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CIOs say yes to agile, no to traditional methods

02 Oct 2015

CIOs are increasingly turning to agile software development methodologies to meet the demands of evolving digital businesses, because traditional project and development methods are not sufficient, according to Gartner.

However, Gartner warns that successful adoption of agile will occur “only if the CIO and the entire IT management team are dedicated to the culture change that is necessary."

Nathan Wilson, Gartner research director, says, "Done well, agile development can be an integral part of the portfolio of methods that the CIO uses to deal with increasing business demand for innovation.

“Done badly, agile development will create a lot more problems than it solves."

According to Gartner, agile development is a set of methodologies for software development that share a common philosophy but are sharply distinguished in the details of their implementations, and therefore tend to be adapted to different sorts of problems.

"Sophisticated organisations with a lot of experience may well use more than one of these approaches, but an organisation that is getting started should select one approach and master it before attempting other approaches," the analysts say.

Gartner says a successful agile implementation will have impacts well beyond software development teams.

"An integral component of the agile methodologies is the concept of 'continuous delivery'.

“Agile methodologies are predicated on continuous engagement with business managers and users, and lead to the delivery of a continuous stream of new and modified software into the operational environment.

“This demands significant changes in working practices for both business governance and relationship management and the infrastructure and operations teams,” Gartner says.

Furthermore, the full benefits of agile cannot be achieved without engaging with business leaders, management and the user community.

If the rest of the business does not have an immediate appetite for working in a new way, careful planning and communication will be needed to bring different communities of managers and users on board, Gartner says.

The analysts say that agile is not an all-or-nothing approach: "Agile is not better; it is simply better-adapted to some problems, but not so well-adapted to others.”

However, where agile is used it must be fully embraced.

"Agile methods are highly systematic. Every component element of the methodology is crucial to the success of the methodology," Gartner says.

"A common mistake is for an organisation to embrace some elements of an agile methodology, such as the sprint, but to ignore or play down other elements, such as managing 'technical debt'.

“Such organisations enjoy the kudos that comes from rapid development and release of new code, but they are storing up trouble by failing to address technical debt."

With these points in mind, Gartner says, "Agile methods have the capability to transform IT-business relationships and have a major positive impact on IT value delivery."

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