Agile and DevOps are failing in Fortune 500 companies.

May 10, 2017

Mistruths promoting the cure-all, Agile and DevOps, hurt everyone seeking a truly better way to deliver software.ING begun its agile transformation in 2010 with just three teams practicing agile. After seeing the success of those first three teams, ING transformed its entire development organization to Agile in 2011. While the transformation was deemed a success, ING found it wasn’t making much difference to the business, so it began forming its first DevOps teams. By 2014 ING executives felt that they weren’t receiving the benefits from Agile and DevOps for which they had hoped.

The danger of high-functioning Agile and DevOps teams as told by a Fortune 500 CIO and COO.

ING Netherlands chief information officer Peter Jacobs and chief operating officer Bart Schlatmann explained that when ING had fully reaped the gains of their Agile transformation, they discovered that those gains weren’t translating to business outcomes because traditional software delivery practices were erasing the efficiencies of Agile software development. Similarly, when they transformed software delivery to DevOps they discovered that the business wasn’t organized to take advantage of the gains from Agile or DevOps.

The mistruth that is harmful is that the benefits of Agile software development or DevOps software delivery will be fully realized by the business and end users without further changes to the entire organization.

Stories like the one above are quite common in Fortune 500 companies who bought into the Agile and DevOps craze. What isn’t so common is what they did next.

Cultural challenges are common in enterprise Agile and DevOps, but ING knew there had to be some way to minimize these conflicts.

The number one barrier to agile success is company culture at odds with core agile values, according to the State of Agile Report. Whereas most enterprise executives choose to believe there is only so far that Agile and DevOps can take a Fortune 500 organization, Jacobs and Schlatmann choose to look at what tech “unicorns” such as Google, Zappos, Spotify, and Netflix were doing.“We came to the realization that, ultimately, we are a technology company operating in the financial-services business. So, we asked ourselves where we could learn about being a best-in-class technology company. The answer was not other banks, but real tech firms.”-       Peter Jacobs ING Netherlands CIO

What all of those “unicorns” have in common are flat organizations with small teams that are responsible for a product or feature, including receiving feedback from their customers and guiding the future of the product. ING decided to transform its business to be more agile.

You can’t be Agile and traditional; there’s no cherry picking with enterprise agility

ING realized that it wasn’t working to embrace Agile and DevOps in development and IT, while maintaining its existing management structure.

"What you can’t do — and this is what I see many people do in other companies — is start to cherry pick from the different building blocks. For example, some people formally embrace the agile way of working but do not let go of their existing organizational structure and governance. That defeats the whole purpose and only creates more frustration."-       Peter Jacobs ING Netherlands CIO

ING reorganized into 350 nine-person teams called squads comprised of marketing specialists, product and commercial specialists, user-experience designers, data analysts, and IT engineers. ING’s squads aren’t just self-sufficient from software development and delivery standpoint; they are also self-sufficient from a business and management standpoint.

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Agile Companies - ING Agile Transformation

ING Agile Transformation Teams Structure[/caption]

The squads are part of large teams called tribes. Tribes ensure that the smaller squads are aligned from a portfolio planning perspective. Since implementing this new structure in 2015, ING has improved time to market, boosted employee engagement, and increased productivity.

You can’t continuously deliver without continuous testing; there’s no cherry picking in DevOps either

According to Gartner 70% of the IT market is focusing on DevOps and another study found that 88% of organizations have adopted agile, but only 26% of organizations have broadly adopted test automation.

The focus of many Agile and DevOps conversations revolve around accelerating delivery, but executives don’t want to accelerate delivery at the cost of decreased quality, increased risk, and worse compliance.

Software testing, while often underappreciated, is arguably the most crucial step to get right with Agile and DevOps. Testing has been shown to take more than 50% percent of the development time. Testing organizations have a huge impact on your delivery speed. They have an even bigger impact on quality, risk, and compliance.One automation opportunity often overlooked in continuous delivery is tightly integrating not only your test management system with your ALM, but also tightly integrating test environment management. When you add a user story to a sprint it should kickoff process in both your test management systems and test environment software. For example, a tester would receive the requirements and get tasks to create test cases. At the same time, a test environment would be scheduled to be provisioned with the appropriate requirements.


As Agile has matured, we continue to break new barriers. There was a time not so long ago that the biggest companies in the world had embraced Agile, but said DevOps couldn’t be done in the enterprise. According to Gartner 70% of the IT market is now focusing on DevOps.

So, now traditional enterprise companies are embracing both Agile and DevOps, but say continuous testing isn’t for the enterprise. But, it will be the ones like ING who say it can be done that lead us into the future.

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