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Agile Is Dead, Long Live Agile!

While looking for some Agile related content online, I've bumped into an article by William Edmondson and have been intrigued by its title: Agile is Dead. The title seemed rather opinionated; however, as I read on, I agreed with most of things the author wrote.

According to William, "Agile has reached a critical mass of name recognition which, because of its very popularity, has doomed itself to the trash bin of the outdated and out-of-style. In other words it is main-stream.  The term Agile is officially a part of the corporate environment and thus lost its street cred with the cool kids in dev world."

And the author is wondering how such a promising movement could become just another cliché and an overused term. And the answer he comes up with is because developers and architects have treated Agile as an end to itself and a "panacea meant to save us from “The Business” and its mind-numbing bureaucracy". Instead of focusing on the value Agile is supposed to deliver, methodology "evangelists" created their "own quagmire of mindless ceremonies" such as perfect sprint planning sessions.

While nearly everyone involved in software development today claims to do things the Agile way, the number of failed projects is impressive and growing from year to year. Let's take a look at some numbers: as of 2015, 90% of software developers admitted being knowledgeable about the Agile methodology and of them, 58% admitted having over 3 years of experience with Agile (source: VersionOne, 2015). Further, according to Wrike, 38% of organizations globally are using Agile and only 64% of all Agile projects meet their goals. As many as 70% of companies admit having at least one failed project in 2015. In addition, a staggering 43% of all Agile projects are challenged (late, over budget, and/or with fewer than the required features and functions) and 18% fail completely (either cancelled prior to completion or delivered and never used).

Apparently, the author suggests that developers should stop focusing solely on standups, burn-down charts, refinement meetings, or sprint velocity, and start delivering true value to clients, i.e. quality products that meet their budgets and expectations, and are able to provide an appropriate ROI.

I've reached out to Agile experts on Quora asking them to share their opinion about whether Agile is dead or not. Some of the replies were rather thought-provoking, check them out below:

claps Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 12.02.09 PMGerry Claps:

Growth @ | Agile + Lean Product Guy

Helping teams to 'be agile' & build products people actually use.

"Agile is dead in the sense that (nearly) everyone is 'Agile'.

Agile software development is a mindset that pushes teams towards developing software iteratively with feedback from customers.

Nowadays, with extremely low barriers to entry when creating a new business (e.g. infrastructure as a service), it's simply infeasible to build software any other way."

Chuck Cobb, Agile Project Management Author, Mentor, Instructor, Author of "The Project Manager's Guide to Mastering Agile"

"Agile is certainly not dead but it may be maturing.  I think there are several challenges that Agile is facing in today's world that are causing us to take a broader view of what "Agile" is.

(1)  As the use of Agile becomes much more widespread and includes applications outside of a pure software development environment, people have to learn how to adapt an Agile approach to fit different kinds of problems.  That requires a deeper understanding of the principles and values behind Agile and not just a mechanical implementation

(2)  As Agile is scaled to larger and more complex enterprise-level projects some of the simple, team-based Agile practices need to be extended significantly and there is an increasing realization of the need to integrate an Agile development approach with the company's business objectives and that may require additional management practices beyond simple team-level development management practices

(3)  There has been a lot of polarization between the Agile community and the traditional plan-driven project management and there are many stereotypes, myths, and misconceptions on both sides of this fence.  For example, one of the most popular ones is that there is a binary and mutually-exclusive choice between "Agile" and "Waterfall" and you need to force-fit your projects and business to one of those extremes.  People are beginning to see these two seemingly disparate approaches in a new perspective as complementary to each other rather than competitive and realizing that there is a need to learn how to blend these two approaches in the right proportions to fit a given situation.

I've seen this pattern before when Six Sigma was the hot new thing in the late 1990's and early 2000's.  As people and companies implement some of these trends, it is very likely that Agile will become much more integrated into the way companies do business and it will become recognized as an essential tool for doing projects and business more effectively (just as Six Sigma was) and some people may interpret that to mean that "Agile is dying".  Rather than "dying", I see it as just a natural phase of maturity that Agile is going through just as other hot new management trends like Six Sigma have gone through in the past."

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 12.10.52 PMStefan Wolpers

Agile coach, product & Scrum guy.

"It’s alive and kicking, but expansion in the corporate world is coming at a price: Imposters claim to be experienced, and some clever people found out that stripping agile from a new ingredients actually turns agile into micromanagement tool."

According to Alex Osborn, Agile is not even close to dying, it's just the beginning. Scrum is only 15 years old, so it's a teenager.

"People need to understand that this alternative to Taylorism is right for today's world, nothing is certain, nothing is static. The world needs agile, without it there will be a continual cycle of bad projects, where none of them take account of changing requirements, no empirical process, chasing the wrong metrics and customer and users will be depressed, unhappy and buy something from someone else. Project Success DO NOT EQUAL happy customers - period."

And what's your take on this? Please provide your comment below or join a discussion on Quora!

Vik is our Brand Journalist and Head of Online Marketing / PR with 11+ years of international experience in IT B2B. He's also a guest blog contributor to Business2community, SitePoint, Journal of mHealth, Wearable Valley and other IT portals.