Status quo (scaled) agile – interesting insights in an international study

For the fourth time now, Professor Ayelt Komus and his team from the University of Applied Sciences in Koblenz have analysed the status quo of (scaled) agile working in a project context together with international partners. Once again, it has been shown that agile methods have clearly established themselves but are often used together with classical methods in a kind of “hybrid solution” and that “SAFe” is currently the most popular scaling method.

If one compares the results of the current study with the three previous studies, it is striking that the proportion of companies that only use traditional project management methods has fallen from 22% in 2012 to 8% now. What is interesting about the results is that both the “pure” application of agile methods (approx. 20%) and the selective application (approx. 28%) have settled at the same level. The clear winner is the hybrid approach, which has increased significantly from 27% in 2012 to now 43%. With 75%, software development still dominates in the use of agile methods, whereas only 19% of applications in physical product development are agile. In this field of application, the agile, classic and selective approach are used equally distributed with approximately 20%.

The consistently agile, hybrid and selective users were asked why their company decided to work with agile approaches. 56 % of those questioned use agile approaches to optimize product launch times. The second reason is the optimization of quality with 39 %. It is noteworthy that the reduction of risks in the project with 38 % is already cited as the third reason to use agile approaches. Hybrid and selective users were asked why they chose a hybrid / selective form. Only 28 % see the current hybrid or selective approach as an intermediate step to a continuously agile way of working. 74 % state that the general conditions do not allow them to work agile throughout. The second largest share (41 %) cited the excessive demands on managers as the reason for using a selective / hybrid form. 37 % of the respondents’ state that changes would otherwise not be enforceable and 28 % state that the employees are overwhelmed by the change.

But what about the success rates? 15 % of agile users (consistently agile, hybrid and selective) rate the success rate of projects with agile approaches at 90-100 %. 25 % of the respondents estimate the success rate at 80. 89 % and 28 % give an estimated success rate of 70 79%. In general, the success rate of projects and development processes that were carried out with agile approaches is estimated by 68 % of those surveyed to be over 70 %. It is noticeable that the assessment of the success rate by the consistently agile, hybrid and selective users has decreased overall in recent years.

Scrum has the greatest general importance of all approaches. 55 % of the agile participants rate the approach as very important and 29 % as important for their area, only around 14 % as unimportant or of little importance. Kanban is the approach with the second highest rating with 79 % of participants who at least attach great importance to Kanban (more than 28 % rate it as very important). Consistently agile, hybrid and selective users were asked which agile practices they use. Sprint planning and daily scrum are used most frequently by the respondents (both 82 %). User stories and product backlog are also frequently used (both 80 %). Sprint Backlog (78 %), Sprint Review (78 %), Sprint Retrospective (77 %) and Kanban Board (77 %) are also popular agile practices.

The consistently agile, hybrid and selective users were asked whether they were using a Scaling Framework. 34 % of the respondents use a Scaling Framework. 66 % have no Scaling Framework in use. With 54 %, SAFe is used most often as a Scaling Framework in companies. 35 % of respondents use Own Development and 23 % use LeSS. The Spotify Model is used as often with 16 % as Scrum at Scale and Nexus with 15 % each. Team of Teams and Disciplined Agile use 9 and 3 % of the respondents in their companies. Thus, SAFe is the most widely used Scaling Framework among the consistently agile, hybrid and selective users. At 67 %, SAFe is clearly more dominant among the selective users than among the hybrid users (56 %) and among the consistently agile users (46 %). Interestingly, only 13 % of the participants who use a Scaling Framework state that improvements in results and efficiency have been realized. 87 % state that the Scaling Framework has not resulted in any improvements. Scaling Frameworks are used by 86 % in software development and by 49 % in IT-related topics. 28 % are using Scaling Frameworks for non-IT related activities and only 20 % in physical product development.

Interestingly, only 13 % of the participants who use a Scaling Framework state that improvements in results and efficiency have been realized. 87 % state that the Scaling Framework has not resulted in any improvements. Scaling Frameworks are used by 86 % in software development and by 49 % in IT-related topics. 28 % are using Scaling Frameworks for non-IT related activities and only 20 % in physical product development.

The consistently agile, hybrid and selective users were asked what the most important challenges for the successful implementation of agile approaches are. 62 % of respondents answered they had internal processes and 59 % named top management as the biggest challenge. The team and middle management were both named with each 54 % as further challenges for the successful implementation of agile approaches. Other challenges were listed as the internal environment (50 %), internal customers (37 %) and the structure of the product (31 %). 24 % state external customers as a challenge and 20 % state legal requirements as a challenge for the successful implementation of agile approaches.

The respondents were also asked to rate their personal and professional background in terms of competence using the competence areas of the IPMA Individual Competence Baseline (IPMA ICB) Version 4. With regard to the competence areas “Perspective”, “People” and “Practice”, 80 % of the personal competences in all areas are rated as at least good (89 % “People”, 85 % “Practice”, 81 % “Perspective”). The “consistently agile” continuously rate the best and the “consistently classic” project management users continuously the worst.

The study is valuable in many aspects: 1. it shows the developments in the execution of projects and project management. Above all, it shows that agile methods are clearly gaining importance, but above all hybrid or selective applications are being made use of; it illustrates 2. the rapidly increasing importance of scaling agile principles in the organization and the use of corresponding approaches (above all SAFe); 3. it also becomes very clear, however, that as in the past, success in projects depends on the availability of appropriate competences, that the culture should match the method and that the capability for change in the organization is a central prerequisite for continuous improvement. So there is a lot to do on the way to a project-oriented company!

Author: Reinhard Wagner, CEO of Tiba Managementberatung

 

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