During February and March of this year, we surveyed 2,200 enterprise architects, application developers, and IT leaders to find out how fast their organizations can respond to change. Analysis of their responses showed that in the race to address change through application development at top speed, there were clear leaders. There were also organizations who lagged behind. Let’s see how they differ.

TLDR: Pressed for time? Check out our Leaders vs. Laggards infographic.  

How Were the Leaders and Laggards Discovered?

The responses to two questions provided the dividing line needed for a clear picture of who leads the pack and who is behind. First, the respondents were asked to agree or disagree with five statements in a matrix derived from change management expert Prosci’s “Organizational Agility Assessment.” These ranged from whether agility is baked into their DNA to how well they cope with unplanned change.

Adoption of agile development methodologies is often a good measuring stick for responding to change and for agility. We asked the survey respondents to choose how far along they were in adopting Agile. These ranged from Level I, which indicates a lack of consistency in training and Agile adoption to Level I, where Agile hums along like a well-oiled machine. The other main determinant was application development speed—more than 12 months, 7–12 months, 5–6 months, 3–4 months, and 1–2 months. Other factors in our analysis were the size of backlogs, whether application development speed was faster than last year or not, and what types of application projects consume their time and effort.

What Does a Laggard Look Like?

What are the characteristics of organizations that are behind their peers in business agility and IT speed? Here’s what we learned:

  • Laggards are the least likely of all respondents to say that business agility is baked into their DNA.
  • Laggards are not confident in their ability to out-change their competitors or peers.
  • Laggards are still looking at ways to reformulate themselves for faster delivery using an outdated methodology.
  • Laggards take 7 months to a year or more to deliver web and mobile applications, and their backlogs are either the same as in 2019 or bigger.
  • Laggards report that feature fixes, “keep the lights on” repair work, and other app maintenance projects dominate their time and budget.

Also, when asked to name their top four development challenges, the IT professionals in organizations that lag behind the others included hiring technical roles and mastering new technology as two of the four.

What Does a Leader Look Like?

What makes leaders in the race for IT speed so special? Poring over the survey responses enabled us to come up with this list:

  • Leaders score themselves at 3 or above for organizational agility and Agile methodology adoption.
  • Leaders deliver projects, on average, in less than two months.
  • Leaders invest in approaches that focus on getting closer to customers and experience, including adopting design thinking, design sprints, and customer journey mapping.
  • Leaders are twice as likely to invest in DevOps, containers, microservices, low-code, and new programming languages or frameworks than other IT organizations.
  • Leaders spend more time and budget on building new applications rather than maintaining or replacing old ones.

In addition, leaders included user interface/user experience (UX/UI) and front-end development in their list of top 4 application development challenges.

Don’t Follow the Leader—Be a Leader

If you identify with the description of laggards or if you simply can’t identify with the description of leaders, I have great news. There are steps you can follow to help you increase your business agility and your application development speed. Even if you identify as a leader, these steps can help you win the race against your competitors:

  1. Keep UX/UI front and center.
  2. Adopt a modern application platform to accommodate uncertainty, unclear direction or changing requests.
  3. Look for unique ways to address upskilling for modern application development—web, mobile back-end, and modern stack.
  4. Add technology to help teams achieve continuous integration and continuous deployment without assembling an array of DevOps tools and skills.
  5. Find tools with built-in and DIY connectors for easy integration with any enterprise system, database, or web service.

Want all the details on what it takes to be a leader in IT and app dev speed? Read our report.  

A modern, AI-powered application platform can form a foundation for IT speed by helping you step up UI/UX design and delivery, provide a platform approach to developing modern applications, easily upskill your team, align with DevOps tools and skills, and quickly integrate with systems and apps you already have in place. To learn what’s available and assess the options, check out this 2021 Forrester Wave.