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The Current State Of The Agile Nation – Agile Process Adoption

A few days ago I was asked where I thought Agile adoption was at right now. After giving a long and no-doubt confusing answer I thought I would write it up as well. After all if I had to confuse one person I might as well confuse and bore a whole lot of others while I am at it. Therefore, here is where I think the agile world is right now (oh and by the way, the adoption rates below are my own opinion and are based purely on keeping a ‘finger on the pulse’ not any statistical evidence):

The SCRUM People

Scrum is by far the most well known and widely adopted process right now.  Scrum is becoming almost synonymous with agile with some of the biggest names (Ken Schwaber, Jeff Sutherland etc.) in the agile world pushing scrum as their process of choice. Scrum is one of the few agile process that has a certification path (as offered by the Scrum Alliance) and this is probably one of the main reasons why Scrum has become the most widely accepted agile process. Of course the fact that Scrum bundles the majority of XP practices into itself probably doesn’t hurt it much either, infact Scrum couldn’t exist without XP practices.

Adoption Rate: ~ 10%

The XP People

XP is probably the original Agile process if anything is. It is pretty much a set of common sense practices to make software development better. Many of the practices support each other but there is no common framework that ties them all together. This is probably why many management-type people don’t really like it much it makes them feel useless and unnecessary. But since we still have to work with all sorts of people including management-types, just about every single other agile process tries to wrap XP in just such a framework (see Scrum above).

Adoption Rate: ~ 7%

The Other SCRUM People

Of course when something starts to enjoy a bit of success and someone starts making a good living from it, other people get envious of that tasty pie and want to get themselves a piece. These people are disillusioned or simply want to make some cash without being bound by someone elses rules. This is what is happening to Scrum right now. With Scrum becoming more and more successful a lot of people come out all critical about how regular Scrum is not quite right and how they have a much better Scrum (Is Scrum Failing Us?). The Scrum certifications are all bad and how they have bigger and better certifications (Scrum Master Certification By Net Objectives).

Adoption Rate: ~ 2%

The Lean People

Then of course there are people who really want to be different so they come up with a whole different process and even give it a different name and since these people might even have a name within the community their ideas gain instant recognition ( No matter that the ideas they espouse were always part of the Agile spirit, just the execution may have been faulty (agile doesn’t kill agile, people kill agile). But hell, why not, let’s re-brand – it worked for SOA.  The point is to create a niche, so that more consulting can be offered and more books can be written and if we happen to help people write better software at the same time, well that’s just an extra benefit.

Adoption Rate: ~ 3%

The People Who Are Over It

Inevitably there are people who are sick of it. After all Agile has been around for a decade or more now, there are bound to be people who just can’t be bothered any more. I wrote about it before it’s called post-agilism. Sometimes you just get sick of arguing about process. You just want to write good software and deliver value. You know that you can’t please everyone, you know the good practices and the bad ones. You try to maximize the good ones and minimize the bad ones and do as good a job as you can under the circumstances.

Adoption Rate: ~ 8%

The Clueless People

For those of us who are into the whole Agile thing it might sometimes seem like the whole world is jumping on the Agile bandwagon. After all most of the job ads these days list Agile as a mandatory skills and everyone seems to be talking about it. Nothing could be further from the truth. The vast majority of people have absolutely no idea, they’ve heard of this Agile thing but they don’t know what the hell it’s all about and they don’t really care. They might be happy to bandy words but can’t really be bothered changing the way the work. This applies to both individuals and companies. Even if they are trying to pay lip service to the Agile way, they do it in such a half-arsed way as to make it completely meaningless (quarter-arsed).  Into here we can also bundle the people who think they are doing agile but they aren’t, people whose upper management says they are doing agile and a whole host of other types of dudes who make this bucket by far the biggest out of the ones I listed.

Adoption Rate: ~ 70%

Conclusion – Things Could Be Better

There you go this is the state of the agile process adoption world as I see it right now. That’s right, I didn’t include all the other agile and quasi-agile processes such as DSDM, FDD etc. ; that’s because I think we can either easily lump them with one of my categories (e.g. lump DSDM with the clueless people), or their adoption rates are small enough to neglect, or maybe I just don’t care to mention them.

The Agile world seems to be splintering into smaller and smaller bits as more and more people, disillusioned for various reasons, try to peddle their own brand of process.  While this is going on everyone seems to forget the fact that just about any brand of Agile is better than waterfall or ad hoc. Rather than presenting a united front and forcing crappiness, like waterfall, completely out of the software development profession we are like the Greek city states with the giant Persia sitting dismissively on our borders. Except there is no Alexander in sight to unite us all and show them what’s what.  I hope you enjoy that little bit of allegory.

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  • Korny

    Not quite sure why you list “scrum” and “xp” as two different categories – most people we work with do something that is basically a mix of scrum at the macro level (though based on what I learned in my scrum course, with some of the silly extremism damped down a bit) and xp at the micro level. It’d be more interesting to supply (or make up!) one category for “just scrum”, one for “just xp”, and one for “scrum+xp” – I think it’d be bigger than the other two!

    And I suspect you missed a big category: people doing waterfall/RUP/whatever with agile practices, and calling it “Agile” or “Agile-like” or “just the good bits of agile” …
    and blaming the agile practices when it doesn’t work!

  • Alan Skorkin

    Exactly right about scrum and XP, it would be hard to sell scrum as a process at all without the XP practices. And yet Scrum and XP are considered distinct processes in the marketplace, go figure. This is why i say that many agile processes just try to wrap a framework around XP.

    A bundled the waterfall “agile-like” people into the clueless category :).

  • Curt Sampson

    I’m not terribly familiar with Scrum, but from what I’ve read it appears to be more or less just the planning side of XP. What does it have that XP doesn’t?

    As for managers feeling useless in an XP world, it’s because they often aren’t very useful. Most if not all of the project management in a group of a dozen or less smart developers can easily be done by the developers themselves, and they’ll generally do a better and more efficient job of it than a non-developing project manager. I’ve found this to be a big source of resistance to the introduction of XP in some organizations.