The Truth About Agile Adoption

It’s spring time for agile. The birds are singing and main stream companies are adopting scrum. Everyone knows that agile brings us out of the unsuccessful projects of past to a shining successful future.

Unless, you go back to the report that started it all – the CHAOS report.

The CHAOS report is used universally as metric ton of project success. It looks at how projects meet their spec, cost and duration plan. And looking back 17 years since its inception it has taught us that news are bad for projects, with only 32% meet their plan, and the rest fail in someway, 24% are considered complete failure.

That was the proof we needed to call for change. Agile was the cure.

And agile has flourished. According to Dr Dobbs and Forrester Research survey (info here is taken from Mike Griffiths post) in 2009, many companies took on agile in some form.

Put together, the formal agile methods with iterative  development goes up to 56%. Which means the majority of companies have adopted agile. And the results?


Well, it looks that things haven’t changed much according to the CHAOS reports! Sure there’s a slight improvement, but not the sharp ramp we wanted to see here.

But let’s read the fine print. Let’s look at what the CHAOS numbers really mean. To quote Mike:

The CHAOS reports definition of successful is not “functionality within +/- 20% of budget or schedule” as you might think. Instead they calculate a project’s success measure by counting the number of projects that have an initial forecast larger than the actual for cost and time, and one that’s smaller for functionality. This is divided by the total number of projects to calculate the success rates. Standish Group defines its success measure as a measure of estimation accuracy of cost, time, and functionality.

Ahh,  so our measuring stick is a bit crooked. Also, last time I checked, success is decided by customer satisfaction, not the Standish group.

What’s the truth?

Things are improving, and agile is becoming mainstream, slowly. The proof is out there – in conferences, on Twitter, and hopefully around you too. However, following blindly a flag (or at least not reading the fine print) is a good recipe for one day waking up disillusioned.

Get your own numbers. Measure your own goals and define your success. Letting someone else do it for you (or not doing this at all, for that matter) is just plain dumb.

What do you think about the state of agile? What’s the real truth?

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