Agile in 2015 - same old thing?- why innovation!

why innovation! uses cookies to provide you with an optimal browsing experience on our website. Please check our Privacy Policy & Terms of Use to learn more about how we use cookies. By clicking on “I agree”, you consent to the use of cookies.
Sign up   |   Sign in

Agile in 2015 - same old thing?- why innovation!

Agile in 2015 - same old thing?
Daryl Chan
5 min
10 Oct. 2015
I'm more of a fan of stories than statistics, but I'm also a sucker for percentages and pretty pictures ('data' is all the rage these days, right?). So I found the recent 2015 State of Agile survey an interesting read, especially comparing it to the results from previous years.

Whilst the general feel of the numbers (and indeed the feel across a lot of organisations with large IT departments) seems to be that Agile thinking has gathered mainstream awareness; the Agile world still seems to report the same challenges with mainstream acceptance, year after year.
This seems somewhat peculiar for a movement which prides itself on its ability to adjust and improve at regular intervals.

A look at some results.

Of note in the surveys conducted by VersionOne (and also the earlier Scrum Alliance survey), some of the top causes of Agile failure/issues were related to:
  • Company philosophy or culture at odds with core agile values at 42%
  • Lack of management support at 38%
  • Lack of support for cultural transition at 36%
  • Tension between Scrum teams and the wider organisation at 71%
Source: The 9th Annual State of Agile Survey
Compare that to last year's survey, where the top two barriers were cultural and change related...
Source: 8th Annual State of Agile Survey 
​And the year before that (really, quite similar)…

Source: 7th Annual State of Agile Survey 
Combine that with what you usually hear from experience, practitioners, conferences, Meetup groups and the like – there’s a bit of a common message here around barriers to adoption and we’ve been hearing the same message for years. Problem with Agile, or something a little more sinister?
Because I still needed my fix, I thought that I’d flip to the other side and look at it from that other bastion of survey data - CIO surveys. Interestingly enough, a few problems seem quite familiar -
  • The core message from's 2015 survey indicated that the business and IT functions have differing views on the value of IT to the organisation.
  • Harvey Nash's research indicates that 63% of CIOs think their relationship with Operations teams are very strong - however, all other departments lag far behind in terms of relationship strength.
  • Gartner's three value leadership 'flips' or shifts in thinking suggested by their 2015 CIO survey:
    • efficiency to value creation
    • business case to benefits life cycle
    • hit and hope to platform value
Source: 2015 Gartner Executive Programs CIO survey
Business and IT still not getting along? Well, we've all heard that for years, but as Agilists, we also harp on about collaboration quite a bit.

Looking at Gartner's points - Agile is all about value creation. A well nurtured backlog can deliver value for years on end, and - as the most popular Agile ‘methodology’ - Scrum provides a systematic way for better experimentation.

So, why are we still struggling to influence (even if only indirectly) areas screaming out for change where Agile can most definitely be part of the answer?

There are many paths.

As an Agile practitioner, it's a bit strange to say this (a bit like bagging your own football team, although, for me that also seems easier to do year on year) - but Agile is not always the answer, nor is it the only answer.

Agile is an enabler for organisations to be great, but Agile principles in isolation still don't solve competitive strategy, customer experience, financial growth, cyber security or the breadth of other things that affect an organisation and its culture.

Culture is a complex construct, where, amongst other things, language, behaviour and philosophy regularly collide, with interesting (and frustrating... and every now and then, amazing) results. Given Agile is a mixture of the above; when we speak to others about Agile, when we are being Agile, and when we project our beliefs - what is the message we give out, and how does might this clash with that of others?

What can we do about it?

It's by design that the tendency of a Scrum Master or Agile coach is to educate about Agile - but we could adapt a little bit and dig deeper into our collaborative natures when we encounter those not so entrenched in the Agile world. Each encounter with a leadership figure or 'business' person is an opportunity to listen, understand and begin collaborating together in finding novel solutions to organisational problems.
So if we want the CIO stories to start mentioning Agile as a key enabler for solving their problems; it's time for Agile practitioners to start thinking about Agile as just one of many specimens integral to the organisational ecosystem, and talk about it and approach it in a way that nurtures and evolves the overall environment.

Another year and another survey with the same statistics and same problems being reported on might indicate stagnation for a movement which has made much great progress in changing organisations for the better.

Daryl Chan
Twitter: @hello_daryl
LinkedIn: darylchan
More Blogs