Takeaways from the latest State of Agile survey results

The results of the latest State of Agile survey are in. The annual report, released on 7th May, is the 13th from the software vendor VersionOne. Over 1,300 people were surveyed, most working as Scrum Masters and internal coaches (34%), development managers (15%), and project or programme managers (11%). 

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Takeaway 1: We need the right culture to be successful with agile

The report says ‘organization culture issues remain the leading impediments to adopting and scaling agile’ along with ‘inadequate management support and sponsorship’ as barriers to getting the value from using agile methods. ‘Executive sponsorship’ was given as a critical ingredient for success. 

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is the well-known saying that means all of the best business planning and execution will fail without the right culture to support you. 

But wait a minute… we’ve known, for almost 20 years, the culture needed to get benefits from agile methods such as Scrum, XP, and DSDM. It’s described in the values and principles of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. So what’s the problem? 

Most coaching in organisations has focused on delivery teams, however my own research has shown that organisations realised the most benefits from agile methods when the delivery team had business representatives committed to achieving the product or service delivery goals. Strong relationships must be in place across functional areas. It is leadership’s role to ensure this happens. 

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Takeaway 2: Organisations are still over-reliant on Scrum alone

On the chart showing the agile methods used by the organisations of the 1,300-plus respondents, the agile project management method DSDM is nowhere to be seen. And yet, most people I meet who use agile methods are delivering projects. Pure Scrum (not combined with other methods) is used exclusively, said 54% of respondents. 

One wonders what mindset and tools were adopted in place of traditional project management. Anecdotally, agile teams still are, generally, working at odds with PMO and other project governance functions. 

The State of Agile survey results seem to corroborate what I’ve experienced in my work with organisations: the project controls that organisations put in place to de-risk their hefty investments in IT systems delivery are not adapting to uncertainty. They are being ignored, though the need to control and de-risk projects is still as high as ever. 

I’d like to see agile evangelists working together with project governance to build a common mindset – they could use the principles and techniques of DSDM, for example, and adapt them to their own environment.