Agile Survey Results: Widespread Adoption, Emphasis on Productivity and Quality

This summer in 2006, the Agile Project Leadership Network (APLN) co-sponsored the 2nd Annual 'State of Agile Development' Survey. Almost 1,700 respondents from 71 countries shared their companies' experiences using of Agile methods and the challenges that they face with future adoption. Teams have begun to quantify the value that their projects have achieved and are steadily expanding the types of Agile practices and tools that they use. IT metrics are well-understood. Business metrics must also play a role, but few were included in the scope of this survey.

As was the case in the 2006 State of Agile Development Survey, the intention of the survey was to determine how Agile processes are being implemented - not to determine the size or penetration of the Agile market. The survey was distributed specifically to "Agile aware" or "Agile practicing" developers including VersionOne's customer base and newsletter list, members of the APLN, readers of the Agile Journal, and a variety of relevant technology sites and user groups. Over 70% of this year's 1,700 respondents have already begun Agile initiatives; they do not represent "average" software developers.

Most respondents {sidebar id=1} are actively leading (31%) or participating in (14%) an Agile development team. One-third work in companies with software development organizations of 250 or more people, as compared to a quarter of last year's respondents. When asked about specific methodologies that they use, it's not surprising that over 70% are using Scrum, XP, or a Scrum/XP hybrid. No other single approach (including custom hybrids) had even a 10% response.

Adopting Agile Processes
The 2007 survey asked respondents to rank ten different reasons for adopting Agile methods: improving project visibility, enhancing the ability to manage changing priorities, increasing productivity, accelerating time-to-market, enhancing software quality, reducing project risk, reducing cost, managing distributed teams, reducing process complexity, and improving alignment between IT and business objectives. Over three-quarters of the respondents cited managing change and increasing productivity, time-to-market, and quality as their top factors (see Figure 1). These top four drivers match the results from the 2006 survey. Looking at it from the perspective of the classic ‘better, faster, cheaper' imperative, cutting costs took a back seat to speed and quality when considering adoption of Agile methods.


Source: VersionOne Survey

Figure 1: Top Agile Adoption Drivers

One interesting area to note: over 55% of the respondents said that their Agile teams are currently distributed. However, only 33% rated managing distributed teams as important or very important. In fact, close to 50% didn't consider this factor to be important at all. This discrepancy is not reflective of the broader Agile industry. We know that distributed IT projects have become the norm and management is particularly challenging. Agile practices aren't necessarily seen as a solution to distributed development, but some of the most sophisticated uses of Agile practices can be found on distributed and particularly offshore distributed projects. Leading Agile vendors and consultants have increased their focus on supporting distributed teams, appreciating these challenges.

Agile developers, even when successful, frequently face barriers to further adoption in their companies (see Figure 2). It's somewhat ironic that the key driver to adopting Agile practices is to be able to respond to business change , yet the key barrier among practitioners is resistance to change . Over one-third of those responding cited the dearth of skilled personnel as another major barrier, up from 21% in 2006. Management support and business alignment also remain difficult challenges.


Source: VersionOne Survey

Figure 2: Barriers to further Agile adoption

Agile project success stories have been discussed in the Agile Journal and elsewhere in the industry. Yet there remain some significant concerns for those adopting or considering to adopt Agile development practices (see Figure 3). Planning and documentation are still important! Management demands predictability and some degree of control. Whether driven by governance initiatives, compliance regulations, or project and portfolio management organizations, Agile teams cannot work in a vacuum.

Source: VersionOne Survey
Figure 3: Agile adoption concerns

Measuring Success
No proselytizing is necessary here: Agile developers and managers fully recognize the need to measure their projects' success and are attempting to do so (see Figure 4).

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