Need an IT Methodology? We Assess 5 Top Contenders

By Jeffrey Weber on June 9, 2022 at 11:15am

By Jeff Weber, Executive Director at Robert Half

You have a brilliant idea for a technology service or product and an all-star team ready to execute it. What else do you need?

One more thing: an IT methodology. Technology teams rely on these frameworks to structure their approach to planning and accomplishing tasks in a project. They ensure team members are aligned on a single workflow, which allows for improved collaboration — and less opportunity for miscommunications and delayed deliveries.

Some methodologies I discuss below are commonly used in the software development life cycle (SDLC). These established processes and practices can help your team at every stage of development, from design and coding to deployment and maintenance. It doesn’t guarantee your product will succeed, but at least it won’t fail due to easily avoidable flaws in the development process.

While there are many methodologies out there, a recent Robert Half survey highlights five top contenders: DevOps, Agile, ITIL, Lean and Scrum. Let’s look more closely at these models to help you assess their benefits and drawbacks.

1. DevOps

Our survey found that 60% of technology managers need more DevOps knowledge and expertise on their teams, easily making it the most sought-after methodology.

DevOps is popular because it aims to solve a problem other methodologies leave unresolved, namely, the potential for friction between development and operations teams. Unlike frameworks like Agile, DevOps doesn’t seek merely to improve communication between these teams but to unite them in a continuous development process.

Another contrast with Agile is that rather than focusing on constant changes, DevOps emphasizes constant testing and delivery. This accelerated production process is powered by automation, enabling code to be continuously delivered to the end-user. Faster update releases create satisfied customers — one reason DevOps shines as an end-to-end business solution.

Advantages

  • Shortened production cycles and time to market
  • A single vision of the product across teams and the company
  • Faster product shipments mean a better customer experience

Challenges

  • To be successful, the DevOps culture and mindset need to permeate the whole company
  • The balance between speed and security must be carefully managed

2. Agile

Embrace change, even late in the process. Business people and developers should work together daily. Working software is the primary measure of progress. These core principles from 2001’s Agile Manifesto still resonate today, which may explain why 43% of managers say they need more expertise in this methodology.

What are the hallmarks of an Agile team? First, it’s pretty small. Whereas DevOps encompasses multiple departments and diverse skill sets, Agile emphasizes tight-knit teams with similar skill sets. Second, it deploys changes and updates incrementally (usually at weekly or biweekly intervals) rather than continuously, which is the DevOps approach.

One reason for Agile’s continued popularity may have less to do with programming and more to do with people. The Agile work environment is a stimulating and welcoming one, where every team member is valued and encouraged to get involved in the development process. In an age when inclusion and empowerment are cornerstones of organizational culture, Agile principles will continue to be relevant, both inside and outside the technology sector.

Advantages

  • The team is encouraged to concentrate on the things that matter most and respond quickly to change
  • Emphasis on flexibility and minimal documentation means less up-front work
  • Features are released when they’re ready, not on an arbitrary date

Challenges

  • Some team members may struggle to work without fixed deadlines and comprehensive documentation
  • The development and operations team may still suffer from a lack of cohesion

3. ITIL

Methodologies like Agile are quite narrowly focused on software development. By contrast, the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is an all-encompassing framework designed to ensure the sum of an organization’s IT services align with the needs of the business. By applying ITIL’s best practices within each of the five stages of the framework’s lifecycle — strategy, design, transition, operation and continual improvement — a company can not only improve its IT services but also reduce costs.

ITIL has been around since the early 1980s, but enthusiasm for the framework shows little signs of waning. Indeed, a third (36%) of the managers we surveyed said they wanted to bring in more ITIL expertise.

What’s kept ITIL relevant the last few years is its 2019 iteration, ITIL 4. This release updates the framework to reflect the need for modern IT departments to be agile and flexible and collaborate closely with other parts of the enterprise. Combining this emphasis with guiding principles such as focusing on value, thinking and working holistically, and keeping things simple and practical, ITIL 4 is very much in tune with modern organizational culture.

Advantages

  • A vast body of knowledge and best practices with a track record of success over four decades
  • Helps organizations put forward a coherent and verifiable business case for the full range of their IT services
  • Many businesses that implement ITIL guidelines and best practices achieve significant cost savings

Challenges

  • Over-reliance on ITIL as an authoritative source may cause some managers to ignore pragmatic solutions
  • Rather than adopting ITIL in phases, some managers may try to improve too many areas at once
  • Unlike team and project-based approaches like Agile, ITIL requires high levels of commitment from senior executives

4. Lean

Like Agile, Lean is true to its name. It aims to eliminate waste from the software development cycle by encouraging project teams to focus on one thing at a time. If a redundant process (unnecessary meetings, for example) can be removed, it should be removed — and lickety-split.

Agile evolved from Lean, and both methodologies share common values — an
openness to finding new and better ways of working, for example, and the importance of empowering team members to reach their full potential. Many technology managers talk about a Lean-Agile approach, and it’s perhaps this mindset that the 29% of survey respondents who said they needed more Lean expertise on their teams are looking to achieve.

One area where the two models differ is in their approach to customer satisfaction. Agile is more reactive — it assumes that customers have changing needs and aims to respond quickly to them. Lean is more proactive — it sets out to eliminate waste on the basis that this creates more value for customers.

Advantages

  • Cutting out activities that don’t add value helps your team stay productive
  • Boosts worker morale by prioritizing meaningful tasks

Challenges

  • Requires up-front planning to identify areas of waste in your current workflow and team activities
  • Lean principles such as “decide as late as possible” require high levels of skill and resilience from team members

5. Scrum

Identified as a skills gap by 28% of survey respondents, Scrum is a sub-branch of the Agile methodology. Here, the focus is on continuous collaboration and delivery and short development cycles called sprints. Daily stand-ups facilitate team interactions and feedback sharing, and the Scrum Master keeps the team focused on its goal.

Advantages

  • A transparent, straightforward approach that helps team members stay focused on their goals
  • Implementation of feedback after each sprint helps eliminate errors and maximize customer satisfaction

Challenges

  • All team members must commit to daily meetings and frequent reviews
  • Each team member plays a vital role, creating problems if one becomes sick or leaves the project

What can we learn from these rankings? Clearly, DevOps is the right choice for many organizations, especially if focusing on development projects. But depending on your project scope and work culture, it may not be right for you.

Furthermore, none of these models is mutually exclusive, and many of the core principles make sense in almost any scenario — Lean’s “do more with less,” for example. So, choose the methodology that suits your needs, but don’t be afraid to draw ideas from those that don’t.

Follow Jeff Weber on LinkedIn.

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