What’s the evidence that Agile works?

In my experience Agile works very well but it’s helpful to have concrete evidence to convince skeptics.

Case Study 1- Telco Projects

In 2007 I worked on a series of large projects for a large Telco using a heavy Prince 2 waterfall process. During this company’s multibillion dollar IT transformation program, the business and technical people became very unhappy with this approach and in 2010 the COO announced that they were going Agile.

Prior to the Agile announcement my group spent nearly two years using this Prince2 methodology to deliver three large multi-million dollar projects which transformed the company’s online platform for Enterprise customers. As usual these projects took longer, cost more and delivered less than expected.

After these projects were deployed, the business asked us to deliver the most important things that had been de-scoped in the next three months before they lost their remaining budget. We estimated three projects with the usual waterfall methodology and found that none of these projects could be delivered in three months. 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. The result was proof that Agile works.

On the first portal, we delivered the features requested in 50% less time and 10% less cost than originally estimated. On the second portal we delivered the features required in 30% less time and 10% less cost than estimated with half the functionality deployed early. On the third portal we reduced the time it took to place a business order for mobile phones from 10 minutes to three minutes for 80% less than it had taken to do a similar project two years before! This is shown in the table below.

Agile vs Waterfall

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. Traditional projects are less likely to deliver a quality outcome and most of them don’t meet stakeholders needs, provide a return on investment or deliver 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 methods work. Try it and you’ll see.


3 thoughts on “What’s the evidence that Agile works?

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

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

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