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Agile Maturity Assessments – Use Wisely or Not at All

by David Norton  |  April 20, 2017  |  Comments Off on Agile Maturity Assessments – Use Wisely or Not at All

Method and process people are like salespeople, first knocking on your door selling a new method,   then they are back with a framework, and finally, they turn up with an assessment model to complete the set. Might sound a bit harsh, but I used to be one, and got very good at jamming my foot in the door before my boss could close it.  We saw this pattern with structured methods,   object oriented development, and now with agile and DevOps.

This pattern in itself is not bad, quite the opposite it’s a sign that agile practices are maturing and becoming mainstream – which I think we would all agree is a good thing. However, we should be mindful of another pattern from the past, or more accurately an anti-pattern; confusing maturity assessments with the ultimate aim of delivering business value.

The assumption that if you have a high level of maturity against a given framework the business will succeed is wrong – in fact, it’s positively dangerous.

Achieving a high maturity level against CMMI, ITIL or equivalent agile model will not stop your business being disrupted or customers hating your product. You can have a world-class process and still fail.

This is not to say agile maturity assessments do not have value. Used correctly they can be a real source of insight into gaps and deficiencies within the organization. But they must never be allowed to become the primary benchmark of success or replace the most important indicator – business outcomes.

The other anti-pattern we must avoid is using a maturity model as a playbook that we slavishly follow implementing one practice after another in a linear fashion.  The values, principles and practices of Agile and DevOps interlock and reinforce each other in a way that makes it difficult to carry out a maturity assessment based on the assumptions of sequential progression.

Finally there is the organizational culture which is consistently cited by CIO’s as the major success factor for Agile and DevOps. This is notoriously difficult to assess beyond the high-level categorization (OCAI model, Kim Cameron and Robert Quinn for example).

So use maturity models like the athlete uses performance assessments, they can help and guide, but ultimately it’s their time on the track that counts.

Door-to-Door Methods Salesman


David Norton
Research Director
7 years at Gartner
25 years IT industry

In his role as research director with Gartner's application development and architecture team, David Norton supports clients by developing and delivering quality and timely research. Read Full Bio

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