The State of Agile 2014

VersionOne posted their State of Agile survey on January 30, 2014.  This article summarizes that survey.  You can download the whole survey here:

Who Responded

The survey was completed by 3,501 individuals.  The median size of responding organizations was 100.  The positions most commonly held in the company by respondents was project manager, scrum master or team lead.  Twenty-nine percent of respondents worked at companies that have been practicing agile for two years or less:  less than one year, 8%; one to two years, 21%; two to five years 53%; and five or more years, 19%. 

In terms of percentage of projects using Agile methods, respondents indicate:

  • 27% use Agile for 0%-25% of their projects
  • 21% use Agile for 26%-50% of their projects
  • 14% use Agile for 51%-75% of their projects
  • 38% use Agile for 76%-100% of their projectsimage

The respondents identified the role most knowledgeable about agile in their organization in the following order:  Scrum Master, Project Manager, Dev Manager/Director/VP, Developer, Product Owner, Product Manager, QA, Executive, and Business Analyst.

Introduction and Success of Agile

Within those populations champions emerge according to the following statistics:  63% of the agile champions come from management; 17% come from Dev or IT Staff; 14% come from executives; and 8% are identified as consultants, trainer, or other.

The percentage of projects identified by respondents as being agile increased by 4% (84% in 2012 to 88% in 2013).  Seventy-six percent of respondents worked in a company that had distributed software teams using agile.

By far the most common agile framework used was Scrum or Scrum/XP Hybrid at 66% of all respondents using Scrum. 

The report decomposes standard agile practices, such as daily standups, iteration planning, retrospectives, listing them A through Z.  I’ll show the top ten here in order of frequency of use:

    a. Daily standup
    b. Iteration planning
    c. Unit testing
    d. Retrospectives
    e. Release planning
    f. Burndown/team-based estimation
    g. Velocity
    h. Coding standards
    i. Continuous integration
    j. Automated builds

Note that this ranking is unchanged from last year.  However, over the last two years there has been a 10% increase in the use of retrospectives.  And all of these practices showed a greater rate of adoption in 2012 than in 2011 except unit testing (74% in 2012; 72% in 2013). 

Now the Juicier Bits:  Success, Failure, and Scaling Challenges

The top five of twelve reported leading causes of failed projects showed:

  • None of our agile projects failed—15%
  • Company philosophy at odds with core agile values—13%
  • External pressure to follow traditional waterfall processes—10%
  • A broader organizational or communications problem—10%
  • Lack of experience with agile methods—11%

Ranking of items which ease agile adoption at scale:

  1. Buy-in from technology and business
  2. Grassroots commitment inside and outside engineering
  3. Consistent understanding of what agile is and its processes
  4. Pilot groups and knowledge sharing
  5. Cell division; build one successful team and divide experience
  6. Collaboration/ work flow tool
  7. Continuous improvement and retrospectives
  8. Good leadership
  9. Good ScrumMaster
  10. Teams talking to one another

Adoption Lessons Learned

The top five of thirteen reasons for adoption of agile are:

  • Accelerate time to market
  • Manage changing priorities
  • Better align IT/Business
  • Increase productivity

imageSeventy-three percent of respondents indicated that adopting agile did provide the benefit of “Faster time to complete.”  Respondents reported that the top three benefits of adopting agile were “Ability to manage changing priorities,” “Increased productivity,” and “Improved project visibility.”  Fifty-one percent report that the majority, if not all, of their agile projects were successful.

The top three of nine lessons learned with regard to successfully adopting agile were to have executive sponsorship (22%), assure there is sufficient training (18%), and implement a common tool (15%).  Note that executive sponsorship dropped by 1% and implementation of a common tool increased by 2% over last year.

Given that this survey is administered by a tool vendor, there are also statistics on tools used and tool happiness metrics.  VersionOne ranks at or toward the top in this survey in terms of user recommendations.  Excel ranks number one in terms of tools actually used.



(Graphics are from the 8th Annual State of Agile Survey, © VersionOne, Inc. VersionOne is a registered trademark and State of Agile is a trademark of VersionOne Inc.)



About the Author

Jean Richardson is an agile coach and project management professional with more than 20 years’ experience with clients in the Portland metro area.  Her initial agile training, the Certified Scrum Master (CSM) credential, was provided by Ken Schwaber, one of the two developers of the Scrum framework.  You can read her blog on leadership, agile, and project management at and link with her at You can correspond with her at

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