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Survey Says: Agile Works in Practice

Scott is the Practice Leader for Agile Development with IBM Rational's Methods Group. His latest book is Refactoring Databases: Evolutionary Database Design (Addison-Wesley, 2006). He can be contacted at http://www.ambysoft.com/scottAmbler.html.

IN A PRESENTATION at the Rational Software Developers Conference, Ivar Jacobson summed it up well with "These days, to say that you're not agile is the equivalent of saying that you're not potent." Be that as it may, it's clear that the agile software development movement has garnered more and more attention within the IT community over the past several years. But for many people, rhetoric isn't sufficient—they want to know how many people are actually doing this agile stuff, what are they doing, and are they actually benefiting from it? To answer these questions I ran a survey in March of 2006, which was sent out to the combined mailing lists from Dr. Dobb's Journal and Software Development. The survey was based on one performed in 2003 by Shine Technologies (http://www.shinetech.com). Although my results are similar, my survey reached a larger number of people (4232 versus 131 responses) and it's up to date.

Who Responded

At the beginning of the survey, I asked people to rate their skill set on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being novice and 5 being expert. Table 1 summarizes the results, and as you can see, on average the respondents appear to be highly skilled. I also asked about the size of their IT group, and as you can see in Table 2 there seems to be a fair representation of organizations. Figure 1 summarizes the extent of understanding, which people have regarding agile techniques, and clearly we have our work cut out for us—54 percent believe that they have limited or very limited knowledge and 33 percent believe they have an average understanding. Unfortunately, I did not ask about the industry/sector that the organization is in or the geographical location of the organization.

Figure 1: Knowledge of agile methods.

Architecture 3.35
DBA 2.75
Ent Arch 2.8
IT Mgmt 2.81
Operations 2.7
Programming 3.95
Proj Mgmt 3.15
QA 2.93
Req. Analysis 3.37
Testing 3.18

Table 1: Average skill levels of respondents.

1 to 10 1353
11 to 50 877
51 to 100 422
101 to 200 332
201 to 500 310
501 to 1000 232
1000 to 2000 142
2000+ 564
Total 4,232

Table 2: Number of people within the IT organization.

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