Everyone talks about the importance of being agile. But, look closely and it seems agile maturity is still a distant reality for most companies. That’s one of the conclusions we took from our State of Application Development 2019 report.
Which raises the question: What does a mature agile company look like? Can a company actually cross the finish line or is the quest for agile maturity a never-ending journey?
In this blog post, I’ll dive into the results from our survey to 3,300 IT professionals and discuss what companies with a higher level of agility have in common. Hopefully, you can use these findings to enlighten your team on new approaches to improve your company’s agility.
Why Assess the Agile Maturity of Your Company?
Before we dive into the findings in our report, let’s take a moment to consider why it’s important to assess and continually improve your company’s agile maturity. Being agile is all about being able to cope with change. Survival of the fittest applies to businesses just as it does to species.
With uncertainty hovering over the future of the world's economy, companies need to be able to adapt faster, to better meet the needs and preferences of their customers, or they risk being disrupted by competitors.
Organizational agility is of the essence. If you don’t know how agile your company is, you could do a quick assessment using the same model that we used in our survey, as described below.
Measuring Agility: The Agile Maturity Model
There are plenty of agile maturity models out there that companies can use to assess their agility over time. They can also use them as a guide to improve their adoption level. Some models are more focused on development practices, others on leadership, others on scrum teams.
For the State of Application Development report, we wanted to understand whether organizations are investing in agile but also to gauge the progress of these practices. To do that, we used the following five-level maturity model:
Agile Maturity Assessment
- Level 1 - Initial: We lack consistency and need training to get everyone aligned.
- Level 2 - Just Started: Processes not fully defined. Basic level of agile adoption. Development and testing are not fully in sync yet
- Level 3 - Defined: Our whole team is using well-defined agile processes, and we’re consistently delivering sprint after sprint.
- Level 4 - Measured: We’re measuring code quality and other key measures. Our focus is on engineering maturity.
- Level 5 - Optimizing: We develop on schedule and release on demand. We’ve invested in automation for continuous integration and deployment. Consistent delivery across teams. Self-organized, sustainable, continuous improvement based on KPIs.
Most respondents—about 60 percent—self-assess their maturity level as a 2 or 3, as shown in the figure below. Only a quarter of respondents felt that their organization had reached the upper maturity levels of measuring and optimizing their agile practices. Looking at this another way, the average agile maturity level of all 3,300 respondents was just 2.7, meaning typically organizations are still in the process of defining their agile practices, and are not yet measuring and optimizing them.
And yet, when asked what approaches organizations are investing in to try and speed-up software delivery, agile was the stand-out winner, with over 60 percent of respondents saying that their organization had invested in agile training, coaching or consulting in the past year.
So, why is agile maturity so elusive, despite the importance and investment that organizations are placing on it?
What’s Holding Back Agile Maturity?
I talked about the challenges of agile adoption in a previous blog post.
We need to keep in mind that agile is an ongoing journey, and spreading agile adoption across an organization is quite a battle.
The people and culture factor is one of the most critical challenges. In organizations with a command and control culture, executives that have climbed to the top of control structures often find it very difficult to let go of their “control-freakery”. Truly embracing agile, demands that executives fully empower product owners to lead the development effort, without constantly having to pass decisions up for executive approval.
Improving Agile Maturity
Given how few organizations have reached the higher levels of agile maturity, we were keen to see what the 24 percent of organizations that had reached agile maturity scores of 4 or 5 had in common.
One of the factors that we found among these higher performers was a higher than average adoption of low-code.
Respondents who said that their organization was already using a low-code platform were 20 percent more likely to rate their agile maturity as level 3, 4, or 5 when compared to those not using low-code.
The low-code advantage was also seen in other areas:
- An eight percent higher score for organizational agility
- A five percent higher proportion of app dev devoted to innovation
- A superior software release cadence
- Apparent higher business department satisfaction with release frequency
- A twelve percent advantage for improving backlogs
- Faster software development speed with significantly more respondents delivering web and mobile applications in less than four months.
- A sixteen percent higher self-assessment score for digital transformation maturity.
My earlier post provides a more detailed exploration of how low-code helps successful agile adoption.