tl;dr See the raw data for yourself: These tweets are defining the future of software development.

One of the first steps in improving any product is talking to customers. But how do you go about improving a process? Or even a methodology? What if this methodology is used in thousands of ways by millions of people?

These were some of the very questions we asked ourselves when looking into the current state of agile software development. Agile is enormously popular, but how well is it actually working? How could it be improved? We decided to dive into into our research the same way a product manager would: by talking to customers. And thus the #RetroOnAgile was born: An open, global conversation about how agile is working today and what the future might hold.

First, we spoke to over 750 agile practitioners at Web Summit, the largest technology conference on the planet. After collecting thousands of responses there, and seeing incredible enthusiasm for the project, we decided to ask the rest of the world. So far, over 1,000 more people have taken to Twitter to share the challenges and triumphs they’ve experienced through their own agile journeys. And we’re just getting started.

After two months immersed in feedback, we’re excited to share some of what we’ve learned. We know that understanding the present and past is a huge part of building a great future, and with our #RetroOnAgile we’re doing just that. Needless to say, we can’t wait to be a part of agile’s future.

1. One size doesn’t fit all

If you speak with someone at a conference or meetup, they’ll most likely tell you that they their team does Scrum or Kanban. But, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll quickly uncover unique processes, tools, and ideas that they’ve added in or taken out. In fact, 92% of #RetroOnAgile participants said their agile practice is custom to their team and not “by the book.” This discrepancy between people saying they do “Scrum,” and what they actually do, is a problem for the industry. It leads newcomers to agile believing that Scrum and Kanban are their only two options, and that the many rules and processes for each methodology must followed to see success. This trend is even evident in most agile tooling, Jira Software included. Often tools will offer teams two options when setting up their agile board: Scrum and Kanban, which only further perpetuates this cycle.

In response to this trend, the Jira team has been designing and testing an entirely board experience: the agility board. Agility boards don’t presume teams want to use Scrum or Kanban, but instead leave the board configuration fully in the hands on the user and the team. The focus, as the name suggests, is on providing teams with the agility to quickly discover their own custom agile process.

How is your agile process customized? Join the hundreds of other responses here.

2. Play, as a team

You might work with a team of all-stars, but nothing is going to get done until everyone starts playing as a team. 68% of #RetroOnAgile participants said good team dynamic is far and away the most important factor in building a successful agile team.

Magical team dynamic =
Trust, that your team mates will give 100% to everything they do +
Openness, to give feedback and be transparent when stuff doesn’t go as planned +
Flexibility, being able to roll with the punches and move forward +
Respect, treating others the way you want to be treated +
Humor, throw in the hilarious cat gif, go for the pun, humor builds trust!

Does your team play well as a team? Tell us what you like (or dislike) about the way your team works now. Don’t be shy, add your thoughts directly to our board!

3. Transparency is key

Some participants like, dare we say even love, the transparency of their team. The other half wished their agile team was more transparent. But what does transparency on a team actually look like? For some teams, it means all team member calendars are on “public.” For others it means that sharing things being worked on and asking for open, honest feedback. And other teams told us that it means an honest status update, even when things are behind schedule.

From what we’ve heard in our #RetroOnAgile, a transparent agile process is often as simple as working on a single Kanban board so that collaborating teams can see dependencies, and running retrospectives where the good, bad, and ugly are called out in an honest way so that the team can improve. While these ideas may seem simple in writing, can you say your agile team consistently practices both?

If you have other ideas about how transparency and agile go hand in hand, tell us.

4. Agile tools vs agile practices

Even though Atlassian makes the #1 software development tool used by agile teams, this trend is actually our favorite. Because we couldn’t agree more! Most often, when you ask someone about their agile practice, they will instead tell you about their agile tools. Don’t get us wrong, we’re here, listening, and we always welcome your feedback. That being said, this tools-based view of agile can be a major issue, and it’s something we believe needs to be tackled head-on.

Many people are introduced to agile by managers and teammates who say something to the effect of: “This is Jira, and by organizing our work in Jira we can become an agile team.” As such, when you ask these people what’s wrong with their agile practice, they’ll often reply with a feature request for Jira. This feature-first view of agile software development is leading to some very close-minded thinking in the industry and we’re working towards a world in which people are well-steeped in agile principles, and are breaking and bending their tools to fit their needs. Instead, today, people are breaking and bending their agile practices to fit their tools.

If you’re the former and not the latter, then it’s paramount we hear from you.

5. Teams are opening up and sharing more about their agile practices

But, this isn’t yet the norm. The #RetroOnAgile has showed us that agile coaches and agile practitioners tend to keep their agile practices to themselves. We’ve really had to coax responses and feedback out of people, which was something that surprised us. Software development was built on open-source code and the free transmission of ideas. So why not agile? Although the agile manifesto was shared openly, it seems a lot has changed since then.

In our Twitter poll, only 55% of people said they consider their teams open. Maybe keeping agile practices internal is seen as a competitive advantage, maybe it’s part of an agile coach’s business model to not share their expertise to anyone but their customers. Either way, this ought to change. We’re taking steps towards a more open agile development community with our Retro On agile. Help us take the next step in open-sourcing  by sharing your voice.

Wondering how you can join the conversation? Add your two cents on the future of agile software development here, on our Retrospective page. You’ll find a live, interactive board filled with some of the most insightful feedback we’ve gathered so far and a space for you to share your own thoughts. Oh, and did we mention the page also has everything you need to know about retrospectives?

These five trends are just the beginning. We need your thoughts and ideas to help shape the future of agile software development. Share your insights on our board and join the movement.

A call to action

Reflect on your software development experience, then follow the twitter links…

(Note: replace the question with your answer, leave the hashtags): 

  1. Tell us one thing you like
  2. Tell us what you don’t like
  3. Think to the future, and fill in the blanks.

Work smarter, better, and faster with weekly tips and how-tos.

Subscribe now