Agile Maturity Model: Measure and Improve Agility

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An agile maturity assessment is an exercise/tool to evaluate the current state of agile maturity and check on how successful the agile implementation is in an organization. The Agile maturity model clearly captures the areas for improvement and establishes goals to upscale the way your team works to adapt to business changes efficiently.

Agile adoption statistics show the significant growth of 86% in Agile adoption within software development teams. However, if you have a close look based on the research, the overwhelming percentage of organizations are not implementing the core agile principles and values correctly.

Many common barriers in terms of cultural clashes, absence of leadership participation, and organizational resistance to change are seen across the organizations that have remained unchanged for the past several years.

Why Assess the Agile Maturity of Your Company?

Understanding Agile maturity is an important first step to take before you can plan for a transformation. In my journey of conducting maturity assessments for organizations, one of the key observations I have noticed is the inability to rapidly adapt to market and adhoc changes in a productive and cost-efficient manner.

The common tendency of people is to take agility as an excuse for no planning, no roadmap, no discipline, and no documentation. At times, managing the adhoc changes may introduce an element of risk to the process integrity and performance of the project.

With such an uncertain future, it is necessary to build the Agile culture and mindset embedded with better understanding, collaboration, flexibility, and learning to meet the customer’s needs with improved quality and speed to market.

Hence, it is important to assess and continually improve your company’s agile maturity by assessing the various agile focus areas and agile practices implemented by the organization.

Challenges often seen in Agile Adoption

  • Culture and mindset shift are the greatest challenge, especially with higher levels of leadership.
  • Org structure is a traditional hierarchy focused on delivery.
  • When delivery pressure rises, the team’s ability to learn and mature in their agility is left behind.
  • The command and control structures are so deeply rooted, it takes patience and time to mold individual mindsets.
  • Executives often mention to ‘be agile’ but don’t budge on their expectations.
  • Management / Leadership not willing to accept the change.

Let’s have a look at the 15th annual State of Agile Report, an annual survey conducted on Agile techniques and practices. This year’s report clearly highlights the important milestones along Agile’s journey from its origins in software development teams to its current widescale enterprise adoption.

Company Experience With Agile

Source- https://digital.ai/resource-center/analyst-reports/state-of-agile-report

The key challenges organizations face when adopting Agile have remained largely unchanged for the past several years. Challenges with organizational culture, resistance to change, and lack of support and skills continue to be problems.

Source- https://digital.ai/resource-center/analyst-reports/state-of-agile-report

Based on the survey, the Agile Coaching report 2022 highlights the challenges noticed across the Agile practices and techniques mentioned below –Agile Coaching report 2022

Source- State-Of-Agile-Coaching-Report-2022-Final.pdf

Agile Maturity Model- Problems & Challenges

The demand from organizations to assess the projects and evaluate them in an agile state has been increasing considerably. There is a critical need to assist/guide organizations in improving their agile capability and providing a transformation roadmap to achieve scaled agility.

Agile concepts are usually misinterpreted or “agile” is used as an excuse for being undisciplined by some organizations. However, we often see major concerns about identifying how far the organizations are “agile” and how they can improve on it.

The maturity level for one of the sample projects shown below depicts the current agility state of a project with a maturity rating of 3.16. The Agile process was considered as a separate sub-focus area instead of having an all-inclusive Agile framework model. The Agile process is comprised of generic questions on Agile practices, product backlogs, and sprint ceremonies.

Focus AreasCurrent Rating
Governance1.82
Configuration Management2.58
Test Metrics0.5
Agile Process3.16

Test Governance Maturity

Some of the common challenges observed were lack of communication, no quality measurement, changing requirements, and continuous testing. The current model was unable to drill down to understand the real root cause and define the appropriate transformation roadmap.

A few issues observed in the current approach were that some of the vital areas mentioned below were ignored as a part of the Agile assessment.

  • How is the Leadership commitment, learning culture in the organization?
  • Does the team continuously improve the flow of value as a part of Team collaboration?
  • Are people organized into cross-functional Agile teams as a part of cross skill Agile teams?
  • Does the team understand the benefits of maintaining healthy backlog?
  • How is the Engineering maturity- built in Quality?
  • How is the delivery maturity?
  • Does the team Inspect and Adapt?

The existing approach does not seem to cover all the principles and values for gauging the right agility state and defining the future roadmap and transformation approach to bring about continuous improvement.

The right analysis and benchmarking to derive the agile state of an organization has always been a challenge. The different implementation levels and maturity across every focus area are missing to derive the right agility state of the organization.

Thus, it became very essential to revamp and revise the pillars and the sub-focus areas in the Agile Maturity Assessment model.

Cigniti’s Agile Maturity Assessment Model

Cigniti’s new Agile framework has been developed to bring about engineering excellence, demand flow, and ownership and move the project to product. The Agile Maturity assessment is based on the adoption of Agile values, principles, concepts, and artifacts.

Our new assessment approach will help in benchmarking the Agile engineering process and bring about a continuous improvement in the entire workflow from start to finish.

The Agile New Framework is an end-to-end framework built on best practices and industry standard models which helps in assessing the projects based on the Agile key principles, processes, practices, tools, and skills to transform the organization to a high maturity ‘Scale Agile’ state.

Cigniti’s Agile new framework is built on the 10 defined Agile pillars to assess the overall maturity of the Agile practices implemented as shown below.

S. NoAgile PillarsDescription
1Culture and MindsetLeadership commitment, Agile mindset and Learning
2Agile TeamsAgile org structure, Team collaboration and Cross skills
3Backlog ManagementProduct backlog, Sprint backlog, Story quality/health
4Planning & CommitmentAgile Ceremonies and Team commitment
5Agile PracticesAgile Process, Agile Governance, Tools and Measurement, Agile Metrics
6Engineering MaturityBuilt in Quality
7Focus on AutomationAutomation Strategy, Reporting and Maintenance
8Delivery MaturityAgile development, continuous testing in CI/CD pipeline, Continuous Security and Continuous Feedback
9Continuous ImprovementPlan and Execute improvement and Customer Centricity/Satisfaction
10Inspect and AdaptContinuous Feedback and Retrospectives

 

Sub focus areas across each pillarSub focus areas across each pillar

Assessment Questionnaire

Now let’s have a look at how to derive the maturity level of the organization. A set of questions covering the key aspects across each agile pillar has been defined to derive the agility health of an organization.

The implementation level is marked across each question based on the state in which the project lies, as mentioned in the implementation level description.

ScoreImplementation LevelImplementation Levels Description
5ExpertNever Misses, Excel at it, Part of basic culture, never fails, Doing for longtime
4Fully ImplementedAlways performed, Audited, rarely missed, Metric driven, Mandatory
3Largely ImplementedMost of the Time, Process driven, Needs little maintenance, Almost there
2Minimally ImplementedSometimes, rarely done, people driven, not audited
1Not ImplementedNot performed, needs to be included
NANot ApplicableOut of scope, Not Sure

 

Cigniti’s detailed questionnaire has 480 points of inquiry, which collates responses and scores the ‘10 Agile pillars’.

Analysis & Outcome

Snapshot of sample maturity and pillar-wise break-up below

Maturity and Pillar-Wise Break-Up

Agile PillarsCurrent Maturity
Culture and Mindset4.2
Agile Teams4.3
Backlog Management5
Planning & Commitment4
Agile Practices3.7
Engineering Maturity1.4
Focus on Automation4.1
Delivery Maturity4.1
Continuous Improvement1
Inspect and Adapt3.7

 

The average maturity rating and the overall maturity level are derived, and the project is stated as Adhoc Agile, Doing Agile, Being Agile, Excel Agile, or Fully Agile based on the evaluation performed on the current state of the project.Agile Maturity LevelsMeasure, Improve, Accelerate your Agility

The Agile pillars mentioned for the new framework address all the focus areas and help with consistent delivery across the distributed teams and adapt to the new changes in an efficient manner.

The key deliverables based on the assessment will be the current gaps and recommendations, overall maturity rating, recommendations, and roadmap for improving Agile maturity and improving the quality, efficiency, and predictability in delivering value.

Conclusion

Measure the state of agility and discover the strengths and areas to improve. Grow the maturity of the individuals and teams and change the culture of your organization. Assessments will turn out to be more beneficial and provide good outcomes only when the key essentials such as culture and mindset, effective communication, the right attitude, willingness to change, and team collaboration are followed by the teams.

Improve your ability to adapt to change. Get insights on how to optimize your processes and tools. If you wish to know the agile state of your organization, then you could do a quick assessment using the same model that has been described above.

Need help? Consult our Advisory & Transformation Services domain experts to learn more about measuring and improving agility using Cigniti’s Agile Maturity Model.

Author

  • Nikita Kannan works as a Senior Consultant for the Advisory & Transformation Services team at Cigniti Technologies. A professional engineer with 15 years of multiple industry domain experience as a Project Manager, Scrum Master and Test Process consultant. Conducted maturity assessments based on CMMi/TMMi standards and designed the transformation roadmap, the QA framework along with the implementation for multiple clients.

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