are self-described as beginners.
This is likely to change as teams and organizations adopt Agile processes and leaders become well-versed in methodologies. “The biggest misconception is that you can adopt an Agile culture without actually reading through what developers have gone through to create these Agile cultures in other organizations,” Gardner said.
A more mature hybrid workforce can catalyze change too, Gardner said. “I think we’re going to see the numbers start to creep back up because we’re going to be able to apply Agile using tools and technologies across wherever developers happen to be as opposed to just trying to adopt Agile in pockets.”
Correction: This article has been updated to clarify Diego Lo Giudice's full name.