Is Bimodal Development the New Normal in Software Delivery?

Posted by Steve Elliott on Sep 25, 2015 12:45:32 PM

Bimodal DevelopmentFor organizations in the process of transitioning to an Agile development methodology (or looking to adopt Agile), forcing a “big-bang” transition in which all parts of the organization simultaneously adopt Agile can often backfire.  In cases where the big bang approach fails, it typically results in a painful process that often requires multiple attempts to go Agile.  Transformations can go “at risk” when parts of the organization not ready to transition are forced to do so prematurely.  In my experience the odds of failing with a big bang approach go up dramatically when the transformation is being driven from the middle or bottom up.

As companies look to implement and ultimately scale agile initiatives, the question of what it means to “go Agile” inevitably comes up.

  • To transform, do companies need to instantly transition 100% of development teams, programs, and portfolios to an Agile approach (that’s “Agile” with a big “A”, meaning they follow an Agile methodology like Scrum, Lean, or XP)? Or, is there a place for traditional waterfall teams as organizations transition to a new Agile world?
  • If some teams remain waterfall (either on a temporary or permanent basis), how can the organization manage two simultaneous modes of development from a planning, building, analyzing and learning perspective?
  • Can an enterprise really be “agile” (with a small “a” meaning flexible and responsive) at the higher levels if only a portion of its teams, programs, or portfolios are practicing “Agile” with a big “A”?

Embracing a dual approach, in which different parts of the organization simultaneously develop software using both Agile and waterfall techniques, can serve to de-risk Agile transformations and ultimately accelerate adoption by allowing portions of the organization to maintain their legacy approach and adopt Agile with a staged approach.  Interestingly, this approach affords a unique opportunity to see quality and productivity results side by side to help build the case for Agile. 

At AgileCraft, our goal is to enable enterprise agility at scale. Some of our customers are fully Agile, however, the majority of enterprises are in a multi-year journey to stage their Agile adoption across the enterprise.  Many customers anticipate a future where most of the organization is Agile, but others have no plan to fully transform the entire enterprise and are only applying Agile where the need to release frequently is required to compete. 

Our goal is to meet organizations where they are in their Agile journey, making it easy to fully adopt our platform for all members of their team regardless of where they are in their transformation. Agile teams (whether they use scrum, lean, kanban, XP or any hybrid) and Agile programs/portfolios (whether they use SAFe, DAD, LeSS or any hybrid) use our Agile capabilities while Waterfall teams use our more traditional project planning capabilities. They key is that ALL team data and metrics must be rolled up for enterprise-level reporting and analytics.  This provides unified value measurement and full strategic alignment.

Gartner calls this mode of working “bimodal development”.  What do you think?  Is bimodal development the new normal in software delivery?



Topics: Scaled Agile