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Gartner’s Enterprise-Class Agile Development Defined

image provided by africa (http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/Family_g212-Family_p29227.html)Gartner’s analysts David Norton and Mike Blechar recently published “Enterprise-Class Agile Development Defined“. Although the content is very light and the findings not revolutionary, the research presents a high level differentiation between enterprise wide Agile adoption and enterprise class Agile adoption.

Enterprise wide Agile adoption

Our definition of EAD differentiates enterprise-class from enterprise-wide. Across the organization (enterprise-wide), organizations might be doing many self-contained/independent agile development projects that are totally unrelated and that meet specific tactical needs. Or, the projects may be first iterations of agile development projects intended to help organizations gain understanding and insight into how the application solution could subsequently be grown into a more complete solution, which will subsequently be integrated into the current application solution portfolio. Most of the agile development projects we see start out without real concern for the longer-term impact on the application ecosystem and broader solution architecture. They generally fail to scale to the needed enterprise-class solution characteristics we identify in this research, even though the project may consist of hundreds of developers and be classified as enterprise-wide.

Enterprise class Agile adoption

Enterprise-class AD includes assessing the impact on the current and future enterprise solution architecture for the organization to make the right business decisions.

One of the key finding presented by the authors is that:

Agile development methods are increasingly being used within organizations as business differentiators, which is raising their profile from tactical project level to a more strategic enterprise level.

And as such, one of their recommendation is that:

Enterprise-class agile development cannot be driven only by the CIO and application development (AD) teams. Strong business commitment is essential. Don’t attempt to drive enterprise agile from an IT perspective, as it will fail.

In their research, the authors have identified seven key elements that collectively, positively impact enterprise wide software development processes. Taken together, these key elements help organizations achieve an enterprise class Agile adoption.

  • Customer-Centric: Exceeds the notion of the business project sponsor to include the corporate strategies and organizational goals. The product owner and team members need to fully understand and be aware of the impact of the solution and its architecture on the overall corporate goals.
  • Collaborative and Cooperative: This is not just cooperation between IT and the business, but also within IT departments across the various sections of the organizations, including teams that are not co located.
  • Constant Feedback:  Though lengthy planning is often eliminated from Agile projects, due to organizational constraints it should not (and possibly cannot) be completely removed. This doesn’t mean to overly invest time and efforts but “just good enough” planning should allow projects to get started. As such, constant feedback isn’t limited to the communication between the IT and Business units but similarly with all support departments and various stakeholders.
  • Heterogeneous Environment: There is no magic formula for success, and adaptation is required for a successful adoption.
  • Throughout the Software Life Cycle: Agile practices, such as refactoring, applied throughout the life cycle, can extend the useful life of the application.
  • Continuous Delivery: Speaks to the need of continuous collaboration between IT and the Business units in the development of a product.
  • Adaptive Solutions: Discusses a compromise between a complete top-down architecture and an emerging architecture.

Gartner Predicts 2010: Agile and Cloud Impact Application Development Directions

Gartner studied the market and attempt to predict trends in their latest report: Predicts 2010: Agile and Cloud Impact Application Development Directions.

As organizations seek to improve productivity and reduce application operating and maintenance costs, we will continue to see an evolution of software development tools, platforms and practices. To take advantage of this, organizations must shift structures and practices while embracing new technologies — a challenging proposition.

Gartner’s analysts (Thomas Murphy and David Norton) predict that by 2012 “agile development methods will be utilized in 80% of all software development projects”. The authors explain that although Scrum will continue gaining in popularity over the coming years, organizations will not be successful in their transition unless they move toward a team-focused culture. As was mentioned in their previous report, very few organizations use a pure-Scrum approach and most rely on an hybrid approach (waterfall and Agile).

The report highlights that organizations struggle to implement true collaboration in the context of globally distributed teams. A situation that has amplified in recent years with outsourcing and off-shoring of software development projects.

In the other hand, the report confirms that teams who have successfully moved to Agile do see productivity improvements especially in “the flexibility of the development team to respond to shifting requirements”. This is especially true for web-based application developments where rapid responses to a changing environment is critical.

The authors point out that organizations need to properly invest in such a transition in order to achieve success.

Organizations that do not make use of key agile practices and do not invest in training and supportive tools’ infrastructure will find that a shift to pseudoagile, while potentially delivering a short-term productivity bump, will end in long-term declines in quality and productivity (…) the promise of four times the improvements in overall productivity has been and will be achieved by select organizations.

Gartner’s report highlights that “development organizations have been making a shift toward agile methods, but this is still slow to move beyond development, and often is a mixture of waterfall practices utilizing an agile or iterative project cycle”. The authors also recommend to “look for opportunities to utilize agile development practices, but recognize that it requires changes and commitment on the part of business and IT”.

Gartner concludes with a few recommendations to help organizations maximize their return from an Agile transition.

  • Recognize the cultural changes that are at the heart of agile.
  • Don’t allow agile excitement to drive cowboy-coding practices.
  • Agile requires discipline.
  • Recognize that scrum is only a partial solution, and focus on a collection of practices.
  • Find tools that enable collaboration and help automate repeatable, consistent practices.

Related documents:

Gartner’s “The Current State of Agile Method Adoption”

As part of a market research for one of our customer, I came across this report published by Gartner in December 2008.

As the pace of agile adoption increases, development organizations must understand the different levels of agile maturity. CIOs and product and development managers need to assess where they fit on the maturity scale, and which level offers the biggest return in their organizations.

The report presents the 6 levels (from 0 to 5) of Gartner’s Agile Maturity Model and corrects a few myths.

  • Agile adoption and penetration rates are being overestimated. Although the number of companies that are adopting agile practices is, indeed, reasonably high, most organizations use agile in a very small percentage of their overall work.
  • An agile maturity framework is necessary to help make the case for adoption, process improvement and benchmarking.
  • Current adoption rates for agile and iterative methods are between 15% and 25%, when taking into account penetration and maturity, with waterfall still the dominant approach. The pace of agile adoption is increasing.

The report concludes that :

As part of an agile readiness assessment, IT development organizations should access their current agile practice maturity at technical, project management and organizational levels. Practices should be assessed for, among other things, their effectiveness and adoption levels in the organization. Adoption should follow initial pilots, and should normally be Level 2, with the aim of developing a consistent set of agile practices at Level 3.

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