People who advocate for Agile do so because they have had a lot of experience with big systems engineering projects that have gone way over time and budget, damaging peoples health and delivering low business value.
When your advocating an Agile approach you often run into managers who are opposed to Agile because they assume that it is a high risk, adhoc approach that requires an open check book. They think Agile looks like this.
But Agile isn’t an ad-hoc delivery process at all. Its something new. Agile takes the best of adhoc and waterfall to reliably deliver initiatives on time and on budget with high quality.
But what is the evidence for those who haven’t tried it?
Case Study 1- Telco Projects
In 2007 I worked on a series of large projects for a large Australian Telco using a heavy Prince 2 waterfall process to deliver a billion dollar IT transformation. The CIO was famous for saying that it didn’t matter if the car crossed the finish line broken and burning as long as it crossed it on time. And true to his word, a seriously descoped, broken and burning new platform was delivered on time.
After these projects were deployed, the business asked us to deliver the most important features that had been de-scoped in the next three months before they lost their remaining budget. We estimated three projects with our vendor using the usual waterfall approach and found that they would take 4 to 8 months to do. Since time was short I asked the business, the vendor and IT management to let me use an Agile approach to deliver as much as we could in the time remaining.
We delivered the first project in half the estimated time for 10% less cost than the waterfall estimate. We delivered the second project in 30% less time and 12% less cost than estimated with half the functionality deployed early. And we delivered the third project with 40% better results in 60% less time and 50% of the cost of a similar project we had done two years before. On average using agile on these projects increased the features delivered by 13%, reduced delivery time by 45% and reduced delivery cost by 33%.
Case Study 2- Ericsson Mobile Core
In 2009 Ericsson Mobile Core recognized that their established practices were failing. Projects were delayed. Quality was difficult to maintain. And even with the best project management oversight, they still had problems obtaining a believable picture of where they were.
In Experiences of the Ericsson Mobile Core Agile Transformation Ericsson reported that after a three year Agile transformation they have exceeded customers quality expectations, reduced their product development cycle time and released new functionality ahead of schedule.
Case Study 3 – SAS Agile Transformation
For many years SAS used a waterfall methodology to develop the SAS Platform and implement new solutions for customers; but from 2005 SAS found that they were unable to keep pace with customers’ demands for new features. So in 2008, SAS decided to implement Agile to improve speed to market and trained over 2,000 staff.
In a 2013 paper Agile Adoption: Measuring its Worth SAS reported that teams that implemented agile have been more engaged, more productive, produced higher quality products and delivered faster. SAS found that the return on investment in Agile has been substantial irrespective of project size and length.
The 2011 IT Project Success Survey
Scott Ambler, found similar results in the 2011 IT Project Success Survey of IT industry professionals. This survey is highly credible as more than 80% of the respondents have more than ten years’ IT experience, 51% are IT managers or team leads and more than half are from large organisations with more than 500 people.
The 2011 survey shows that Agile projects (iterative, agile and lean) are much more likely to be successful than traditional and ad-hoc projects. When asked how successful projects were in their organization, respondents said that 67% of agile projects in their organization were successful compared to 50% of traditional projects.
Agile projects are more successful because many more of them deliver a quality system, meet stakeholders real needs, provide a return on investment and deliver on time and schedule.
Drilling down we can see that more than 70% of Agile projects were effective at delivering a return on investment compared to only 30% of traditional projects.
Agile methods work. Try it and you’ll see.