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12/17/2019
08:00 AM
John Edwards
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The Most Important Agile Trends to Follow in 2020

The new year promises big changes in Agile methodologies and applications. Here's a look at what to expect.

Image: Pixel-Shot - stockadobe.com
Image: Pixel-Shot - stockadobe.com

The Agile concept has come a long way over the past several years, taking its place as a firmly established set of software development methodologies. Yet Agile continues to evolve and mature, as experience leads to improvements, refinements, and new uses.

Looking forward to 2020, Scott Ambler, vice president and chief scientist of disciplined Agile at the Project Management Institute (PMI), a global nonprofit professional organization for project management, expects Agile to grow even more rapidly. "Agile isn’t just a trend; it's here to stay, especially as we better learn how to effectively yield its benefits," he said.

Scott Ambler, PMI
Scott Ambler, PMI

The new year also promises an increased focus on agility at scale, as well as better ways of integrating business delivery into engineering teams, predicted Casey Gordon, director of Agile engineering at Liberty Mutual Insurance. "Where, before, application development teams were handed work from upstream business-centric efforts, there's a shift to move that work closer to the development teams to help reduce lead time," he explained. "This may mean organizational alignment and structure changes, while portfolio management and executive teams that were previously planning through longer cycles will see those cycles reduced to quarterly or even monthly," he added.

Steve Myers, managing director of Accenture’s Industry X.0 emerging, connected and smart technologies practice, noted that enterprises are also prepared to externalize more development capabilities. "Doing so will overturn the traditional approach, where all physical development was carried out in-house," he stated. "After all, wherever else specialist expertise is required, such as in law or accounting, businesses turn to external experts for their toughest challenges, so why not for development of innovative products?"

Casey Gordon, Liberty Mutual
Casey Gordon, Liberty Mutual

SAFe at home

Gina Casamassima, vice president of the federal health division of management consulting firm Apprio, sees Agile moving toward more formal structures, such as Scaled Agile Framework SAFe 5.0. The changeover won't be easy, however. "Corporations and government entities know they need to transform, but there are challenges in incorporating old managerial styles and structure into SAFe," she warned. "SAFe 5.0’s focus on business agility requires that business and technology leaders are in sync with development and IT operations," Casamassima added that business and management leaders should also utilize lean and Agile practices to ensure that the enterprise remains competitive and innovative.

Beth Phalen, president of Dell Technologies' Dell EMC Data Protection unit, believes there will be greater recognition of [email protected] in 2020. "Business leaders will more aggressively seek out how they need to change as they, too, embrace the Scrum simplicity and power," she said. As for coders, they will need to keep their product in shippable product quality, always at scale. Coders will also increasingly find themselves collaborating and validating well beyond the confines of their Scrum teams. "They will need to work closely with business leaders on the right methods and investments to shift over to [email protected]," she explained.

Steve Myers, Accenture
Steve Myers, Accenture

The upcoming year should also see growing adoption of larger-scale Agile initiatives. "It’s been a slow burn, but the idea of extending Agile from individual Scrum teams to large-scale programs is really gathering steam," observed Oliver Merkle, delivery director at Agile software developer Nexient. "Organizations that have adopted small-scale Agile have seen the benefits, and they’re comfortable with the basic principles," he observed. The next big leap, he noted, will be to apply those principles at scale.

Agile for all?

Recent years have seen Agile practices flow out of IT and into various business departments, leading to Agile Engineering, Agile Human Resources and Agile Marketing organizations, among others. This expansion is likely to continue at an even faster pace in 2020. "We will see the original values and principles of Agile software development applied to new departments, like Agile Customer Service," said Scott Abate, Agile project manager at digital business solutions provider Anexinet. "These new adopters will undergo transformations and reap the benefits of agility and adaptability in their own dynamic business environments," he predicted.

Gina Casamassima, Apprio
Gina Casamassima, Apprio

Enterprise Agile is reshaping the way enterprises do business, Merkle observed. "Agile is the best way anyone has found to create products that serve customers and drive business value," he said. "The principles of constant feedback and rapid iteration are just as valid at the enterprise scale as they are for smaller organizations."

Business stakeholders and management will increasingly feel the impact of Enterprise Agile as they reorganize into cross-functional teams focusing on value stream delivery while shattering business and functional siloes, explained Jody Tester, a senior director and Agile practice head at NTT Data, a top 10 global IT services provider. "Moving to business agility will impact every role in the organization that contributes to, or benefits from, solution delivery, and those changes will need to be carefully planned, managed, and championed to overcome potential institutional resistance," he added.

Beth Phalen, Dell
Beth Phalen, Dell

Final thought

Ambler predicted that coders possessing or currently developing Agile skillsets will be primed for success in 2020 and beyond. "It will set them apart from those who simply have an Agile attitude," he noted. Despite incurring the extra cost of acquiring expert Agile coders, enterprises can expect to see greater returns on business and project objectives due to the use of more effective Agile practices. "In other words, the more they invest in people, the more they’ll reap the benefits long-term," he said.

John Edwards is a veteran business technology journalist. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and numerous business and technology publications, including Computerworld, CFO Magazine, IBM Data Management Magazine, RFID Journal, and Electronic ... View Full Bio
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