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The impact of hybrid project management

Hybrid project management is holding back companies' progress, although the pandemic has favoured agile. We show the key findings of a Forresters’ study. 

Agile scaling continues to be a challenge for companies, with many adopting both traditional waterfall and agile approaches. Hybrid project management is holding back companies' progress.

The impact of hybrid project management - main research findings 

  • According to Forresters’ research, there is a growing momentum among application developers to move to an agile way of working. The firm's Global State of Agile at Scale survey had a total of 152 respondents, with nearly 60% of them claiming to have started mostly medium-to-long-term (five-year) projects in an agile framework, compared to just 4% a decade ago. 
  • However, scale challenges remain. Only a quarter of survey respondents reported that their teams were "highly proficient" in agile practices, and only 17% felt that their companies were fully engaged and invested the necessary energy in agile transformation.  
  • Although Forrester found that in the two years since the last survey, a relatively large number of companies have moved back to traditional waterfall project management, the firm's analysts believe that the changes brought about by the pandemic will drive the wider adoption of agile practices in the next year.

The pandemic favoured the agile

Agile processes are closely linked to modern application development and are also prevalent in other areas of IT.  

However, adapting to the periodic recurring processes, team dynamics and overall flexibility that are central to the agile methodology remains a challenge for companies, even when they move beyond the initial phase of agile change and try to extend the agile methodology to the whole organisation or a larger unit. 

According to Forrester, commitment to agile remains particularly strong among application developers and customers who use applications. At more than half of the companies in Forrester's report, IT teams have already implemented daily scrum, iterative (periodic iterative) project development, continuous integration and delivery practices, and other key elements of agile development. 

According to Forresters’ vice president, even "anti-agile" teams before the pandemic have had to shift to more agile practices. "The pandemic proved to the anti-agile teams that they can accelerate the time to market for their technology innovations by working in an agile way," he said.


Small successes are the big incentive 

The accelerated move to cloud-based applications, and the use of platforms such as Webex, Zoom and Microsoft Teams, has helped overcome one of the main sources of resistance: people's fear of technology.  

Another factor driving agile adoption has been the success at the team level. "Many of the organizations we've spoken to have adopted agile and practices out of pocket," said Forrester's vice president. "Wins at the small product team level have often encouraged the entire organization to try to scale agile."


Hybrid project management - The two cannot go hand in hand

However, there are not only positive changes. There are still significant barriers to the adoption of agile at enterprise level in areas such as senior management, workplace culture and technology tools. According to a Forrester study, waterfall practices are down at 43% of companies surveyed, compared to 29% in 2019. 

There are a number of reasons for this decline, including the persistence of "two-space" approaches in which waterfall and agile practices coexist. Gardner described this as part of a "hybrid world".

"Some people who want to introduce agile are not able to do, because they still have waterfall projects in their organisation," said the vice-president. 

This is likely to change as teams and organisations adopt agile processes and managers become well-versed in the methodologies. "The biggest misconception is that you can adopt an agile culture without actually seeing what developers in other organisations have gone through to develop an agile culture," the VP pointed out.  

A more mature hybrid workforce can also be a catalyst for change, because as Gardner mentioned, the rate of agile projects will creep up when companies are able to fully adopt agile tools and technologies without the need for developers.


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