Does Agile work?

Traditional projects are developed in stages by specialised functional teams.  These projects usually spend 60% of their time in analysis, design and planning and yet often go way over time and budget, reducing scope and delivering low business value.

Simple waterfall diagram

Agile is a much better way of delivering projects and yet I often run into managers who are opposed to agile because they think it is an adhoc approach that requires an open check book.

Ad-hoc development

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.



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 broken, burning, descoped platform was delivered on time.

After our team delivered three large waterfall projects , 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 new 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 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%.

Benefit of agile vs waterfall estimate on Telco projects (3)


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. The 2011 survey showed that Agile projects (iterative, agile and lean) are much more likely to be successful than traditional and ad-hoc projects. Respondents said that 67% of agile projects in their organization were successful compared to 50% of traditional projects.


Agile projects were more successful because more of them delivered a quality system, met stakeholders real needs, provided a return on investment and delivered on time.


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 works. Try it and you’ll see.

3 thoughts on “Does Agile work?

  1. Pingback: When should you use Agile? | agileinsights

  2. Pingback: When should you use Agile? | Kiandra IT Blog

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