Agile proves to be a big help in keeping up with fickle users

New survey finds more than nine in 10 organizations use Agile techniques -- but are they delivering?

Almost every organization is now pursuing Agile development techniques these days, but are these approaches really making a difference? Yes, say most Agile shops -- especially when it comes to keeping up with the ever-changing demands of business users. What may have been a must-have at the beginning of a process ends up being superseded by something else a few months later. Agile practices are working, in terms of helping to keep things in tune with users' preferences.

Photo: HubSpot

That's one of the findings of the latest annual survey of Agile practices, conducted by VersionOne. The survey of software development managers across 3,925 organizations finds Agile is now part of just about every enterprise -- 94 percent say they practice Agile in one form or another.

Keeping up with users is the biggest gain seen from Agile, in which developers and end-users work closely together on frequent iterations of software -- 87 percent say they are able to manage changing priorities within their enterprises. Eighty-four percent say they have been able to boost their development teams' productivity, and 82 percent were able to increase the visibility of their projects.

However, only about 53 percent report that the majority of their Agile efforts have been successful to date. That means 46 percent have not yet seen positive, or at least measurable, results from the bulk of their Agile initiatives. It's important, of course, to have key goals to help measure the success of the program -- and 58 percent say the success of their Agile efforts are tied to on-time delivery, while another 48 percent cite product quality and 44 percent say customer/user and satisfaction makes the difference.

When asked for the most important aspects of Agile success, the leading response was in delivering consistent processes and practices (46 percent). Another 40 percent say executive-level sponsorship paved the way, while 39 percent advised that common tools be deployed across all development teams.

Microsoft Excel spreadsheets remain the top tool of choice for Agile projects, followed by Microsoft Project.

Extreme programming (XP), the hot trend 10 years ago, appears to have faded in favor of scrum. The survey finds scrum dominates as the agile methodology of choice (56 percent), while pure XP, practiced by nearly one-quarter of respondents in the 2006 report, was virtually nonexistent in the current survey (less than one percent).

The most widely practiced agile technique is still the daily standup (80 percent), followed closely by the use of short iterations (79 percent) and prioritized backlogs (79 percent).

About two-thirds of respondents said they conduct iteration planning and retrospectives, while less popular techniques included agile games (13 percent) and Behavior-Driven Development (nine percent). There has been a sharp drop in the use of taskboards and team-based estimation (down 14% and 13%, respectively, from 2013). Techniques that remained relatively unchanged over the past year are collective code ownership and continuous deployment..

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