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The State of Agile, and 5 Agile business trends to look out for

The world is changing at lightning speed, but are companies moving just as fast? What about Agile adoption? Which companies are ahead and which are falling behind? And how can a different way of working support business trends? Find out here! Xebia Consultants Ellen Barree, Rik de Groot, and Tom Siebeneicher discuss the current state of Agile and trends to watch out for. 

Let's take a look at Agile's evolution! 

It all started with early adopters switching from a waterfall approach to Agile. Then, more companies followed as digitalization forced them to become more responsive. "Today's adoption rates are steadily increasing, with one difference. Just working Agile isn't enough anymore. Dutch companies really want to excel at being agile," says Rik de Groot, Principle Agile Consultant at Xebia. 

How does the Netherlands differ from other countries?

Tom Siebeneicher, Agile Transformation Consultant at Xebia: "Across Europe, you'll find significant differences in Agile adoption. We've noticed that many companies whose mothership is in the US are falling behind because their culture makes it difficult for them to flatten their organization." Rik adds, "To become more responsive, you have to allow decision-making on lower levels, but not all companies are ready for that. As a result, hierarchy is holding them back." 

Other reasons adoption levels differ:

  • Publicly-traded companies prioritize shareholder value over customer or community value.
  • Companies overwhelmed by enormous growth resort to stringent management and processes.
  • Companies that emphasize individual over group results struggle to adopt an Agile approach because Agile focuses on what people accomplish together.
  • The fact that some industries simply aren't super flexible.

Which Agile business trends should we keep a keen eye on? 

1. Becoming data-driven means changing the way you work! 

If a company wants to use data to enable continuous innovation and accelerate decision-making, it must also change how it works. For example, if you're using data and AI to become super responsive, but your planning is still per annum, you're not leveraging the value of data. In addition, a data-driven company will need more problem solvers and creative thinkers. And these are precisely the skills for which there is much more room in an Agile setup!

Ellen Barree, Management Consultant Transformation, Organization Development & Culture Change at Xebia, adds: "Converting an immense amount of data into business value requires a new set of capabilities. Clients ask us for a new (Agile) structure, culture, and mindset that'll help them maximize the benefits of being data-driven. We believe extensive automation and robotization will have the same effect on required skills and ways of working."

2. Responsiveness is the biggest differentiator

What determines if a company can survive (and thrive) is whether it can react to what is happening in the market at the right time. In other words, responsiveness. How quickly can you change the design of an item in response to customer feedback? Some companies can do it in weeks, while others take months.

Agile gives organizations all the ingredients they need to become more responsive. Ellen: "In an ecosystem that changes rapidly, you need an Agile setup. This is especially true in the digital world. Companies need to organize for success, which requires the adoption of Agile (elements). Agile is not restricted to only modern and digital organizations. We see that more traditional organizations also have this need to change and are asking for our help on how agility can help them adapt to changing circumstances."

3. Custom Agile

Rik: "At one point, there was an Agile hype. Many companies tried textbooks Scrum and Agile, but it didn't always work out. They now care less about methods or frameworks, as long as what they do makes them more resilient. For these companies, we create a custom Agile approach. Other cases include: 

  • Smaller companies, often start-ups, are okay with a simple Agile setup until they start to grow. Then a custom approach is inevitable.
  • Companies that face challenges for which Agile has no standard solution, like working with many different nationalities, a distributed way of working, or complex value chains. 
  • For global, fast-growing companies that need to scale, SAFe is still prevalent. But, we're also seeing organizations choose the best of both worlds with a mix of Spotify, SAFe, or other Agile practices. 

4. A new array of leadership challenges

In addition to ongoing challenges, such as diversity and inclusiveness, working with different generations (gen-gap), and running an international workforce, the rise of remote working is presenting managers with additional concerns.

How do you give meaning to shared leadership, place decision-making low in the organization, introduce self-management and long-distance ecosystems, and keep Gen-Z motivated? Today's leaders are under enormous pressure, and greater adaptability (through Agile) can help!

Rik adds, "Nowadays, it's not enough to offer young professionals a cool job. You have to constantly do and provide more. Creating an atmosphere that attracts and encourages professionals to grow is essential. Agile is great for creating such a stimulating environment."  

5. Prioritize customer value

Ellen: "Because today's customer is empowered, has any time, anywhere access to information, and is less loyal, companies need to be -and this is the core of Agile- consumer-driven. This involves more than putting a customer journey on paper. You must understand the market and focus less on shareholder value and more on customer and community value."

Rik adds: "In the '90s, we strived to be customer-centric, but that's not what we mean here. That implied that you did whatever your customer asked, and that's not smart. Instead, today's Agile companies know very well what their customers want and to what extent they can deliver it. They don't promise to change the world. Instead, they do a great job at making services easier, friendlier, faster, or more personal."

What's next?

You've noticed that working Agile is always on the move. Maybe our business trends have set some wheels in motion. Whether you're interested in setting up Agile transformation within your organization, learning more about scaling Agile, or following an Agile training course, we've got you covered!

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