Can you pass the agility test?

Today: why some companies fail to do the work needed to implement agile software practices, a changing of the guard at Snowflake, and the latest moves in enterprise tech.

Can you pass the agility test?
Photo by Murilo Viviani / Unsplash

Welcome to Runtime! Today: why some companies fail to do the work needed to implement agile software practices, a changing of the guard at Snowflake, and the latest moves in enterprise tech.

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I don't want no scrums

Many programming teams follow the Agile Manifesto, a set of software-team management principles meant to improve quality and user happiness. Among those principles: Deliver value frequently, maintain a sustainable working pace, keep it simple, and regularly reflect and adjust your development practices to boost effectiveness.

According to a State of Agile survey released in January by, 69% of respondents said their IT, software development, and delivery teams use agile methodologies today. But too often, organizations are faking true change by plastering a new label on older software development practices such as waterfall, the faults of which inspired the Agile Manifesto in the first place.

  • “Agile offered a powerful lens on the importance of communication, collaboration, iteration, and adaptation,” explained Elizabeth Bacon of Devise Consulting.
  • However, as she pointed out, people are uncomfortable operating in ambiguity.
  • “Thus some ‘best practices’ become ‘ceremonies,’ and then those ‘ceremonies’ become ‘This is the way it must be.’” 

Agile is about clear communication, empowering individuals to act, and minimizing sunk costs such as time, said software architect Michael Richmond. And it requires the acceptance that any project of significant length will have to deal with change during its execution.

  • According to the State of Agile survey, 47% of survey respondents blame agile “failures” on a generalized resistance to organizational change or culture clash. 
  • Management rarely knows what developers are doing, said Gerald M. Weinberg, author of The Psychology of Computer Programming, at a 2005 Agile conference, “so they reward the appearance of work.” 
  • Inside companies following the agile development process, team members meet daily in "standups," sometimes referred to as a "scrum," to discuss progress, synchronize tasks that are underway, and identify blockers.
  • But standups can become political or emotional performances: “Daily scrums were uncontrolled gripe-fests that included more than 20 people,” said Shahpour Akhavi, currently a Ph.D. student at York University, describing an experience at one company.

Productive agile teams work in “sprints” over a short period of time (often two weeks) during which participants set a goal, break it into functional tasks tracked with tickets, and self-organize to reach the objective. At the end of each sprint, the team reflects on the work in what's called a “retrospective,” and identifies ways to improve.

  • However, the process breaks down at companies that emphasize “closing tickets” over software quality.
  • Another common trap is when tickets become more important than software quality, as developer Sharon Cochran experienced.
  • At the end of every two-week sprint, the tickets for unfinished tasks were marked as complete instead of carrying over to the next sprint, where they created brand-new tickets.
  • “So, every sprint, our team magically had a perfect burndown and we always completed all of our work. The whole system became completely pointless,” she said.

To get agile right, principal engineer Josh Wickham recommended building on situations in your organization where agile is practiced relatively effectively. Most often, that involves teams building internal tools, such as administrative panels for customer support or CI/CD pipelines

  • “This indicates to me that people comprehend agile and have at least a baseline understanding of how to use it, but a lack of willingness to use it as defined when it comes to external customers,” said Wickham.
  • The team manager can adjust how day-to-day work is performed by stressing such things as “deliver value frequently” and “regularly reflect and adjust your way of work to boost effectiveness,” Wickham said.
  • Remember, most companies really care about business outcomes, not process, said software architect Michael Richmond.
  • “Agile is an easy term to toss around as a ‘solution.’ But effective agile does not have a cookie-cutter solution to improving execution.”

Read the rest of the full report on Runtime here.


As enterprises rush to embrace AI, CIOs are grappling with how to merge their enterprise’s IT past and future. Increasingly, in-house technology leaders are tasked with the seemingly impossible mandate of reaping the benefits of next-generation systems while simultaneously reducing legacy technical debt and costs and managing risk.  Read more about The CIO Paradox on Runtime.

Season of change

Frank Slootman led two massive enterprise tech companies — ServiceNow and Snowflake — through two massive IPOs over the last 12 years. On Wednesday he announced that he's stepping down as Snowflake CEO and elevating Sridhar Ramaswamy, who joined the company after it acquired Neeva, his AI search startup, last year.

Ramaswamy oversaw advertising at Google for more than 15 years before founding Neeva, and has a very funny LinkedIn entry summarizing his brief time at Snowflake: "Learning Snowflake: Jun 2023-Feb 2024. Chief Executive Officer: Feb 2024-Present." In a statement, Slootman, who will remain chairman of the company, said that Ramaswamy "is a visionary technologist with a proven track record of running and scaling successful businesses."

Snowflake shares plunged over 18% Thursday, which likely has more to do with the lower-than-expected revenue forecast it delivered alongside the leadership news Wednesday. Snowflake's data tools arrived at the perfect time for companies moving massive data stores from self-managed servers to the cloud, and Ramaswamy's job is to make sure Snowflake stays relevant as generative AI changes the way enterprises interact with their data.

Enterprise moves

Nikos Katinakis is the new CTO at Zayo Group, joining the fiber networking company from Australia's Telstra.

Stuart Bailey is the new chief product officer at Paddle, which also named Philip Watson as CFO and Coline Marchal as vice president of people.

Austin Stefani is the new chief revenue officer at dbt Labs, joining the data analytics company after six years as vice president of revenue at Rubrik.

Adrien Gaidon is a new partner at Calibrate Ventures, focusing on AI investment after seven years as head of ML at Toyota Research Institute.

Graham Siener is the new vice president of product at Honeycomb, following stints as vice president of product at VMware and chief product officer at Pivotal Software.

The Runtime roundup

After one of Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff's patented charm offensives didn't work with NPR's Dara Kerr, who was looking into his real estate activity on the Big Island, he got downright creepy.

Apropos of nothing, Salesforce projected single-digit revenue growth for 2024, and Benioff went on a 30-minute soliloquy about how AI fixes that, or something.

Rumors of Lockbit's demise were apparently just that, as the notorious ransomware group launched fresh attacks this week after law enforcement officials took an early victory lap.

Google Cloud extended vector database capabilities to its entire lineup of databases, including Spanner and Bigtable.

Egnyte hired bankers to prepare for an IPO that could value the cloud storage company at $3 billion, according to Reuters.

Happy Leap Year! Gas stations across New Zealand were out of operation today after their payment processor's software forgot to account for the extra day.


With more apps entering the workplace, CIOs around the world are prioritizing consolidation and reducing complexity. Dive into this report by Canva revealing how IT leaders are thinking about workplace tools in the AI era.

Thanks for reading — see you Saturday!

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