State of… Agile or Scrum. Should I take the surveys?

New Thinking 30 August 2016 Joe Auslander

Two epic Agile surveys are currently available and collecting feedback for their 2016 reports.

First is the classic State of Agile survey, 11 years in the running and focusing on software delivery, but not the method of framework used.

Second is the 2016 State of Scrum survey which focuses on the use of Scrum, but is not limited to software delivery in application.

Should you take either survey? What’s in it for you? Why should you care? Joe Auslander and Chris Schnugh explore each survey and give you their thoughts on how easy the survey is to complete and why it might matter to you.

The 11th State of Agile Survey

by Joe Auslander

How to take it:

Why should you care?

First off, you take the survey and leave your email address. That means you’re also in the draw for a set of Beats Studio Wireless Headphones (why have Beats headphones replaced iPads as survey prizes? #iwantanipad).

Second, in the past, the survey has been a useful means of showing the Agile community how far it has progressed, where it’s headed and where it can grow. Taking the survey makes sure that continues.

The State of Agile Survey is focused on people who work in a company that delivers or works in the software arena. If you are like me and see the potential for Agile as much greater than software, don’t be discouraged by this. This survey is powerful as it identifies areas of growth and change while embracing the foundation of what Agile was originally built on. As such, there are some common themes that percolate through.

Even when you are not building software.

For instance, five years ago I co-taught several free Scrum and Agile classes in New Zealand. Back then, I remember using the State of Agile Survey data to try and open up conversations around waterfall alternatives to developers, managers, and executives.

I’d say, “So are you happy with how your current projects are running? Are they delivering?”.

The class would say, “No”, as they nodded and revelled in how much they all agreed on their answer.

Then I’d say, “You aren’t alone in the world. What I find interesting in this survey is that while it isn’t guaranteed, you can see the likelihood of success is greater in projects run with Scrum over waterfall… Why do you suppose that is?”. I’d pause and wait for a response. Desperate not to convince them, but to start an open dialogue.

Inevitably, a gentleman in the class, probably in his early fifties, would sit into his chair, arms crossed and with his $100 haircut and say, “I see what you are trying to say. But it will never work for us”...

End of dialogue. Fast forward to now...

These days, if I teach a class of developers/managers in their twenties, waterfall might not even come up at all. They’ve either never heard of it or think of it as some distant boogieman meant to scare indignant developers into attending retros.

Even the most traditional managers and execs in large companies have come around to considering competitive alternatives due to pressures from the market. Most often, Agile is considered as being a part of their solution.

So the question is: How would the most recent State of Agile Survey help me if I were in a similar room now? Who would be in the class and what would they be sceptical about?

If you look at the survey from last year, you’d see that the top reasons for Agile software projects failing are Culture, Knowledge and Support. The barriers to Agile are the organisation's ability to change, getting management buy-in and fear of scale.

This outlines exactly the kind of rooms that I now regularly stand in. Large companies that know they need to change and want/need the good that they’ve seen from their Agile delivery teams to expand into the rest of their organisation. The problem is not knowing how to translate the change they are seeing in their delivery teams to their organisation. As a result, they are experiencing the Agile growing pains!

The survey information validates what I’m seeing, but it also helps the people and organisations I work with to see that they are not alone. It enables the conversation to move beyond, “I see what you are trying to say but it will never work here” and into “Ok, so how are other people solving this?” or better yet “Ok, what do we want to try first?”. (Albeit the last two are on good days).

So how do we use this?

While Agile has grown up over the last 10 years and the State of Agile Survey is limited to organisations that deliver software, the survey represents one of the constants we’ve come to measure ourselves with. By doing a quick survey, you add your voice to what will likely influence and shape 'What is Agile?' in the coming years… Oh, and you may win some nice headphones too.

Read what Chris says about the 2016 State of Scrum survey...