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Agile Outsourcing: 2013 Open Research

How to Measure Anything This open research into agile outsourcing was performed during March and April 2013 and there was 158 respondents. The survey was announced with a title of “March 2013 Agile State of the Art Survey” via a link on my IT Surveys home page at, announced on my Twitter feed, and the Agile and Lean and Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) discussion groups on LinkedIn.

The Survey Results

The goal of the survey was to explore how well “agile teams” were at meeting the five agile criteria (Is the team delivering value? Is the team validating its own work? Is the team working closely with their stakeholders? Is the team self-organizing? Is the team improving their process?) which I’ve used for several years now to judge whether teams claiming to be agile actually are.

Some findings include:

  • Although respondents didn’t initially know that this was a survey about agile outsourcing, half of the respondents indicated that their organizations where applying agile techniques on agile projects in some way.
  • Figure 1 depicts why organizations are outsourcing IT work. It’s interesting how the primary reason seems to be a lack of IT people, an indication to me that many organizations are currently understaffed in their IT departments or the overall productivity of their IT people needs to increase (an indication of a need for greater discipline in their agile strategy).
  • Figure 2 depicts how organizations are approaching outsourcing.
  • Figure 3 depicts how well agile approaches to outsourcing are working. It’s interesting to see that for the more part it is very positive, belying the claims of some people that agile outsourcing doesn’t work.
  • Figure 4 summarizes whether people feel they are getting the promised benefits from the outsourcing efforts. The results are just barely positive, certainly nowhere near what is often claimed by outsourcing protagonists. But, considering Figure 3 it seems that this is enough for organizations to continue trying.
  • The survey explored architecture and design strategies, with over 60% indicating a streamlined approach to architecture early in the project. Sadly only 30% indicated that they captured detailed design in the form of tests.
  • The survey asked about requirements gathering, finding that three quarters had high-level requirements early in the project. A bit more than 40% of respondents indicated that requirement details were gathered throughout the project
  • The survey explored quality practices as well. About two thirds of agile outsourcers were responsible for their own unit testing, an indication to me that one third really aren’t agile. A little more than one third included static code analysis in their CI build, something that is easy to do and which provides significant insight into code quality to the customer when implemented correctly.


Figure 1. Why are organizations outsourcing?


Figure 2. How are organizations outsourcing?


Figure 3. How well is agile outsourcing working?


Figure 4. Are you seeing benefits from agile outsourcing?


Survey questions

The Survey Questions

Survey Data File

Raw Data

Survey Presentation

Summary Presentation


What You May Do With This Information

You may use this data as you see fit, but may not sell it in whole or in part. You may publish summaries of the findings, but if you do so you must reference the survey accordingly (include the name and the URL to this page). Feel free to contact me with questions. Better yet, if you publish, please let me know so I can link to your work.


Discussion of the Results

  1. People didn’t know the purpose of the survey, so that likely removed some bias. My strategy for these sorts of surveys is to send out a short survey every few months entitled “State of the Agile Union, DATE” but to not indicate what the topic of the survey actually is.
  2. This survey suffers from the fundamental challenges faced by all surveys.


Links to Other Articles/Surveys

  1. My other surveys


Why Share This Much Information?

I’m sharing the results, and in particular the source data, of my surveys for several reasons:

  1. Other people can do a much better job of analysis than I can. If they publish online, I am more than happy to include links to their articles/papers.
  2. Once I’ve published my column summarizing the data in DDJ, I really don’t have any reason not to share the information.
  3. Too many traditionalists out there like to use the “where’s the proof” question as an excuse not to adopt agile techniques. By providing some evidence that a wide range of organizations seem to be adopting these techniques maybe we can get them to rethink things a bit.
  4. I think that it’s a good thing to do and I invite others to do the same.