Organizations are increasingly adopting agile software development methodologies through a combination of bottom-up adoption and top-down change. However, the reality of agile adoption has diverged from the original ideas described in the Agile Manifesto, with many adoptions resembling what Forrester labels water-Scrum-fall.

This happens in part because agile adoption has been practitioner-led, leading teams to focus on domains they can influence, mainly the team itself. Areas outside of their control, such as project planning and release management, continue to follow more-traditional approaches, meaning that Scrum adoption is limited to the development team. That team is presented with a detailed project plan and a set of requirements that it then works through, incrementally delivering software (but not to production) as the production release process runs at a different cadence.

While this model is not inherently bad, application development professionals need to carefully consider and make the right decisions about where the lines fall between water-Scrum and Scrum-fall. Otherwise, they are unlikely to realize agile’s business benefits, such as faster time-to-market, increased business value, and improved flexibility and responsiveness.

In recent research, Forrester offers the following advice to help organizations manage the water-Scrum and Scrum-fall boundaries to increase agility:

Water defines the upfront work
Governance rules require many organizations to define requirements and plans before starting work. In some companies, these plans form the basis of a contract between the business and IT that defines project direction, timeline and budget.

One vice president of development framed this in conversations with Forrester, saying: “We have to spend time upfront with the business building the requirements and plans to ensure that we know what they want, and they know how long it is going to take and how much it is going to cost. The problems start when the business does not know what they want or the architecture is new to us.”

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