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Survey Says...Agile Has Crossed the Chasm

Agility at Scale

Agile is being used for various-sized projects. Table 1 summarizes the results when respondents were asked two questions about team size: What is the largest agile project your organization has attempted, and what is the largest project that agile techniques have been successful on? There are two interesting observations about these results. First, although the majority of organizations are applying agile techniques on projects of 10 or fewer people, many are, in fact, trying agile on larger projects. A few years ago, Jim Highsmith estimated that 70-80 percent of all software-development project teams are 10 people or less, so these numbers aren't out of line. Second, organizations seem to be more successful with smaller project teams than larger ones. This is to be expected: The bigger the team, the harder it is to succeed regardless of the development paradigm, and much of the agile literature has focused on colocated teams.

Team Size (People) Largest Successful Agile Project Largest Attempted Agile Project
1 to 5 165 135
6 to 10 144 135
11 to 20 73 90
21 to 50 30 41
51 to 100 6 11
101 to 200 3 6
201+ 2 5

Table 1: Applying agile techniques on various sized projects.

The survey also asked about the success rate of agile when applied in various situations: 296 respondents indicated that they had tried agile techniques when the team was colocated, 251 tried agile without colocation, and 130 had applied agile in offshoring situations. Figure 4 shows that the average success rate is highest for colocated teams and lowest for offshoring situations. There are several implications of Figure 4. First, the agile rhetoric about communication and collaboration being critical success factors seems to hold. Second, although the success rates are clearly lower, many organizations are succeeding at agile projects that aren't colocated. Organizations are, in fact, succeeding at scaling agile software development techniques.

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Figure 4: Percentage of successful projects as reported by respondents.

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