Are you sure you’re receiving the most benefits of agile possible? Do you know the top ten benefits of agile?
Read this article to learn what nearly 4,000 of your agile peers said were the benefits of agile that their organizations are receiving.
#1 Ability to Manage Changing Priorities
According to the 9th annual State of Agile™ survey, 87% of the respondents said agile improved their ability to manage changing priorities. If you’re familiar with the Agile Manifesto, this likely resonates with one of the values: Responding to change over following a plan. This value was, in fact, probably the foundational reason for the agile movement, and its top ranking in the State of Agile survey reinforces the value of agile.
There’s no question about whether adopting agile practices will enable you to better manage changing priorities. The fact that you have product backlogs that are being ranked by product owners as information becomes known improves your ability to manage changing priorities. Planning is continuous and each sprint is an opportunity to revisit priorities based on feedback and insight gained.
#2 Increased Team Productivity
Approximately 84% of the survey respondents stated that agile increased team productivity. Increasing team productivity has a lot to do with getting employees engaged and focused. Employee engagement comes from having a sense of purpose. Fostering employee engagement and team productivity are a natural byproduct of adopting agile.
When practicing agile the product owner works from a set of overarching initiatives and a vision for the product. The product owner communicates the vision and value-based decisions to the team on a regular cadence as they plan each sprint cycle. This makes it very clear to a team practicing agile that what they’re producing in every sprint cycle is always of the highest value. The team is protected from outside interference to minimize context switching and multi-tasking, so they can remain focused on completing the sprint plan. Agile retrospectives and continuous improvement initiatives further improve team performance.
#3 Improved Project Visibility
Another 82% of the respondents answered that agile improved project visibility. Personally, as a former manager, improving project visibility would be a top agile benefit for me. Agile provides all stakeholders, team members, the product owners, and management real-time access to the health and status of all of projects. There is no need to wait on formal weekly, monthly, or quarterly status updates. It’s simple to instead check the project or sprint level burndown and burnup charts and you can apply velocity for project forecasting analysis.
As agile teams are updating the work they’re doing on a daily basis, the entire enterprise is aware of the accurate, current status of all the work across all of their projects. It’s simple and easy, with the added benefit that the story and task boards provide the teams with a visible information radiator that promotes team collaboration.
#4 Increased Team Morale/Motivation
The survey found that 79% of respondents to the 9th annual State of Agile survey increased team morale/motivation through agile. I think that increased team morale is tied to many of the same factors that help with improving productivity. Team members feel more pride and satisfaction in knowing that they’re delivering valuable quality work that somebody wants and appreciates.
Increased transparency in agile reduces a lot of stress and pressure. Agile allows organizations to break some of the political dysfunctions. As self-managing teams, members have a direct voice in planning and can take ownership of their commitments, thus making team members feel more connected. As an added benefit, working with a happy team is fun and promotes growth and skill development.
#5 Better Delivery Predictability
In the survey, 79% of the respondents stated that agile provided better delivery predictability. This emerges as organizations become more experienced at practicing agile. It’s important to realize that you don’t achieve better delivery predictability from day one. You have to be practicing agile for a few sprint cycles, and there has to be a certain maturity that’s established across the project teams. Over time, as your teams continue to practice agile and begin to stabilize, their velocity metrics are going to emerge and stabilize.
Velocity is what enables agile organizations to better deliver predictability. In the past, project managers tried to forecast and lay out plans in an attempt to predict the future. As hard as we might try, we can’t control the future, so often those results were less than effective. An agile organization is going to use an actual proven measure, such as velocity, and they’re going to apply that to relative size estimates of their backlogs.
#6 Enhanced Software Quality
Another 78% of the respondents answered that agile enhanced software quality. We coach agile teams not to compromise quality in order to make up for time or scope. An organization can never really achieve the optimum benefits of agility if they’re not addressing the underlying quality of their product or service, as well as actively managing technical debt. It’s instilled into the agile principles and values that teams estimate and plan accordingly to build a quality product.
Oftentimes, with traditional waterfall approaches, there are schedule pressures that can lead teams to feeling that they have to compromise quality. If the team has a fixed scope and is pressured to deliver by an unrealistic fixed date, the team doesn’t have a choice but to compromise quality.
An agile team, however, isn’t pressured to make those choices. Quality is a recognized commitment by these teams. While the results may not be visible immediately, over time, as the culture changes, inevitably teams will produce higher quality product leading to customer satisfaction and more sustainable scalable products.
#7 Faster Time to Market
The survey results reflect that 77% of the respondents said that agile provided faster time to market. A desire to get to market faster is a very common reason that businesses initially decide to adopt agile. Organizations are feeling competitive pressures and the need to improve their product faster to stay relevant. If another company gets to market with something better, they can lose significant customer share.
I’m a little surprised that faster time to market isn’t higher up on the list. I suspect that maybe this is because it’s something that is not necessarily inherent in agile planning practices alone and may not be fully realized initially. Yes, our teams are going to focus on delivering working software on a short cadence and getting feedback early and often, but there may some additional factors that come into play before software can be deployed into the marketplace.
#8 Reduced Project Risk
According to the 9th annual State of Agile survey, 76% of the respondents said that agile reduced project risk. Practicing agile reduces project risk by the very fact that agile organizations are conducting very short feedback loops, typically every two weeks or less. Agile teams are presenting results and getting feedback from the stakeholders in short sprints. That in itself reduces risk because unforeseen issues are discovered early when they can be addressed with less impact.
Additionally, in some cases teams are encouraged to rank known high-risk items so that they can work these items sooner rather than later, to address what they learn earlier in the project. This helps teams evaluate the risks earlier and discover whether or not the project is going be viable and deliver the expected value. If needed, you can redeploy these teams to work on something else that will deliver better value.
#9 Improved Business/IT Alignment
Among survey respondents, 75% of the respondents said that agile improved business/IT alignment. I often hear improve business and IT alignment cited as a main reason to adopt agile. This is realized through the closer collaboration that is inherent in the agile principles and values, primarily through the transparency and the feedback from short inspect and adapt cycles. I think this is a clear benefit that’s easily realized as teams are aligned to have more open and transparent collaboration between their product owner, who serves as proxy for the customer, and business stakeholders. Defining and communicating clear project vision drives this alignment.
#10 Improved Engineering Discipline
Another 72% of the respondents said agile improved engineering discipline. Improved engineering discipline is, again, not something that’s inherently obtained just by the fact that you adopt agile planning practices. When the expectations and the cultural underlying principles of agile are taken to heart, team members are empowered to address the delivery of quality work as opposed to just getting work done. The ultimate foundation of a good solid product is going to be inherent with a good scalable design and architecture.
Once agile organizations come to embrace the agile principles with a goal of delivering high product quality, they must also embrace sound engineering discipline. Effective design, configuration management and testing strategies are essential to maximize agility.
These results show that there isn’t just a single benefit of agile. Different organizations and teams are gaining different agile benefits.
Would you like to find out even more information about the benefits your peers are receiving? Check out the 9th annual State of Agile survey.
State of Agile is a trademark of VersionOne, Inc.
About the AuthorMore Content by Jo Hollen