Observations from the Agile Alliance Conference – Part 2

At the Agile Alliance conference, Scott Ambler gave a thought-provoking talk entitled “Agile by the Numbers – What People are Really doing in Practice”.

Scott has been conducting surveys focused on the Agile Community for several years. He has made the survey data available at the following URL –  www.ambysoft.com/surveys. The published Agile surveys span the years from 2006 to 2009 and cover the following topics:

  • Agile Adoption Rates
  • Agile Practices
  • Agile Project Initiation
  • Agile Certification
  • Test-driven Development

In addition, the URL above presents survey data that Scott has collected on:

  • Data Management
  • Data Quality
  • Modeling and Documentation
  • Process Frameworks
  • “State of the IT Union”

The site also presents data from Agile surveys that have been conducted by other people and organizations.

Scott’s session at the conference used a “Mythbusters” motif and presented data drawn mostly from the following surveys:

  • Agile Practices Survey Results – July 2009
  • Agile Project Initiation Survey Results – August 2009
  • State of the IT Union Survey Results – July 2009

Below is an excerpt of some of the findings that Scott presented, as well as some data that I pulled directly from his site.

From the July 2009 State of the IT Union Survey

  • 76% of the organizations surveyed reported having adopted Agile Development techniques. Within that 76%, an average of 44% of each organization’s project teams was using Agile. Within larger IT organizations (greater than 50) the adoption rate was 38% of project teams. Within smaller IT organizations, the adoption rate was 53%.

From the August 2009 Agile Project Initiation Survey

  • 69% of the respondents reported having a wide range of stakeholders. (This is a departure from the “myth” of a single stakeholder able to make real-time decisions relative to functionality and priorities.)
  • 30% of the respondents reported needing to be concerned with regulatory compliance and 38% reporting working on a mission-critical application.
  • Only 46% of respondents reported that all team members were co-located in a single room.
  • 78% of the respondents reported that they were working with legacy systems in some way (including integrating to legacy systems, evolving legacy systems, working with legacy data)
  • Contrary to the myth that Agile teams just jump in and start coding, Scott’s research showed that in the area of requirements,  89% of respondents either do “some sort of initial modeling, or have initial models supplied, or leverage reference models”. With respect to architecture, 86% of respondents either do “some sort of initial modeling, or have initial models supplied, or leverage reference models”.  That being said, the majority of the modeling being done was high-level rather than detailed in nature. In addition, the predominant modeling technology reported was “whiteboards and paper”, followed by drawing tools and very limited (5% or less) use of formal CASE tools.

Of course, as with any survey, questions may be asked as to whether the sample size is adequate or whether the respondents are representative. (Scott addresses this as best he can by providing background information for each survey.) However, the results are interesting to peruse nonetheless and demonstrate an effort to get beyond the Agile rhetoric and discover what is actually happening within the industry. I definitely plan to track the site and follow the results of future surveys.

– Nanette Brown, SEI


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