The Plateau of Agile Development

Anyone with an ear to the software development world knows that Agile Development and DevOps are the hottest buzzwords out there – the phenomenon du jour. It’s no wonder either. As the customer-centric era of digital disruption spans on, enterprises are forced to innovate at ever increasing speeds. Agility and continuous testing are a must for survival.

Short intro: What is Agile Methodology?

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Why has Agile development plateaued?

The chart depicts the rate of Agile adoption within a seven year period. In 2006 Agile methodology began to pick up speed, reaching a peak in 2009. From there however, the use of Agile methodologies has not shown further increase.

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Let’s break it down to the basics to make sure we are all on the same page. What is a system of engagement? A company’s systems of engagement are their applications for consumer interaction and customer-facing innovation. They are the public user interfaces like mobile apps, webpages for online transactions, etc.

On the other hand you have the systems of record. Systems of record are the backend applications that form the heart of the company. They are the large, stable applications that are critical to keeping the day to day processes of a business running – everything from accounting and payment processing to customer databases.

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Most large enterprises are made up of a combination of both systems…

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The systems of engagement get a lot of attention, but percentage-wise it is not the dominant share of an enterprise’s IT budget – the real money goes to the systems of record. If an enterprise is like a house, the systems of record are the foundation, the plumbing, and the electricity: the essentials of the house. These things require maintenance, but if the house is well built, it will only require a big renovation every 8 to 10 years. Keeping with the metaphor, the systems of engagement are new additions made to the house – i.e.: building an extra room or adding a new level. These additions make the house more comfortable and fun to live in. They can also be completed as quickly or slowly as the homeowner wants.

Approaches to Agile Development

It is an accepted fact that the systems of engagement and systems of record run on different timelines, and so need to be treated differently. Systems of engagement are innovative by nature, which demands speed. Naturally, they are developed with Agile methodology. Systems of record however, don’t require nearly the same speed. What then, becomes the best method for development?

Gartner uses a Bi-modal IT approach to this conundrum. They theorize that you can choose either the Agile or Traditional (Waterfall) mode, then decide which to apply for each system – there is no in between.

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Forrester, however, approaches the issue a bit differently. In their estimation, development is not a matter of “mode”, it is a matter of speed – to be specific, the speed of deployment. How often do you deploy? Daily? Weekly? Quarterly? Depending on which system you are working in, the speed of deployment will and should change.

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