In part 1 of this series, we reviewed why digital transformation is so challenging for many IT organizations. We concluded that CIOs need to focus on four priorities to overcome those challenges:

  • Enabling innovation 
  • Improving agile adoption
  • Achieving a DevOps advantage 
  • Re-skilling, recruiting, and retaining developers

We also covered how low-code could enable innovation. This article takes a look at how low-code can improve agile adoption.

Improve Agile Adoption

Agile adoption is still at an early stage in most organizations, according to our recent State of Application Development research. We asked 3,500 IT professionals to assess their agile adoption progress using a five-level maturity model. The average response was a lackluster score of 2.6 out of 5.

If you’re curious about this five-level agile maturity model (and would perhaps like to gauge where on this spectrum your organization sits), here it is.

Age Maturity Model

Roughly at the Halfway Mark: Does That Matter?

What does the halfway mark tell us about agile adoption in these organizations, and does it matter? The score of 2.6 out of 5 means an average organization is in the midst of defining their agile practices, they are not yet following those practices reliably, neither are they measuring results, and they are nowhere near optimizing agile across the organization.

With 3,500 respondents, this survey no doubt includes newbies who have only recently started their agile journey and more mature organizations that have focused on agile for some time. Given the size of the survey sample, it is unlikely to have been badly skewed toward respondents who had just started with agile approaches. Of course, if that were the case, congratulations would be due to the newbies on the progress they have made.

However, agile is not new and has been the software development methodology “du-jour” for years, so it’s reasonable to assume that the majority of respondents have been traveling the agile adoption road for between five to ten years.

If that is the case, then the halfway mark seems like plodding progress. Surely by now, organizations should be well on the road to measuring and optimizing such practices?

What is Holding Back Agile Adoption?

In truth, agile adoption is ongoing; it is not a fixed destination. To some extent, therefore, the halfway mark merely signifies that respondents know the fight must go on. Without wanting to sound too downbeat, spreading agile adoption across an organization can be quite a battle. Let’s take a look.

When you consider what holds back agile maturity, it's helpful to examine this from two perspectives.

  • Inside out: How the team is organized, resource constraints, and other obstacles frustrate agile adoption.
  • Outside in: The broader organization and cultural challenges undermine empowerment, reduce business engagement, and therefore undermine the success of agile, despite the best endeavors of the project team.

The internal workings of a development team are much simpler to change. You only need buy-in and focus from one team or department. The outside cultural challenges are much more problematic, as at least two parties are involved—the development team and its client. Ultimately the whole corporate culture could fatally undermine agile success.

This Forbes article, which describes maximizing shareholder value as “the dumbest idea in the world,” provides a great perspective on how the wrong corporate culture undermines agile success.

How Low-Code Helps Agile Adoption

Low-code can help agile adoption from both perspectives.

Inside Out

Here’s how low-code helps agile adoption by a development team:

  • Faster development: Get more delivered in a sprint, or consider shortening sprints, to get more rapid feedback and minimize the risk of rework.
  • Less waiting for specialist resources: Low-code makes developers more self-sufficient and less likely to need support from specialists on topics like UI design, security, integration, application architecture, and performance.
  • Breakdown of developer silos: Teams that use low-code are less siloed, and collaboration is less onerous. A single IDE and single skillset make staff more interchangeable. Less reliance on different tools, languages, and frameworks facilitates collaboration between developers. This means you spend less time on hand-offs, cross-training, and documentation.

Outside In

The empowerment of product owners and their project teams and the ability to foster deep and effective business engagement are the critical success factors for agile maturity. Here’s how low-code helps that happen:

  • Greater empowerment: Faster development means less risk of upper management panicking and interfering. Simply put, you are not as likely to have to throw away two weeks of code if you need to course-correct when requirements become better understood. So product owners get less grief from management and can stay focused on what’s right for users and customers.
  • Improved user and customer engagement: With significantly faster development, it is much easier to maintain the interest and excitement of business stakeholders. That leads to more immediate feedback throughout the project lifespan.
  • Visual prototyping: Visual prototypes are essential for agile success. As soon as users can “play” with working screens, the better able they’ll be to express their requirements fully. With low-code, all development is visual and can often be done side-by-side with users.
  • Visual models: Traditional coding does not lend itself to side-by-side collaborative development with users. For one, it’s too slow, and for another, code is meaningless to most business people. However, such collaboration becomes possible with low-code because process flows, business logic, and UI are all visually designed on screen. This speeds-up feedback, and minimizes the risk of false assumptions and rework.

The Evidence That Low-Code Helps Agile Maturity

Returning to the State of Application Development Survey mentioned earlier: 34% of the 3,500 respondents said they were using a low-code platform already.

When we compared agile maturity between organizations that were and were not using low-code, as can be seen in these charts, users of low-code rated their agile maturity higher than organizations that were not using low-code.

Agile Adoption Levels
Agile Adoption Levels

Adding the three highest maturity levels together threw the low-code agile advantage into sharper focus, revealing an average gap of 15% between the self-assessment of organizations using low-code and those not using low-code.

Combining Levels 3, 4, and 5 of Agile Adoption
Combining Levels 3, 4, and 5 of Agile Adoption

What Customers Say about Agile and Low-Code

I have interviewed many customers about their adoption of low-code over the past few years. Speed and improved agility always stand out in such stories. The following quotes from two different case studies bring to life the way low-code helps agile adoption.

“Since adopting OutSystems, our internal customers have learned they need to stay involved. The old days of handing over a large requirements document and waiting months are gone. Once development starts, we expect our customers to be available to review and test. Creating low-code apps is a partnership where everyone needs to stay committed and involved.” - Steven Schmidt, Enterprise Collaboration Manager, Logitech

“Establishing our own low-code factory was essential to make us more responsive to the business. It enabled us to break free from the bloated requirements and procurement practices that had slowed innovation in the past." - Eduardo Romano, CIO, Liberty Seguros

Continue Reading

If this article has piqued your interest then continue reading with these three related articles:

Why IT Struggles with Digital Transformation (and What to Do About It?)

Part 1: Enabling Innovation With Low-Code

Part 3: Achieve DevOps Advantage With low-Code. (Coming soon.)

Part 4: Re-Skill, Recruit and Retain Digital Developers With Low-Code. (Coming soon.)