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Why agile and DevOps are key to any digital transformation

Ayman Sayed President and Chief Product Officer, CA Technologies

Software is critical to all organizations, but producing great applications and services that meet business needs requires modern development and delivery processes. This is especially important in today's digital economy, where strategic software development fuels innovation and boosts competitive advantage.

With the shift to digital initiatives, the line between development and IT on one side and the business on the other is blurring. It's increasingly difficult to unravel the dependencies.

As companies adapt to compete in today’s marketplace, business leaders need to be aggressive and intentional about driving adoption of agile and DevOps within their organizations.

However, a Freeform Dynamics study (PDF), commissioned by CA Technologies, found that while most organizations are committed to the full adoption of both agile and DevOps, implementation today is not broad or deep.

What they're passing up—and why

Organizations are not only missing out on benefits such as faster delivery time to market and higher customer satisfaction, but they could also be losing out on higher revenue and profit growth.

In fact, the report found that one group of companies, dubbed "Agility Masters," has leveraged agile and DevOps throughout the organization. As a group, they reported 60% higher revenue and profit growth than the others surveyed. Moreover, the companies were 2.4 times more likely than the rest of the organizations surveyed to grow their businesses at a rate of over 20%.

All told, some 18% of the 1,279 IT leaders surveyed for this report were considered part of the Agility Masters group.

However, this shows that the majority of organizations are missing out on the extensive benefits that these practices, when implemented broadly, can have on their bottom line. So, if effective digital transformation requires expertise in agile and DevOps, why are organizations still struggling to embrace these practices?  

The research found that the non-adopting organizations are plagued by similar challenges in the areas of culture, skills, program investment, and leadership alignment. This highlights a widespread recognition that implementing agile and DevOps practices across the software development lifecycle is not just a matter of new skills and working patterns.

For some, it also requires a significant shift in mindset and behavior, and making those changes is very much a people issue—even at the executive level. The top priorities to improve adoption effectiveness were identified as:

  • Instituting a culture that encourages and rewards collaboration
  • Getting management support and commitment at all levels
  • Training people and adding resources to help implement agile and DevOps
  • Relieving time pressures so teams can effectively implement these practices

Reinforcing the need for training, respondents also reported it to be very difficult or challenging to find professionals who were familiar with agile methods, had experience with DevOps, and/or had collaborative cross-team working experience.

Connecting execution to business outcomes

The connection among agile, DevOps, and business outcomes centers on the continuous feedback loop running through live customer experiences to requirements engineering. This shows how well software delivery is performing and supporting the business itself.

To further reap the benefits of agile and DevOps, organizations must also leverage the responsiveness and flexibility offered by cloud, containers, and other new code design and delivery architectures. This requires making a smooth shift-left of all activities—such as continuous testing—and finer granularity of iteration across the whole of the software delivery and ops cycle.

Organizations must become as flexible as possible to changing customer demands and user expectations, regulatory change, and market opportunities. For many, this means implementing agile/DevOps-style delivery across the entire organization, not just within the development and IT operations.

This scenario provides the organization the flexibility it needs to compete effectively and deliver what its customers want and expect. It must be business-driven, integrated across teams, and iterative, and it must use the right analytics and feedback loops. This will enable fail-fast and continuous improvement everywhere.

The importance of software is growing across all areas of business, but it shows up very clearly in efforts to improve the top line. Most dramatically, it drives growth, helps the business move into new areas, and allows it to compete effectively—which requires quality software to be developed and deployed at a faster pace.

Additionally, while agile development and agile operations provide a solid platform to keep up with rapid change in business demands, organizations must zoom out from individual processes and silos to look at how everything works together and adopt an overarching agile and DevOps approach.

Modernization requires communication

Modern ways of working are crucial to building the kinds of IT and development environments that are required to compete in the digital age. However, an organization can only be as agile as its least flexible unit.

Making the whole business embrace agile and DevOps means bridging the gap among IT, development, and the rest of the business—and instituting a culture that supports these changes. IT teams will need to proactively engage with other areas of the business.

In return, those areas will need to bring IT into their initiatives early on. This culture of enhanced collaboration must be underpinned by meaningful, cross-functional communication at all levels of the company.

IT and development teams will then have an influential role in creating a truly agile business. Their experience will be key to helping businesses embrace the agile way and using DevOps to ensure customer success and stay competitive in the market.

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