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Survey: Leaders Say Agile Has "Crossed the Chasm"

by Deborah Hartmann Preuss on Sep 14, 2006 |
Diana Larsen leads a lot of retrospectives... So, it's not surprising that when she asked herself "Where is Agile going now?" her response was to run a retrospective of her own.  A member of the Agile Alliance board of directors, she circulated a survey to her fellow board members, and has compiled a picture of the trends they've seen developing in the world of Agile software development.  InfoQ brings you the report she made to the Agile Alliance, as an exclusive article: Are We There Yet? Trends in Agile Software Development circa 2006.

This survey is different from recent ones by Scott Ambler and Digital Focus - its result are presented informally, and they represent leaders in the Agile community, rather than general users of Agile methods as the others do.

Larsen looks at current evidence for the spread of Agile, and identifies the following topics as significant issues going forward:
  • Awareness & Propagation.
  • Enterprise Leadership.
  • Scaling Agile.
  • Agile as a Commodity and the Dilution of Agile.
  • New Challenges/Debates in Agile.
    • Is it the quality of the code or the quality of the coders?
    • Do we value individuals or interactions more?
    • Simple vs. Complex Tools
She points out that longstanding promoters of Agile are concerned with what happens next.  Larsen writes "Promoters may pay lip service and give attention to the appearance rather than the substance of Agile."  Rebecca Wirfs-Brock, who invented the way of thinking about objects known as Responsibility-Driven Design, wrote:
“I know about one local contracting company who tried to interject agile management practices into a state agency, with mixed results. The development team picked up on the ‘easier’ XP software engineering technical practices (e.g. continuous integration) much more readily than anyone picked up the ‘harder’ communication, project and team management practices (e.g. pairing, daily meetings) to support Agile. It was not a smashing success.”
Overall, the outlook is positive - Larsen concludes:
World markets and software development will persist in moving as quickly in the next five years as in the past five... The earliest adopters will accelerate their use of Agile methods to develop software. Agile methods will also continue to spread into new arenas. Leaders in our community contend that Agile methods have “crossed the chasm” to become a respectable alternative for managing and working in software projects.

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Good pat on the back by Hani Suleiman

I'm sure this will tremendously help adoption, now that the leaders of movement X have proclaimed that movement X is a success story and has become a respectable choice.

Certainly helps differentiate it from those other approaches/solutions/products/methodologies/frameworks, whose leaders often express doubt and concern over their viability, and proclaim that they are not adopted or used in any practical or meaningful sense.

Re: Good pat on the back by Deborah Hartmann

Hani, you seem to assume the author's intent is to encourage adoption. Not so: in fact it's getting out there just fine by itself, it seems:

> Agile, and the recognition of the need for
> methods that respond to market changes and
> deliver faster, is showing up in places where
> no one expected it, like on mission critical
> projects (NASA and military applications) and
> other government-regulated processes
> (e.g., the V-Model XT in Germany).

The objective was to take the pulse of the leaders of the movement. In a community where retrospectives are a way of life, the leaders have made transparent their own retrospective.

Re: Good pat on the back by Hani Suleiman

Yes, I understand the objective, my sarcasm was more directed at the need to take the pulse of any leaders of any movement. The agile community in particular has made it abundantly clear how they feel about their chosen way of life. I guess I must be the wrong target audience, as seeing a bunch of people applaud themselves is not inheritly interesting or of value to me. I'm interested in agile, which is why I haven't unchecked as yet, but even when there is a worthwhile article, it's buried under all the noise of agile participants proclaiming what a jolly good idea it is, and deriding any failed agile projects as not really agile. A tautology at its best.

It's perplexing why so much content in fact is focussed on defensive/self aggrandising nonsense. If agile really were as successful as it proclaims itself to be, why isn't more of the content practical, interesting, or new to NON believers who are interested in the subject matter?

The content of the other tracks for example is generally less faith based (even SOA, which also has the potential of being furious arm waving and wild inexplicable proclamations), so I'm at a loss as to why the agile content is so....well...pointless, to the average reader.

Re: Good pat on the back by Deborah Hartmann

Thanks for the feedback, Hani. I'll take it into consideration.
Deb

Re: Good pat on the back by Jason Carreira

Wow, that was harsh and yet.... true. Not only largely pointless, but abundant.

Re: Good pat on the back by Paul Oldfield

Whether or not Agile articles are of interest will depend on where the reader is, and where he wants to be, on the adoption curve. I find it of interest that the Agile leaders now think agility has crossed the chasm, because it tells me something of what the next few years will be like for me. Of course, I don't consider myself to be an average reader.

I'm sure Deb would at least listen to requests for articles on agility more tailored to your interests, if you give her an idea of what you'd like to be reading.

Re: Good pat on the back by Floyd Marinescu

Guys, IMO Agile is about process, and as I know both of you to be avid technologists - you're simply probably not the target audience. The agile community on InfoQ is for just that - for people in the agile community, actively practicing Agile and dealing with the challenges of software project management in medium-large enterprise.

This article is quite an important one for them, much like all the news we used to publish in the Java space years ago that was helping to spread awareness of Java's growing adoption.

If you're not interested in hearing about the various changing nuances of the Agile community, then just check off the box on the left side bar. Else, I respectfully, let's leave these threads for constructive discussion between those who are 'of' the Agile community.

Re: Good pat on the back by Hani Suleiman

Alright, I'll unsub then. I just think it's a shame that such a large swathe of the people who know about this site are essentially being told to ignore so much of the content.

Re: Good pat on the back by Cedric Beust

Floyd, I think you missed Hani's point.

In short, he's just saying that "When technology X is marginal, nobody is helped by hearing an X thought leader claim that 'X has crossed the chasm'".

Replace X with Agile, Eiffel, Smalltalk, Lisp or Linux.

I found Hani's criticism constructive and something that the InfoQ creators should pay attention to, but your message to him is basically to stop providing it. I'm sure he'll be happy to oblige.

--
Cedric

Re: Good pat on the back by Vincent Frisina

Floyd,

While I can certainly appreciate the desire to avoid an agile vs. anti-agile flamewar and directing people who are not interested in agile practices to simply unsubscribe, that is not what I see here.

Hani's comments are more along the lines of peer review. He is, as you say, a technologist, and that includes being a practitioner of development methods. He is very much an interested and informed party offering his perspective. That outside critique is vital for the continued growth of the agile methods community. You are right that this is much like the early days of Java adoption, when comments and criticisms flowed in from academics and practitioners, the C++, Smalltalk, and Eiffel language communities, embedded systems and desktop app developers, and many others with a stake in the evolution of software systems. Think of how much weaker the Java platform and Java community would be if they had been shut out in those formative days.

If the agile methods channel becomes a club for agile adepts to talk only to each other and exclude the uninitiated, it will leave the domain of science and engineering and instead becomes techno-mystical occultism. The growth and adoption of agile development methods, currently a promising and worthwhile field, would suffer for it.

Vince Frisina

Has Agile Gone Mainstream? by Deborah Hartmann

This conversation is touching on a number of complex issues, to which I'll need to respond later today. However, this one is immediately interesting:

Cedric paraphrases Hani, saying
> "When technology X is marginal, nobody is helped
> by hearing an X thought leader claim that
> 'X has crossed the chasm'".

So, the article strongly states that it has "crossed the chasm" but one or both of you disagree, and seem to say it's still only marginal? That's interesting. What experience do you have that indicates to you that Agile has not become a major methodology player, adopted by the mainstream?

So, are you disagreeing with these surveys? Or interpreting them differently? Or questioning their claims?
www.infoq.com/news/Digital-Focus-Unveil-Survey-...
www.infoq.com/news/Survey-State-of-Agile-Practice
versionone.com/surveyresults.asp

Re: Has Agile Gone Mainstream? by Cedric Beust

Hi Deborah,

I'll quote the origins of the three surveys you mention:

1) A survey conducted by Agile software development industry leader, Digital Focus
2) Scott Ambler
3) The "State of Agile Development" Survey Results. Conducted by VersionOne - Sponsored by The Agile Alliance

See what I mean?

If a techology is mainstream, first of all, it doesn't even need this kind of survey, and second, when such surveys are carried out, there are hundreds to choose from and from a variety of sources.

The fact that this is not happening is exactly why I believe that at the moment, Agile is still quite marginal.

And to answer your questions: No. As a rule of thumb, I don't believe self-serving surveys.

--
Cedric

Re: Has Agile Gone Mainstream? by Hani Suleiman

Hi Deborah,

As Cedric said, the answer to your question is neither of your options. You seem to (honestly, I really am trying to provide constructive feedback) basically miss the whole point of what we're complaining about. The issue isn't about the survey, or who interpreted it, or its results. The issue is more fundamental than that; it's the fact that at the core of it (and this is something that applies to other posts, not just this one) that saying that vested interest X in technology Y now says that Y is great. If you want agile to grow, then you need to have a message for neutral third parties, not just the ones who have already bought what you're trying to sell.

Floyd though seems to imply that that's exactly the point of the agile community, fluff aimed at fluffy people, rather than technology. So Floyd has politely informed Cedric and I that we don't belong here, something which I find rather surprising, not to mention sad.

Re: Has Agile Gone Mainstream? by Jason Carreira


So, the article strongly states that it has "crossed the chasm" but one or both of you disagree, and seem to say it's still only marginal? That's interesting. What experience do you have that indicates to you that Agile has not become a major methodology player, adopted by the mainstream?

So, are you disagreeing with these surveys? Or interpreting them differently? Or questioning their claims?
www.infoq.com/news/Digital-Focus-Unveil-Survey-...
www.infoq.com/news/Survey-State-of-Agile-Practice
versionone.com/surveyresults.asp


The point wasn't agreeing or disagreeing with the proposition that agile has "crossed the chasm" (a vague and ill-defined concept). The point was that agile experts whose livelihood is based on preaching agile saying that agile has "crossed the chasm" isn't really news nor is it terribly objective.

My personal opinion is that Agile is pretty prevalent, in one form or another. It's also not the terribly complex thing that they make it out to be that requires a whole community of agile advocates and "certified" evangelists.

My constructive criticism is that if you want some good Agile-track content with useful information, you should talk to Vincent Frisina (who posted on this thread). He and I both work for ePlus, so I know he's been implementing Agile methods in a huge company on a project as big as any I've heard of filled with many different stakeholders and political motivations. He's got good advice for people in implementing Agile processes in challenging environments where they're not often attempted.

Re: Has Agile Gone Mainstream? by Deborah Hartmann

...when such surveys are carried out, there are hundreds to choose from and from a variety of sources.

Cedric, I'd be interested to hear about more method-neutral surveys that show information about Agile adoption, when you come across them. Please do drop me a line using the "contribute news" button at the top of every page.
Meanwhile, I'll keep my eye out, too.

Re: Has Agile Gone Mainstream? by Deborah Hartmann

honestly, I really am trying to provide constructive feedback


Yes Hani, I can tell and I appreciate it. It's a sticky subject, and one I've been thinking about for weeks already. I'm definitely paying attention and thinking about the things you're saying here. Thanks.

Re: Has Agile Gone Mainstream? by Cedric Beust


Cedric, I'd be interested to hear about more method-neutral surveys that show information about Agile adoption, when you come across them. Please do drop me a line using the "contribute news" button at the top of every page.
Meanwhile, I'll keep my eye out, too.

A good start is to look for surveys that don't have *any* vested interest in the matter.

In my experience, it is quite challenging to find this kind of survey about Agile practices, and I was only half surprised to find out that the three surveys that you mentioned are all originating from Agile organizations.

That's not a good sign.

--
Cedric

About News by Deborah Hartmann

Here's the thing about news: it captures what people are thinking about, writing about. So it's subject to what's going on now, not what ought to be going on.

If you think I'm missing something, I'd be happy to have your suggestions using the Contribute News button at the top of every page. Particularly because an editor is a finiter resource, and it's impossible to see everything every day... if you spot it first, feel free to drop me a note.

In the meantime, constructive conversation like this is much more likely to yield results than heckling :-)

Re: About News by Deborah Hartmann

Of course, that's intended to be "finite", though some days I'm finiter than others :-)

Re: Has Agile Gone Mainstream? by Paul Oldfield


A good start is to look for surveys that don't have *any* vested interest in the matter.

In my experience, it is quite challenging to find this kind of survey about Agile practices, and I was only half surprised to find out that the three surveys that you mentioned are all originating from Agile organizations.

Well, we could take it as contributing evidence that agile has gone mainstream if we do find any such survey from a non-agile, non-vested-interest organisation.

Re: Has Agile Gone Mainstream? by Deborah Hartmann

Yeah, I spent a while looking for one last night... problem is, if they're not particularly oriented toward Agile, they may not be using the buzzwords. So if it's out there, it's darn hard to find with Google, and I just can't read EVERY darned page on the internet nightly :-) That's why we'll get better coverage if we can rely on readers to contribute things they come across while reading the web, which might not otherwise be easily spotted.

Ex: I had a heck of a time researching the "Eclipse Callisto Agile Success" story because most of the bloggers didn't use the buzzwords (which is fine) - but I spent days just following links and scanning blogs, because you can't find an Agile story with Google by searching for common words like "testing" or "iteration" or "frequent".

Imagine: "Results 1 - 10 of about 126,000,000 for frequent"

Re: Good pat on the back by Deborah Hartmann

I'm sure Deb would at least listen to requests for articles on agility more tailored to your interests, if you give her an idea of what you'd like to be reading.

Quite so. Still waiting :-)

If the question "what would you like to see" is too open ended: tell me which items in the queue you did like, and what you liked about it. (More flies with honey, etc.)

Re: Has Agile Gone Mainstream? by Floyd Marinescu

Floyd though seems to imply that that's exactly the point of the agile community, fluff aimed at fluffy people, rather than technology. So Floyd has politely informed Cedric and I that we don't belong here, something which I find rather surprising, not to mention sad.
I'm sorry if I saddened you, I interpretted your comments to mean that you are not interested in stuff about process and methodology. It is hard to talk about Agile in a concrete fashion in the same way we talk about Java. Many agilists say that 'agile is a state of mind'. How do you cover news about Agile by that definition? It is something we are dealing with often.

In my point I wasn't implying that this community is about fluff and for fluffy people, but I was implying that each community on InfoQ primarily seeks to be an experts community for those in that community. Like in Java we target architects and team leads and try to avoid really introductory stuff. So in Agile Deborah is trying to ensure that the content is of interest to Agile experts but that CAN be in conflict with Cedric's suggestion about making the content also interesting to everyone else, because stuff that may be interesting to everyone else may be boring to the experts, so what do we do?

Re: Good pat on the back by Floyd Marinescu

After seeing the thoughts in this thread unfold, then indeed I get the point. I misinterpretted at first.

Re: Has Agile Gone Mainstream? by Cedric Beust

So in Agile Deborah is trying to ensure that the content is of interest to Agile experts but that CAN be in conflict with Cedric's suggestion about making the content also interesting to everyone else

While that's a laudable goal, that was not my point.

I was just saying I have never found myself educated by articles of the type "Microsoft says that .Net has crossed the chasm".

--
Cedric

Re: Has Agile Gone Mainstream? by Chris Matts

First off, let me state that I'm a member of the Agile Community.

Your comments are much more interesting and telling than the original article.

As for independent surveys. I don't think they exist. Even companies renowned for their impartiality are funded by vested interests who make sure the researchers find the right 'experts'.

Agile is not like technology. It is more an approach or attitude. The Agile Community has adopted, refined or created certain practices that it promotes such as Test Driven Development (Something I was taught at Price Waterhouse in 1991), Continuous Integration and Retrospectives. Whereas a company adopts a technology, Agile is adopted by individuals. This makes it very difficult to assess whether it has "crossed the chasm". A number of the practices are crossing the chasm but I don't see Agile crossing the chasm at the moment. I work with a number of people who use TDD and CI but are not interested in Agile.

On reflection I agree with Diana, certain practices are crossing the chasm but others not.

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