Most UK organisations struggle with similar agile and DevOps challenges related to culture, skills gaps and leadership alignment, global study reveals

CA Technologies (NASDAQ:CA) today announced the results of a global study of 1,279 IT and business leaders, including 466 across six countries in Europe, which reveals that 76% of UK organisations agree agile and DevOps deliver greater business success when implemented together than each on its own.

However, the study, ‘How Agile and DevOps Enable Digital Readiness and Transformation’, conducted by IT industry analyst firm Freeform Dynamics, also finds that many UK organisations are struggling with challenges – including culture, skills, programme investment and leadership alignment – and are subsequently missing out on the extensive benefits these practices bring to the bottom line.

“The adoption of agile and DevOps across the entire organisation provides the flexibility to pivot at speed and respond to changing customer demands, user expectations, regulatory change and, most importantly, market opportunities,” says Fleur Bamber, UKI Director, Agile, CA Technologies. “The take-up of agile and DevOps among UK organisations must also be business-driven, integrated across teams, iterative and use the right analytics and feedback loops enabling fail-fast and continuous improvement – everywhere.”

‘Agile Masters’ experience significant advantages over their ‘Mainstream’ counterparts in Europe

The study showcases the characteristics of ‘Agility Masters’, the top 14% of European organisations that score highly on their breadth, depth and consistency of agile and DevOps use. These organisations experience significant advantages over their ‘Mainstream’ counterparts (data below applies to all European organisations). They include:

  • 57% higher rate of revenue growth
  • 43% higher rate of profit growth
  • x2.6 more likely to be growing revenue at a rate of over 20%
  • x2.4 more likely that company’s culture and practices support collaboration across development, operations and IT security
  • x2.3 more likely for the software team to be well aligned with the strategic goals of the business
  • x2.2 more likely for the company to understand customers’ needs

Most UK Organisations Committed to the Full Adoption of Agile and DevOps Practices

Development teams in UK organisations are transforming the way they work. According to the study, 83% of UK organisations are committed to the adoption of continuous delivery (the highest figure in Europe), 84% are committed to the full adoption of agile methods and 68% are committed to the full adoption of DevOps. Moreover, 84% either widely or partly employ agile within their development teams. And the value of agile is becoming more widely appreciated. For example, 79% say agile is improving or will improve the overall customer experience, 76% agree it has or will have a positive impact on speeding innovation and time-to-market and 75% believe it is having or will have a positive impact in reducing IT costs.

The study shows that agile practices are used in different parts of the business. For instance, 87% of UK organisations are widely or partly exploiting agile for development or product research, 78% for customer service/support and 78% for their sales organisation.

Challenges abound when it comes to improving software development effectiveness

UK organisations are plagued by similar challenges when it comes to improving the effectiveness of their software development projects: principally culture, skills, programme investment and leadership alignment. The research highlights a widespread recognition that implementing agile and DevOps practices across the software lifecycle is not just a matter of new skills and working patterns. For some, it also requires a significant shift in mindset and behaviour and making those changes is very much a people issue – even at a senior executive level. Among the top priorities to improve effectiveness identified by UK respondents include:

  • Improve the culture of the organisation so it encourages and rewards collaboration (79%)
  • Receive more support and commitment from management at all levels (79%, the joint lowest score in Europe with Switzerland)
  • Training for IT teams on how to collaborate and incorporate best practices into their day-to-day jobs (72%)
  • Create more resources to help implement agile and DevOps practices (70%)
  • Relieve time pressures so teams can implement effective agile and DevOps practices (76%)

Finding professionals with the right skills is also an issue in the UK – but less the case than in other European countries.Some 61% of UK organisations found it difficult to find professionals that were familiar with agile methods, for example, and 70% struggled to find professionals with DevOps experience. Meanwhile, 66% agreed it was difficult to find staff with collaborative cross-team working experience (second lowest figure in Europe after Germany). This indicates a skills gap for the majority of organisations, which requires resources, especially training, to be made available.

Indeed, the Chief Architect/CTO of a retail business interviewed for the study commented, “Raising the capability of the engineering team through a well-crafted careers development programme will allow us to continue to recruit and retain high calibre individuals”.

Connecting Execution to Business Outcomes

The connection between agile, DevOps and business outcomes centres around the continuous feedback loop connecting the customer experience to the requirements engineering – showing how well software delivery is performing and supporting the business itself. So, to further reap the benefits of agile and DevOps, UK organisations must also leverage the responsiveness and flexibility offered by cloud, containers and other new code design and delivery architectures, with 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.

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