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March 31, 2016
Thoughts on the 9th state of agile survey
By: Mirco Hering

State of Agile SurveyThe 9th Annual State of Agile report had some confirming and some surprising results. If you have not read it, it is worthwhile having a look here. Besides the usual statistics around how much Agile people are doing (key number for me was only 5% working for fully traditional organizations), it provided some interesting answers to some of the more common questions that I hear and the answers are often not surprising, but there was the odd surprise.

Let’s jump in:

What are typical benefits of Agile?
The report highlights the following three to be the top answers (which have been stable over the last few years):

  • Ability to manage changing priorities 

  • Team productivity

  • Project visibility

This sits well with me as the usual suspects that we have to debunk are not in this list, e.g. faster time to market (only on rank 7) and cheaper delivery (not in the list at all).

How do you measure the success of Agile?
Uhhh, tricky one this one. I have heard the question many times and honestly have struggled to give an answer that satisfies senior stakeholders. So what did the report say:

  • On-time delivery

  • Product quality

  • Customer satisfaction

Good answers, I think this reflects well what success looks like. Interesting that some of the items mentioned under top benefits are showing up much lower here: Managing priorities obviously speaks to the product quality and customer satisfaction. But team productivity (29% measure it) and visibility (30% measure it) are much lower on the list. An open question for me is how people would measure productivity in the first place.

How do you scale Agile?
As much as I come across SAFe it is only used by 19% of the respondents with all the other ones even lower (DAD, LESS). The largest proportion just uses Scrum of Scrums or some custom created method. Of the top five tips for Scaling Agile at least two are in my top lessons learned too: Consistent process and practices and Implementation of a common tool across teams. I agree with the other three tips as well: Executive Sponsorship, Having a coach and Creating an internal support team.

What tools and practices do you use?
Wow, I was surprised, but perhaps I should not have been that Excel and Project are the most used tools…seriously, are we not better than that? Oh well, on the real Agile tools, Jira and VersionOne take the cake, with TFS close behind. IBM is much lower. This represents my position as well, JIRA is certainly the one most used and few people complain about it, especially when integrated with Confluence.

There is also information on the practice uses and I was shocked to see that only 69% use retrospectives and 48% have a dedicated product owner. Overall the adoption rates of the practices feels very low, perhaps there is some fundamental flaw in the data if it considers people who run Waterfall projects but use a select few Agile practices…hmmm….

What makes Agile fail?
Good information here as well, lack of experience is the main reason Agile fails. This means that we should make sure experienced Scrum Masters and coaches support new projects. Lack of management support and a non-aligned company culture are the other two main reasons for Agile failures. Those are a bit more difficult to tackle but are important to be aware of as you set off on an Agile project.

Overall I like the results in the report and it certainly helps to see some market data validating points that I keep making with my clients.

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