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Gartner and Software Advice examine Agile Lifecycle Management Tools

| by Shane Hastie Follow 28 Followers on Feb 23, 2015. Estimated reading time: 5 minutes |

In February 2015 both Gartner and Software Advice released research and analysis into agile lifecycle management/project management tools.  The Gartner Magic Quadrant identifies that the big players have a competitive advantage and the Software Advice study found which aspects of the tools projects managers find most useful.

The Software Advice survey of Agile Project Management  tool users examined the usefulness of these tools for project management in agile projects, as perceived by their survey respondents. 

Some key outcomes from the research include:

  • 90% of respondents cited both workflow tracking and story mapping as the most efficient functionalities
  • 89% of respondents cited activity streams as the most used agile features
  • 49% of project managers cite difficulty training as the top challenge of agile project management software
  • 48% of project managers are using agile project management tools for non-IT projects, with marketing/advertising projects accounting for 11% of all projects in the survey respondents

Agile PM Tool Users by Project Type

Gartner have also recently released their “Magic Quadrant for Application Development Life Cycle Management” research which puts tool vendors into the four quadrants of Challengers, Leaders, Niche Players and Visionaries.

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Application Development Lifecycle Management

The Gartner report identifies the criteria by which vendors were rated:

The application development life cycle management (ADLM) tool market focuses on the planning and governance activities of the software development life cycle (SDLC). ADLM products focus on the "development" portion of an application's life. This year, we changed our criteria to more strongly weigh the support for agile development and DevOps. This negativity impacted the positions of some vendors that are focused on traditional and system development.

The big players continue to dominate the Leaders quadrant:

The Gartner report provides supporting information explaining the ranking of the various vendors and their products, with advice on the different vendors strengths and cautions.

To get more clarity on the meaning behind the Software Advice results, InfoQ spoke to researcher John Leslie about the outcomes from their survey:

InfoQ: Why did you conduct this research – what were you trying to explore?

We wanted to conduct research to understand sentiments of current, real agile software users, and provide evidence to project managers and upper management that incorporating this software can be beneficial for project tracking, success and completion. The goal was to reveal how current users are utilizing these systems, uncover the biggest benefits and challenges of these systems, and identify the functionalities and features that have the greatest impact on project efficiency.  

InfoQ: Are there any implications from the fact that nearly half of implementations are using agile project management software outside of IT projects?  Are organisations using agile practices outside of IT or is it just the convenience of the tools?

While agile methodology evolved from software development practices, our survey showed that only 52 percent of projects managed were associated with software development or IT projects. This supports the idea that agile practices and methodology are becoming more common in other industries and markets. We discovered that the second-most projects managed by agile software included marketing/advertising projects. Many digital marketing companies turn to agile methodologies and software because they allow for swift and rapid delivery cycles of products, which digital marketing firms provide.

InfoQ: It seems to be heavily tools focused rather than practices focused, however the two aspects which are highlighted as being the most beneficial are both about approaches to understanding development practices (workflow tracking) and identifying customer needs (story mapping) – why are these so important?

Understanding workflow and identifying customer needs are at the heart of the agile methodology. Workflow tracking is essential to any form of project management, but it's especially important in agile due to the quick, iterative nature of agile methodology. Knowing how a particular task is progressing gives a project manager a picture of how specific dependencies of a project are progressing. Similarly, story mapping allows PMs to construct a holistic view of what to expect from a project, and can give clues as to what to monitor more closely and which challenges to address first.

InfoQ: Considering “story mapping” as a capability of a tool – how was that question worded and what does the capability mean? (IE how does it compare to the technique of story mapping as defined by Jeff Patton?)

We asked our survey respondents how various agile software features impacted their efficiency: makes me software much less efficient, makes me somewhat less efficient, it doesn’t impact my efficiency either way, makes me somewhat more efficient, makes me much more efficient, I don’t use this feature, I don’t know what this feature is. Despite that fact that Patton has some fairly specific strictures and suggestions for story mapping, ultimately he sees it as helping teams 'understand the big picture' through organization and prioritization. For this reason we left it a little broad and open to interpretation in the question, so that users who embrace the concept but use the functionality in different ways would be able to answer without hesitation.

InfoQ: Did you explore any correlation with the successful use of agile project management tools and business outcomes from agile adoption?  (Does having/using a tool make your agile implementation any more successful, and why/why not?)

While we didn’t ask whether software specifically enhanced agile adoption, we did ask how agile software affects project efficiency in general, which got overwhelmingly positive responses. From a project manager’s perspective, this increased efficiency likely comes from having an online, shared, central repository of information that’s easy to view and use, even with remote teams, and designed specifically with agile in mind. 

InfoQ: The challenges listed are again very specifically linked to tool usage, what about broader agile adoption challenges and success factors?

Because we’re focused on software, we didn’t ask about broader agile adoption. It can probably be assumed that agile methodologies, because of their unique nature, require at least some level of broader adoption (mindset) beyond simply using software. 

InfoQ: Why should the mobile capability of a tool be a hindrance to agile success?

Experts we spoke with noted that most mobile agile software available is incompatible for software developers’ project needs simply because those developers work nearly exclusively on desktops and laptops. Yet often project teams consist of members in various departments, industries and locations, and an agile solution that is accessible from any device can be highly prized. As agile grows in popularity and more and diverse projects are managed using agile, project managers specifically will want to access information about their projects through any of their devices with as little loss in information and experience as possible. 

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Whiteboard by Zach Bonaker

Okay, but where did "whiteboard+sticky" fall in the study? :P

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