Skip to Content

Big-bang approach ineffective for large organisations to scale Agile

19 Nov 2019

Capgemini report states mindset change, continuous planning and technical excellence as key elements to scale Agile

Paris, November 19, 2019 – A new report from the Capgemini Research Institute highlights that adopting a ‘big-bang approach’[1] to scaling Agile ways of working rarely succeeds as every organisation has a different learning curve, culture, talent, and risk appetite.  While many large companies have begun their journeys to organisational agility[2], scaled adoption across the entire business remains a critical challenge for enterprises in multiple sectors. The report cites culture and mindset change as significant obstacles in achieving agility and that the required technical dimension is moving too slowly. It also highlights senior business leaders as still being wedded to traditional approaches of reporting and risk management.

Capgemini’s report entitled “Agile at Scale” explored the challenges in realising enterprise-wide agility, including the barriers and lessons learned from a series of industry ‘front runners[3]’ in terms of enabling multiple teams to follow Agile practices, values, methodologies, and mindsets across functions and levels. It provides four key recommendations for businesses in order to be successful to scale Agile.

Key insights[4] drawn from a series of in-depth interviews with executives from around the world, across automotive, aviation, banking, insurance, consumer products, retail, pharmaceuticals, telecom, utilities, and the public sector (together, representing combined revenues of over $1.5 trillion), include:

1. Experiment: Start with customer-focused initiatives; scale gradually – The report indicates that in organisations with limited Agile experience, big-bang scaling leads to frustration, as it takes time for Agile culture to grow organically. Such organisations get disillusioned and fall back on a traditional, phased approach. Moreover, this runs counter to the core tenant of Agile – an iterative and learning approach.
Organisations should start with initiatives closer to the customer – either a flagship customer journey or customer service. Such initiatives should have tangible outcomes, which are easily marketable, are a perfect testing ground for Agile and offer significant value – from transforming the customer experience to compressing feedback cycles. However, to build a Lean-Agile mindset, organisations must introduce Agile concepts even in areas that are not initial candidates for action.

2. Orient: Change culture by changing behaviors and focus on developing ‘T-shaped’ skillsets – The report highlights the importance of leadership acting as role models by displaying openness to change, investing in continuous learning and adopting new behaviors. The research reveals that hyper-specialisation and siloed thinking are big challenges to scaling Agile. Instead Agile teams are “T-shaped” – in that they have defined areas of specialisation (the depth) but are adaptive and can work broadly across other aspects of a project (the breadth).

3. Govern: Link Agile portfolio planning and operations with business strategy –
• Focus on strategic portfolio management as an Agile world needs to connect business strategy with delivery of value across different layers of the organisation. This is essential to optimise performance across the enterprise portfolio.
• Revamp funding by moving away from annual cycles – most Agile frontrunners do away with cumbersome annual planning cycles – consisting of approvals, re-approvals, fixed budgets, and controls to give way to adaptive funding.
• Set up a Lean-Agile centre of enablement; decentralise decision making and measure outcomes

4. Accelerate: Modernise IT with DevOps and microservices – Many organisations run Agile and DevOps initiatives separately, with the goal of aligning them at a later point. DevOps and Agile initiatives can be independent, but there are clear benefits to tie them together as one transformation, for faster software release, cross-collaboration with teams and quality improvement. Furthermore, Microservices and agility are well suited to each other. Microservices allow organisations to quickly and frequently evolve application features or its service components. This enables scalability and makes IT systems adaptable to changing business needs.

Given the foundation of Agile is the ‘lean’ manufacturing concept, that was introduced in the 1940s, we would expect all industries that create physical goods to rapidly embrace and adopt this approach. However, many organisations struggle to reap its full benefits. This is because they focus on “doing” Agile without “being” Agile,” said Franck Greverie, Group Chief Portfolio Officer and Member of the Group Executive Committee at Capgemini.

While IT teams and software factories have played a key role in driving the adoption of Agile initially, we are now seeing enterprise adopting product-oriented organisation linking business to IT supported by DevOps at scale architecture. These principles are spreading rapidly across the enterprise. Sector and market survival increasingly rely on innovation, and this requires an Agile culture not just Agile processes, organisation and technologies,” he further added.

Joe Gribb, Head of Enterprise Advice Technology at The Vanguard Group said: “For us, modernising IT was one of the critical aspects in the journey to becoming Agile. Our first approach was more iterative – we began adopting some of the Agile principles. We started to break down the wall separating specialists within IT and put Testers, JAVA/UI/COBOL developers, all in one team. Focusing on these nuances was the first step towards changing the IT architecture to enable agility across the organisation.”

To read the full report, click here:

Research Methodology:

In July 2019, the Capgemini Research Institute conducted in-depth interviews with more than 45 business leaders from organisations that have been successful in scaling Agile across a range of sectors and countries. Seventy-nine percent of the organisations reported revenue of more than $20 billion in FY 2018.


About Capgemini

A global leader in consulting, technology services and digital transformation, Capgemini is at the forefront of innovation to address the entire breadth of clients’ opportunities in the evolving world of cloud, digital and platforms. Building on its strong 50-year heritage and deep industry-specific expertise, Capgemini enables organisations to realise their business ambitions through an array of services from strategy to operations. Capgemini is driven by the conviction that the business value of technology comes from and through people. It is a multicultural company of over 200,000 team members in more than 40 countries. The Group reported 2018 global revenues of EUR 13.2 billion.

Visit us at People matter, results count

About the Capgemini Research Institute

The Capgemini Research Institute is Capgemini’s in-house think-tank on all things digital. The Institute publishes research on the impact of digital technologies on large traditional businesses. The team draws on the worldwide network of Capgemini experts and works closely with academic and technology partners. The Institute has dedicated research centres in India, the United Kingdom and the United States. It was recently ranked #1 in the world for the quality of its research by independent analysts.

Visit us at

[1] Big-bang approach is where organisations are trying to scale all at once.

[2]  Agile refers to the mindset and behaviors that support an iterative, incremental approach to manage changes in design, build, deployment and adoption of products in a highly flexible and interactive manner. Typically, it involves self-governing, cross-functional teams working on the product. In this case, “product” might be any kind of deliverable from an Agile team, such as software, a customer product, a process improvement, or a marketing campaign, etc. Business agility is the ability of an organisation to rapidly adapt to market and environmental changes in a productive and cost-efficient way.

[3] Global organisations that have scaled Agile at a program or portfolio level or beyond IT.

[4] These are leading practices from organisations that have scaled Agile.

[5] DevOps is an IT team alignment process, starting with “Dev” (in charge of IT enhancements & changes) and “Ops” (in charge of operating existing applications and infrastructure). Agile fosters collaboration between Business and Dev teams, while DevOps focuses on Dev and Ops collaboration, bringing agility up to production. DevOps gains can be maximised when combined with Agile practices

[6] A microservice is an independent, reusable service or functionality that fulfills a singular purpose.