Are DevOps and Agile Practices Taking Hold?
October 25, 2018

Mike Hughes
OutSystems

Organizations, big and small, are investing in DevOps and Agile approaches to continuously improve the efficiency, speed, and quality of their software. They recognize that the ability to identify and respond to digital innovation opportunities more quickly than competitors will determine if a company sinks or swims.

The open question is: how quickly are these approaches taking hold, and are they generating the kinds of returns organizations are expecting?

On an anecdotal basis, we've seen a certain amount of frustration from companies moving to DevOps and Agile. In a recent survey we commissioned on the state of application development, we learned some interesting things about Agile and DevOps.

Agile and DevOps Are Needed

What's going on? Judging by the numbers in the survey, Agile and DevOps practices are needed more than ever:

Demand for application development continues to climb. In organizations with 500 or more employees, 42 percent have 10 or more apps planned in 2018, and 21 percent have 25 or more. Larger companies have even more ambitious targets. Thirteen percent of companies with over 10,000 employees say they plan to develop 100 or more apps in 2018.

Development still takes a long time. For nearly half the respondents, the average time to deliver a web or mobile application is five months or more. Only 19 percent of respondents feel their organizations are happy with their speed of delivery, while 59 percent are either unhappy, somewhat unhappy, or neutral.

Backlogs aren't going away. Almost a third of respondents say they are not making much headway with their app dev backlogs. In some cases, the backlog is more than 10 apps.

Skilled developers are hard to find. 80 percent of respondents describe app dev talent as scarce, with hiring taking longer and costing more. 20 percent feel this applies particularly to mobile app dev skills, but 43 percent said they think all development skills are proving hard to hire.

Companies do see the need for improved application delivery, but they're still being slowed down by a series of factors. The top three challenges listed in the survey are integration with legacy systems, fuzzy and changing requirements, and the time necessary for testing and QA.

This situation is ripe for innovative, proven approaches like Agile and DevOps, and our survey shows that significant investments have been made in them. But another story is also being told.

The State of Agile and DevOps in 2018

Overall, according to the OutSystems State of Application Development 2018 report, 60 percent of organizations invested in Agile tools and services in the past year, and 40 percent increased their commitments to DevOps. These totals far exceed other digital innovation approaches — such as outsourcing a larger share of development, adopting design thinking and design sprint techniques, focusing on customer journey mapping, and pursuing lean UX. Clearly, Agile and DevOps have become industry standards.

But, while respondents are committing to the processes, a sizable percentage says their companies' adoption of the techniques are lagging. With Agile, nearly half of all respondents report that their organizations have made their way only to the first or second levels of a five-stage maturity scale. This means they believe their adoption lacks consistency and requires training to get everyone aligned or they have made some headway, but their processes are not fully defined nor are development and testing fully in sync yet.

With DevOps, more than half are stuck at the lower levels with outages, war rooms, blame, unplanned work, and delays, or they have been thinking about cultural change, are starting to write scripts, and looking at test automation. A smaller percentage have achieved automated builds and cross-functional teams, are product-focused and have cultural change underway.

It's not all bad news, though. In the case of Agile, there were respondents who reported they had teams using well-defined Agile processes. Others reported they were at the fourth stage, measuring code quality and other key measures. And there were others who had reached Agile nirvana: consistent delivery across teams, and self-organized, sustainable, continuous improvement based on KPIs. In the DevOps realm, some reported happy people, an integrated tool chain that preempts failure, automated test and deployment, and continuous delivery. And some even said that DevOps is done, fine-tuned, and tied tightly to business goals.

The fact that there are a significant number of respondents that have advanced beyond the 2.5 mark on the maturity scales for Agile and DevOps indicates that more are on the way.

Will Low-Code Advance More Companies in Agile and DevOps Maturity?

One area of the app development landscape that's making progress year by year is the use of low-code development platforms. The report reinforces the opinion that low-code is no longer just for innovators and early adopters.

43 percent of respondents say their organization is either already using a low-code platform or about to start using one. Responses showed that low-code users are happier with app dev speed than those using more conventional development environments, more likely to deliver applications faster, encountering fewer backlogs, and less likely to face renegade instances of shadow IT.

Low-code users also rate their DevOps and Agile maturity higher than those not using these platforms. What we've found is that low-code and modern development approaches tend to work hand in hand. To facilitate faster and more streamlined development processes, organizations adopt DevOps practices and develop new strategies to give more control to line-of-business users. Low-code platforms facilitate these practices, helping to eliminate backlogs, overcome resource constraints, integrate with anything, and simplify DevOps toolscapes.

Conclusion

While business factors are driving demand for digital transformation more than ever, the move to Agile and DevOps processes is advancing slowly. Organizations are implementing the right tools and plotting roadmaps for enterprise-wide adoption. They're just moving cautiously, working to ramp up skills, programs, and toolsets. We expect the pace to hasten. Adoption is already picking up with companies using low-code platforms. In future reports, we'll probably see Agile and DevOps practices mature even more, fueling transformation efforts across the landscape.

Mike Hughes is Principal Platform Evangelist at OutSystems

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