Agile gains, but executives are completely clueless, survey finds

Agile gains, but executives are completely clueless, survey finds

Summary: A survey of more than 4,000 developers found that agile has reached critical mass — but executives still don't get it. It's a shame, because agile has lessons beyond software.


First, the good news: Adoption of agile methodologies continues to climb. Now, the not-so-good news: Management has no idea what agile is, or what it's supposed to accomplish.

That's the finding of a new survey of 4,048 software developers, conducted by VersionOne, a provider of agile project management tools. This is the seventh year this survey has been conducted, and, alas, the business isn't any wiser to the agile way of doing things.

The survey found that a majority of developers are doing things the agile way. Those who plan to implement agile for future development projects increased from 59 percent in 2011 to 83 percent in 2012, VersionOne reported. In addition, the number of respondents using agile practices across five or more teams grew from 33 percent in 2011 to 48 percent in 2012.

However, only 2 percent of respondents felt that executives are knowledgeable about agile practices at all. The survey also shows that in more than two thirds of failed agile programs, respondents felt it was either because they failed to integrate the right people, or did not effectively teach a team-based culture. For agile to truly succeed in an organization, everyone has to be dedicated to the initiative — especially the executive team.

It's a shame, because agile methodologies don't have to be confined to software development — they can also help improve the quality of a range of activities, including product development for customers.

Who was considered as being the most knowledgeable about agile? Fifty-seven percent gave credit to their ScrumMasters and project managers. Along with executives, another clueless group is product owners, cited by a meager 1 percent.

One emerging approach, Agile Portfolio Management (APM), is still relatively new or unfamiliar to most. Only one quarter are practicing, learning about, or planning to practice APM.

In an agile environment, it's essential that developers and business users work side by side with constant communication to move forward, step by step, with software releases. Most, 72 percent, are using scrum or scrum variants, the survey shows.

A number of benefits for using agile were cited in the survey. Ninety percent of respondents said that implementing agile improved their ability to manage changing priorities. More people are also seeing value in terms of project visibility when implementing agile (84 percent, compared to 77 percent in 2011).

In addition, the general perception of agile is up. When asked what elevator speech they would give their organizations' CEOs , common responses were around cultural change, hiring a knowledgeable ScrumMaster, investing in training, adoption from the top down, and giving agile enough time to succeed.

Here are the top benefits of agile, cited by a majority of respondents:

  1. Ability to manage changing priorities

  2. Increased productivity

  3. Improved project visibility

  4. Improved team morale

  5. Enhanced software quality

  6. Reduced risk

  7. Faster time to market

  8. Better alignment between IT and business objectives

  9. Simplify development process

  10. Improved/increased engineering discipline.

Topics: Software Development, Enterprise Software

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  • Agile

    Having been in software development for over 15 years, it's obvious that one size does not fit all. Agile sounds great, but I have yet to work on anything where it would be applicable. The reason is that I do small mostly one-off stuff, by myself. So Agile sounds totally useless to me. for big group projects, sure go for it.
    • agile doesn't make sense for 1 person

      Scrum for example specifies a minimum of about 7 people. I don't see any benefits of 1 person trying to use agile
  • Agile Development Doesn't Work

    While it may be fun for young developers to work without supervision, it is a massive headache for end users. At least, that has been my experience. 1.0 was an excellent online application for sharing family information in a private environment. Unfortunately, hired a bunch of green agile-trained programmers and let them go off on their own somewhere near Seattle, far away from their tainted, mature programmers in Utah. 2.0 was eventually released with about 10% of the functionality of 1.0. Complaints from beta testers poured in! The development team immediately went on the defensive complaining that the beta testers were too old and set in their ways to be objective. Instead of attempting to fix problems, they turned off functionality only making a bad situation worse.

    They completely started over two times calling the releases 2.5 and 3.0. After two years of virtually no progress, they decided they could not convert our existing data to the new format and gave up on the idea that this was an upgrade project. I think the programmers, who had no experience with the original version, were trying to convince users that what we really wanted was a Facebook like environment. Why I do not know. Ultimately, the company told us they would leave version 1.0 up and running but they would not do anything more to improve it. In other words, they totally abandoned their loyal customer base. Some of us had been paying members for over ten years. A family site that I sponsor has over 1,200 pictures over nine generations, probably as many documents and uncountable discussions. Very sad.

    Version 3.0 is still out there but it won’t run in IE10. I did get it up in Chrome but it appears that it is still having problems. I searched for the primary family name and received the message, “Bummer! We couldn’t find anything like that. why not try to find something else?”

    Agile development is supposed to have frequent incremental changes and eliminate the need for huge upgrades. Some will say, “They didn’t do it right so it is not a good example.” I disagree. It may sound good on paper but it doesn’t work. The proponents are wrong and are wasting our money.
  • You should follow agile practices anyway

    Agile doesn't require more than 1 person.

    - Unit testing
    - OO development
    - code review
    - re-factoring to improve code cleanliness and stability
    - meeting with customers to find out which features are highest value
    - adjusting project scope to ensure deadlines are hit
    - incorporating time for improved engineering practices into your work and estimates
    - reviewing functionality with the customer after regular, short intervals to maintain product/project vision and manage expectations

    These do not require more than one developer. Of course pair programming is out for you trybbs!

    Good luck with Agile ZDNet'ters! It's been great for us.
  • shocking

    I'm shocked that execs are clueless about software development processes. /s

    They always seem more than eager to let you know they are super uber technical and know alll about software engineering...and then they try to make your entire IT dept drop java in favor of filemaker or some stupid nonsense like that. I kid you not, I work with morons like that and it took a good 6 months of wasted time and money for them to be educated.