Driving Process Improvement Via Comparative Agility Assessment

Rather than striving to be “perfectly agile,” some organizations desire to be more agile than their competition and/or the industry. The Comparative Agility™ (CA) assessment tool can be used to aid organizations in determining their relative agility compared with other teams who responded to CA. The results of CA can be used by a team to guide process improvement related to the use of agile software development practices. This paper provides an overview of industry trends in agility based upon 1,235 CA respondents in a range of domains and geographical locations. Additionally, the paper goes further in depth on the results of four industrial teams who responded to the CA, explaning why their results were relatively high or low based upon experiences with the teams. The paper also discusses the resultant process improvement reactions and plans of these teams subsequent to reviewing their CA results. Organizations primarily strive to beat out their competition rather than to be “perfect”. Some organizations may adopt agile practices to improve their ability to more rapidly and affordably create high quality products and services in their quest to obtain advantage over their competitors. These organizations do not pursue agility for the sake of being “perfectly” agile. Rather, these organizations strive to be more agile than their competition and other industrial organizations because of beliefs they have about the benefits of being agile. How agile is agile enough? Hypothetically, an organization may be aware that their teams are struggling with the adoption of the test-driven development (TDD) [1] practice that is commonly associated with agile software development. This organization may be comforted if it knew that industry trends indicate low adoption of TDD. Conversely, the organization may heighten its intensity in adopting TDD if, instead, its adoption is lagging behind that of other industrial organizations. The Comparative Agility™ (CA) assessment tool developed by the second two authors, as will be explained in Section II, was created to aid organizations in understanding how their agile adoption compares with others’ agile adoption. As such, teams can use CA as a vehicle for process improvement. In this paper, we share industry trends in agile adoption based upon 1,235 CA respondents in a range of domains and geographical locations. We provide additional insight on these industry trends by sharing survey results and observations of 119 respondents from four industrial teams working in one large US company. The teams were provided detailed comparison with industry trends. The teams were able to utilize the CA results to guide in process improvement. Section II provides information about the CA assessment instrument. Section III briefly compares CA with two other assessment instruments. Section IV provides contextual information on survey respondents and on the industrial teams. Section V presents and explains survey responses.

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