Pressures of the pandemic motivate a big shift to agile programming practices

Digital.ai's 15th annual survey found that 84% of developer teams are using agile methods and the DevOps trend continues to grow as well.

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The 15th State of Agile survey found a big shift to agile programming with 84% of software development teams using that approach compared to 37% in 2020. The agile approach is also expanding beyond IT as well with other teams adopting this way of working that prioritizes faster project delivery and products that reflect what clients want.

Digital.ai's survey also found that DevOps is still an important trend with 75% of respondents describing this initiative as very important. Fifty-six percent of respondents have a DevOps initiative currently underway with 18% planning one. Only 13% had no DevOps work planned. 

SEE: Agile development: Cheat Sheet (TechRepublic)

The report authors suggest that the shift to remote work and the ongoing need for agile software development and delivery is one factor driving this increased adoption of agile. 

Richard Knaster, vice president and chief scientist for Digital.ai, said in a press release that the working conditions over the last year have shown the importance of IT leadership in shaping the future. 

"The accelerated Agile adoption trends in this year's report show the path forward isn't about IT aligning to the business, but IT being integral to the business and leading the way to business agility," he said. "Business leaders realize agile adoption and value stream management create and optimize business value and can be measured using business-related outcomes, not just outputs." 

A majority of respondents said their organization has been using agile development methods for at least three years:

  • Five years:              32%
  • Three to five years: 33%
  • One to two years:    22%
  • Less than one year:   7%
  • Don't know:                4%
  • Not using agile:          2%

The report authors also noted that the use of specific individual agile techniques and practices have remained consistent across the 15 surveys. For example, daily standups, retrospectives, sprint planning and reviews have always been important agile tactics. The researchers found that kanban boards have seen the most significant growth over the last 15 years. In the first survey, only 6% of survey respondents used this tool, but 61% said they use kanban boards in the most recent survey.

Agile practices have spread to other departments beyond IT in 52% of the companies surveyed: 18% said all other departments have made this shift, while 34% said more than half and 46% said less than half had done so. Software development and IT still lead the way with operations, marketing and security rounding out the top five departments most likely to be using agile principles and practices. 

According to the survey, the biggest barriers to implementing and expanding agile practices are:

  • Inconsistencies in processes and practices:            46%
  • Cultural clashes:                                                        43%
  • General organizational resistance to change:            42%
  • Lack of skills and experience:                                    42%
  • Absence of leadership participation:                          41%
  • Inadequate management support and sponsorship: 40%

Survey respondents said the biggest benefits of the agile approach are managing changing priorities, increasing visibility and improving business and IT alignment. More than half of all respondents also listed team productivity and morale as well as managing distributed teams as significant benefits.

The survey also asked about plans for a return to the office. Fifty-six percent of respondents expect to be back in the office on a regular basis but not full time. Twenty-five percent plan to stay remote and 16% said they have always been remote and will remain so. 

The survey was conducted between February and April 2021 and included 1,382 people. Thirty-nine percent of respondents work at companies with fewer than 1,000 employees while 25% work at companies with more than 20,000 employees. Thirty-nine percent of respondents were in North America and 37% were in Europe. 

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By Veronica Combs

Veronica Combs is a senior writer at TechRepublic. For more than 10 years, she has covered technology, healthcare, and business strategy. In addition to her writing and editing expertise, she has managed small and large teams at startups and establis...