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Agility at Scale: 2012 Open Research

How to Measure Anything This open research into agility at scale was performed June through early September 2012 and there was 113 respondents. The survey was announced in my June 2012 DDJ article Disciplined Agile Change Management. The primary goals of the survey were to find out whether people are attempting to apply agile at scale (they are), whether they are succeeding at doing so (they are), and whether some are also struggling to do so (they are). We looked at several way of working (WoW) tailoring factors .

The Survey Results

Some findings include:

  • Figure 1 reveals the current levels of agile adoption. In this case 71% of respondents indicated that they work in organizations that have succeeded at agile and an additional 15% work in organizations that have tried agile but have not yet succeed at it.
  • Figure 2 depicts current agile experiences with team size. Once again the vast majority of agile teams are small, with 20 or less people (this is true with other paradigms too). Not surprisingly, it appears that organizations are finding it easier to succeed with smaller teams than with larger teams, also true of other paradigms. In previous surveys we’ve found people claiming success with very large agile teams, but this wasn’t the case this time (I suspect the sample size was too small).
  • Figure 3 shows current agile experiences with geographic distribution. Once again we found people reporting success at all levels of geographic distribution. We also found that organizations are also experiencing failures at all levels of geographic distribution. Once again we’re seeing better success rates the less distributed teams are.
  • As you can see in Figure 4, when it comes to compliance organizations are applying agile in all types of regulatory environments, including life-critical (e.g. FDA) and financial. They are even applying agile in self-imposed regulations such as ISO-900X and CMMI
  • When it comes to domain complexity people report applying agile on pilot projects, in very simple domains, and in what they believe to be very complex domains.
  • When it comes to organizational distribution people are applying agile with contractors, across industry partnerships, and are even doing agile outsourcing.
  • When it comes to technical complexity, see Figure 5, the survey confirmed again that people are applying agile in situations where legacy systems and legacy data sources exist, where multiple platforms exist, and even in package/COTS implementations.
  • When it comes to organizational complexity agile teams are dealing with a variety of challenges, such as stakeholder resistance, management resistance, overly specialized IT staff, waterfall governance, lack of stakeholder involvement, lack of trust, and waterfall cultures.
  • When it comes to enterprise awareness agile teams are working with enterprise architectsportfolio management teamsoperations and support teamsreuse teams, and others.

Figure 1. Agile adoption rates.

Figure 2. Agile experiences with team size.

Figure 3. Agile experiences with geographic distribution.

Figure 4. Agile experiences with regulatory compliance.

Figure 5. Agile experiences with technical complexity.


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 the DDJ surveys is to send out a short survey every two months entitled “State of the IT Union, DATE” but to not indicate what the topic of the survey actually is (other than an IT topic of course).
  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.