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What's wrong with agile development: Culture, people top the list

Agile development projects are succeeding, but when they fail, it's often due to staffing and teamwork issues

When agile software development initiatives fail, it's usually because of shortcomings in staffing and culture, a report released today concludes. In its survey, tools vendor VersionOne looked at a variety of agile aspects, ranging from adoption to benefits to execution and tooling.

In the survey's seventh year, "we dug a bit deeper into why agile initiatives fail and found that in two-thirds of the cases, it was either a failure to integrate the right people or to teach a team-based culture," the report states. Other reasons include communication problems between development teams and other areas of the business and problems with the Scrum master. (Scrum is a popular agile methodology, and agile itself emphasizes iterative software development, with processes evolving along the way rather than being predetermined.) External pressure to follow the traditional waterfall processes was cited as a failure factor as well.

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But the greatest number of respondents -- 18 percent -- said none of their projects had failed at all.

Citing the benefits of agile, 90 percent of respondents said it improved their ability to manage changing priorities. Project visibility was also named as a positive aspect of agile in the survey.

The top reasons for adopting agile include accelerating time to market, more easily managing changing priorities, and better alignment between business and IT. Organizations are scaling agile beyond single teams and single projects, with a 15 percent increase seen compared to a year earlier in the number of respondents who work where there are at least five agile projects. Those planning to implement agile development in future projects increased from 59 percent last year to 83 percent. More than 84 percent of respondents' projects are agile, up fron 80 percent in 2011.

Barriers to further agile adoption include an inability to change an organization's culture, followed by general resistance to change and trying to fit agile into a non-agile framework. The biggest concerns about agile include lack of upfront planning, loss of management control, and management opposition.

The most popular agile methodologies cited were Scrum and Scrum variants, used by 72 percent of respondents.

Conducted between Aug. 9 and Nov. 1, 2012, the survey polled 4,048 people involved in software development.

This article, "What's wrong with agile development: Culture, people top the list," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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