Members of the Agile Research Network in collaboration with a researcher from Sintef, Norway, organised the First International Workshop on Agile Transformation, at XP2019, Montreal, May 2019.
In order to increase their ability to sense, respond and learn, organisations are up-scaling their use of agile. Agile ways of working are used in larger projects and also in organisational units outside IT. The first international workshop on agile transformation, aimed to focus research on practice in a field which currently receives great attention.
While the implementation of agile methods traditionally has been studied at team level, adopting agile practices across the organisation is widening this perspective and has been labelled “agile transformation”. Research has discussed three main areas of such transformations. First, challenges and success factors in the transformation process; second, changes in roles and practices that occur during such transformations; and third, models for understanding agile transformations. As an emerging research field, there are many understandings of what agile transformation is; also, current empirical studies tend to be descriptive and place little emphasis on theory to explain findings. This was the motivation to host the first international workshop on agile transformation.
The goal of the workshop was to challenge the scientific community to identify what should be of prime interest to researchers in the area of agile transformation, as there are growing opportunities to study them as companies increasingly adopt agile .
The participants in the workshop proposed different definitions for agile transformation as shown below; the terms ‘culture’, ‘reactive/responsiveness to change’ and ‘continuous improvement’ figured in several of them.
Table 1. Some of the definitions of agile transformation gathered at the workshop.
“an individual’s, team’s, group’s and organisation’s journey into continuous improvements changing the way we do business, meet our goals and overcome our challenges by being more flexible, targeting smaller goals and providing continuous delivery, feedback and learning the process which evolves an organisation to be more reactive to changes in its environment”
“digital transformation -> agile becomes larger (programs, portfolios) and more important; also becomes more complex, needs alignment with other units that are not traditionally agile; change in leadership and management”
“a people-centred approach to improving business outputs in the context of its environment the process undertaken to develop capabilities that will allow for flexibility in responding to a changing environment and continuous improvement”
“a path from adopting agile practices to establishing agile culture”
“transform from rather rigid structures, processes and hierarchy to a more network organisation with increased knowledge, understanding and collaboration across boundaries to im- prove a company’s reaction to external change in order to improve performance referring to effectiveness”
“shift towards practices that enable organisational responsiveness”
“agile – iterative, incremental, collaborative, effects/results/outcomes-driven transformation – continuous improvement from where you are towards the Agile values and principles”
Participants also ranked their motivation for agile transformation after a scale taken from the state of agile survey; the top three reasons were: ‘improve business/IT alignment’, ‘enhance ability to managing changing priorities’ and ‘accelerate software delivery’;
Participants were also asked to rank success factors and challenges presented (slightly modified from , based on own knowledge of transformation projects. They ranked the top three success factors to be: ‘changing organisational culture’, ‘leadership’ and ‘engaging people’. The top three Challenges were: ‘Hierarchical management and organizational boundaries’, ‘Integrating non-development functions’ and ‘resistance to change.
This was a very successful workshop with attendants wanting us to repeat it in future conference. This workshop showed that the research community is interested in continuing studies on agile transformations, and that there is a growing body of studies on which to build up. We hope the initial research agenda developed at the workshop will inspire future studies.
 K. Dikert, M. Paasivaara, and C.
Lassenius, “Challenges and success factors for large-scale agile
transformations: A systematic literature review,” J. Syst. Softw., vol.
119, pp. 87–108, 2016.