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Survey Offers Insight on Agile Development

Is agile software development the panacea IT is looking for to accelerate application development and improve application quality? Thanks to a tough economy and facing flat personnel and technology resources, enterprises may find useful the results of a new survey from consortium Requirements.net that reveals how enterprises are using agile IT practices and how they're getting the most from the development approach.

The appeal of agile is strong: improved application quality, increased productivity, and faster time to market. Business/IT alignment is also driving the adoption, with many respondents having visions of better end-user/IT collaboration. Projects "continue to be plagued with unacceptable levels of waste and rework," that agile, respondents hope, will solve. However, although the majority of companies (57 percent) are using agile methods in up to a quarter of their projects, only 18 percent are fully embracing the approach in 75 to 100 percent of their projects, according to the survey.

What makes agile projects successful? A majority (58 percent) said that "validated requirements (or requirements that have been reviewed, agreed, and accepted by key stakeholders) and requirements-driven testing are the top control points to ensure business and IT alignment when using Agile." Validated agreements make it easier for IT to meet goals. Also valuable: "clear and precise requirements ensure quality assurance efforts are tightly targeted and project goals are more achievable within tight sprint timelines."

Those requirements shouldn't be in the form of long, dry text descriptions. "Visual requirements provide the most likely chance for correct stakeholder understanding and more efficient development sprints," the report explains. "Process diagrams, visual use cases, and story boards" are the best techniques for expressing requirements according to 72 percent of respondents.

Respondents claim agile does genuinely bring benefits: 39 percent cited improved time-to-market for their software projects, and nearly a quarter (24 percent) said improved resource utilization was the top benefit of a shift to agile. Success also depends on the active participation of the line-of-business users, from participation in user-story reviews to validating requirements.

Survey participants came from a cross-section of industries, including manufacturing, technology, health care, and financial firms; 61 percent were from companies with at least 1000 employees.

The full report is available at http://www.requirements.net/downloads/agile_and_the_business_analyst_30062010.pdf

-- James E. Powell
Editorial Director, ESJ

Posted by Jim Powell on 07/20/2010 at 11:53 AM