2013: the state of agile


If you’re considering adopting agile, or have already done so but wonder how your adoption is going relative to other companies, you’re in luck. VersionOne has recently released the results of their yearly survey titled “The State of Agile“. For companies transitioning to agile or considering it, the report provides valuable clues on how to maximize the results of their change initiative. 3501 responses were collected for this survey.

Going over its contents, some things stand out:

  • Scrum is still the market leader and seemingly the only choice at the moment. Teams that have adopted vanilla Scrum, Scrum + Extreme Programming or Scrum + Kanban account for 73% of the total. Kanban-only implementations are at a low 5%. [1]
  • Agile passed the early adopter phase. 19% of all companies have been doing it for more than 5 years, and 53% for 2-5 years.
  • Agility is scaling past the individual team level. 57% of the respondents said they have at least 5 teams doing it and 38% have more than 10 teams.
  • Not all agile practices are equally popular. Some numbers I hope to see increasing in the future: 50% of respondents integrate development and testing, 47% do refactoring, 30% pair program and only 15 % measure cycle time. On the flip side, there’s a 10% increase in the usage of retrospectives in the last 2 years. This is good.
  • It seems we’ve found a scenario where agile seems to be difficult to implement: outsourced projects. Plans to run that type of project using an agile approach dropped from 77% to 39%.
  • There are still many misunderstanding regarding agile. The biggest concerns people report are related to a lack of up-front planning, loss of management control and lack of predictability. In my experience however, it’s often the opposite: teams and managers report they feel they have more control and optimized predictability after adopting agile. Expect a blog post on this soon.
  • I imagined everybody would report a faster time-to-market as a result of going agile. After all, that was the whole point of agility, wasn’t it? The percentage, 83%, while still good, indicates that more change is needed across the organization to reap full benefits. If I had to guess, I’d say it is at the portfolio and program management level or in the marketing or sales departments.
  • If you want to succeed, the most important recommendations are to involve senior management and to properly train everyone. At the same time, you must be ready to face the biggest barriers to change: company culture and reluctance to change.

In closing, I want to thank VersionOne for making the effort each year to make this happen. I’m sure it does wonders to their sales, but it’s also a very valuable resource for us agile coaches.

[1] It’s likely that the results of this survey are biased — after all, the majority of the replies comes from VersionOne customers. The report even indicates that 2/3 of the respondents are from the US and 3/4 are from companies with 100-1000 employees. As such, you might want to take the results with a grain of salt. I especially suspect that smaller companies and startups aren’t accounted for all that well. However, the general findings match my experience with companies adopting Agile.


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