Organizational Readiness: Why Organizations Struggle to Adopt Agile


Co-authored by Mark Masuelli

When The Manifesto for Agile Software Development was published in 2001, it laid out basic principles for improving the cycle time and quality of application development, testing and maintenance activities. Considered radical at the time, the Manifesto called for un-characteristic flexibility in designing, building and testing applications to ensure end products meet customer needs, even if those needs are in a state of constant change.

Software development was not a particularly fast process at the time Agile methodologies first were conceptualized and practiced and often were waylaid by changing business conditions, customer demands and time or financial constraints. Because traditional waterfall methodologies typically took a long time, there was a good chance that once a product reached the market it no longer met business requirements. Either the product itself had changed dramatically since the inception of the project or its features and functionality were no longer relevant to the business or its customers. Inherent inefficiencies in the traditional design, coding and testing cycles resulted in additional development time and delays as the team continually worked to catch up to the evolving business requirement or customer need. It was a vicious cycle.

Since its introduction more than 15 years ago, the four values and twelve principles set forth in the Manifesto have become central to Agile application development frameworks and methodologies. More importantly, for organizations that have mastered Agile principles, the business reasons for adopting Agile methodologies in the first place are becoming increasingly evident as they help lower risk, improve time to market, reduce development cycle time, increase stakeholder involvement and improve quality of application code.

Agile software development has become a dominant software delivery methodology for the provider community as evidenced by ISG’s Insights Leadership Report Best Practices in Distributed Agile Development. Among other things, the report finds that the number of software development projects completed by service providers using distributed Agile delivery models has grown, on average, 30 percent or more per year between 2012 and 2015. Furthermore, service providers indicate they complete 75 percent of their development projects using an Agile methodology across geographically distributed delivery locations.

While Agile development is widely used by service providers in support of their customers, many large businesses have struggled to introduce and adopt methodologies that emphasize rapid software development cycles, frequent code delivery, regular system updates or changes, and continuous user involvement in their IT delivery teams and organization. In many ways, the new method conflicts with the way traditional IT organizations work.

Read more about how an organization can gauge its readiness for adopting Agile methodologies in this ISG white paper Organizational Readiness: Why Organizations Struggle to Adopt Agile.

About the authors

Mike Thompson has more than 35 years’ experience managing large-scale, complex multi-tower IT outsourcing projects for global enterprises and U.S. federal and state and local government entities. Mike leads joint teams to achieve business case approval, conduct sourcing suitability assessments, develop market-ready solicitation documents, facilitate partner down-selection, negotiate service agreements and assist organizations transition to future-state service delivery environments.

Mark Masuelli is an ISG Principal Consultant with more than 16 years in outsourcing and shared services consulting and service delivery. This includes background in ITO, ADM, HRO, procurement, and F&A. He has substantial client relationship with clients in the Manufacturing, Energy, Pharmaceutical and Financial Services Industries. He has strong relationships across IT and BPO providers, Analysis and industry associations.