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Overcoming 6 Common Agile Development Challenges

Anna Thorsen

Anna Thorsen

Looking at the 1955 Fortune 500 list, you’ll find that 52 of the companies remain. That’s just over 10%. For companies to sustain their growth, they need to evolve. Agile transformation is just one way corporations are remaining nimble.

Enterprises that adopt new business models and leverage the power of new technology are becoming dominant players in fast-paced markets.

“While 52% of companies plan to cut or defer investments because of COVID-19, just 9% will make those cuts in digital transformation.” - PwC

There are a wealth of examples of agile operations going right. The Dutch branch of BNP Paribas successfully scaled their automated agile testing, increasing their software releases at 3x the capacity.

So how can companies implement agile in development to release software features continuously, and improve the quality of applications during an economic downturn?

First off, companies need to address the common pitfalls of agile transformation.

The challenges of transitioning to an agile way of working

What drawbacks or issues might an organization encounter when implementing an agile development program? And how can you solve them?

Mckinsey puts it well in their report on common pitfalls faced by organizations shifting to, or undergoing an agile transformation.

Mismatch in the aspirations and value of an agile transformation

Agile is essentially a redesign of the operational model of a department or organization. Without the buy-in from the top-down, agile digital tools and technologies will not fulfill the benefits of 3x faster time to market, or 4x the return on investment.

Without the adoption of agile tools, domain experts can often lose sight of where they belong in this new setup as they can’t get involved in the technical processes needed in setting up efficient feedback loops.


The expectations of what can be achieved with agile should be defined and communicated early on: what you aspire to achieve with an agile way of working, and what value can this transformation realistically bring? Communicate the benefits and address the concerns about agile to your organization.

Not making agile transformation a strategic priority

“Transformation starts with agile leadership”- McKinsey

Agile should bleed across the organization, but fear and reallocation of budget can get in the way of an organization wide agile adoption. It is up to company leaders to embed agile into their strategy for business process testing and IT automation.

It’s normal to test the effects of an agile approach in silo, for example, in a software development team. However, the true strategic value and impact of these piloted projects won’t be immediately obvious to executive teams on a small scale.


To showcase how an agile transformation can bring strategic value, it should be treated as a priority for the organization. This is where you start to see the results. The problem is getting the right players involved and identifying this as an enterprise level priority.

Take agile beyond small siloed technology teams where the impact is limited. When a change to this effect is driven forward by a top executive, the motivation to continue agile business practices is more likely.

Related article: How to Work with Agile Methodology in Testing for Successful Software Development

The difficulty of a cultural shift

“Cultural issues with entrenched viewpoints and resistance to change pose notable difficulty to digital transformations.” - Prophet

Transitioning to agile doesn’t happen overnight, and requires a complete shift in mentality to reduce costs, mitigate risk and get to market at speed in software development.

The bigger the organization, the bigger the resistance with bureaucratic barriers often standing in the way. It’s only natural to be met with resistance when going through a cultural shift, with fear taking over decision making.

We’ve covered that it’s crucial for leaders to buy-in to transformation and not lose sight of the cultural significance behind such a move. How can you bring the product mentality beyond executives?


“IT cannot implement agile alone” - CGI

Without changing the culture from bureaucratic slow processes like waterfall, agile can’t be properly adopted. Leadership has to work on changing the culture to allow product owners to thrive under minimal bureaucracy.

Clear and consistent communication between IT professionals and business experts creates the collaboration and engagement needed for agile to succeed. With agile testing tools that facilitate understanding between business and technical users, you’re no longer as reliant on one person to move the development process forward.

A short-sighted approach to scaling

“Eighty-seven percent of senior business leaders say digitalization is a priority. Only 40 percent of organizations have brought digital initiatives to scale.” - Gartner

Scaling agile is probably the biggest challenge an organization will face. You need adoption from an entire team. You’re expected to do everything at once. You’re met by resistance from multiple sides. The returns aren’t always instant or noticeable to top management. And communication becomes more difficult as teams grow.

In software development teams, testing slows down delivery velocity, because of the complexity and size of development projects in large businesses. To ensure the quality of the product, thousands of tests need to be executed and maintained. It’s very impractical for quality assurance engineers to manually test without high resource spending.

While code-based automated testing was one way to mend the problem, deliveries are still dependent on time-strapped developers to maintain automated tests. This stops the tests from being developed on a larger scale.


In the case of agile testing tools, as a development team grows, more people will need to learn how to use the tool.

Other departments may want to use the tool for projects that run across more than one technology. Initially, it may not seem like the most efficient choice to go for a tool that automates outside of web applications if that’s all that the first development team is using.

However, costs start adding up as adoption is more widespread. You’re having to purchase one tool for web application automation, another for desktop automation, another for a legacy system, and so on.

So while the upfront cost of a tool that integrates with multiple technologies might seem like a big investment at the time, you will see a return on investment when teams scale.

Additionally, no-code testing tools are easier to use in fast-moving and constantly changing agile projects. This keeps maintenance and costs down, allowing teams to use their skill sets where they matter most. Developers can build and upgrade features, and testers can test.

Not investing in the right talent

“Switching to agile requires significant process and culture change, from both business process owners and developers.”- Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Report

You’re representing a larger part of the organization in the agile development process. There are new skill sets, including business experts, on board the development process which changes the way teams work together, and the development process that teams were used to. While shifting the dynamic is positive, it also adds new pressure and requirements to the tools and processes shared by the team. Especially within test automation.

The demands of this development process can’t be supported by traditional Infrastructure and Operations employees. Hiring or outsourcing development increases the cost spent on getting a product to market, and slows productivity.


Optimize the resources you have available. It’s possible to work more efficiently with the resources you have using no-code tools. This allows non-developers to participate in the testing phase of agile development.

Widen the pool of personnel that can contribute to software development with cross-functional teams made up of a product owner, developers, quality assurance and business analysts.

This also means you need different tools, especially in test automation, that service and can be adopted by technical users and business users.

When you increase the productivity of the team, you're getting more done in a smaller time frame, meaning you’re also able to get the same task done with less resources.

Lacking the proper tools to support agile

“45% of executives don’t think their company has the right technology to implement a digital transformation.” - PwC

Whether the goal of going agile is to mitigate risk, reduce costs, or increase the productivity of your software development team, you’ll undoubtedly be met by resource strains that stem from test automation.

Businesses need to adopt new tools to enable a truly agile business. This means taking a hard look at your existing suite of IT tools, and rethinking the investment in growth with smarter IT spending.


Teams working agile function well under consistency. Find tools that allow teams to adapt and learn together over time, maximize efficiency beyond budgetary cuts, and provide value to your business without damaging the long-term health and fundamental strategic objectives that drive the company forward.

Think-long term with your purchasing decision. Tools that enable the possibility to downscale and upscale at ease, and that can be used cross-functionally by both business users and technical specialists will drive forward your agile transformation.

Why use no-code automation in testing?

Better collaboration

Using Leapwork’s no-code test automation, you are better equipped to introduce a full CI/CD pipeline, which is a challenging process in itself. With a visual language using intuitive building blocks, business users and technical specialists can get up to speed with the tool with fast onboarding and quick adoption. No programming skills required. By closing the feedback loop between business users and developers, software delivery times get shorter.

“The best test automation tool for non-developers.” - Leila Rad, Agile Tester

Free resources for better testing and lower costs

A task that was previously reliant on development, prone to human error, and took days to build and maintain has changed entirely with Leapwork. With no-code test automation, business users can build test cases in a matter of minutes with ease. With less maintenance and man-power, you’re saving 50% more time during the testing cycle, and you can reach a 5x ROI in one year.


Faster time to market

With Leapwork’s no-code solution, your business product can get to market faster than with any other test automation tool on the market. This creates the perfect environment for agile, intuitive test automation. Customers using our tool have seen a 90% reduction in bugs found, increasing the overall quality of software deliveries.

By removing the above burdens stemming from too much dependency on specific resources, you’re able to match the pace of development, improve testing accuracy, and reduce risk in a matter of days, helping you maintain your competitive advantage and get to market at speed.

Learn how to keep up with changing customer expectations in this upcoming webinar on continuous testing in Agile and continuous delivery environments.

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