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Data Makes the Case for Agile

Data Makes the Case for Agile

More than 70 research reports and the experiences of hundreds of thousands of Agile teams provide evidence that Agile improves results.

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Data Makes the Case for Agile

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Q: I've scoured the Internet, but I can’t find objective, hard-hitting analysis that quantitatively demonstrates that companies that successfully scale up Agile see major changes in their business. Can you point me to some sources?

Author Darrell Rigby responds: I love the way you think. We had the very same question, and we have collected and analyzed empirical data on Agile approaches for several years in order to objectively and confidently answer five key questions.

  • Does increasing and improving innovation actually improve business results?
  • Does Agile innovation produce better results than traditional innovation methods?
  • Do benefits persist when Agile is scaled across many teams?
  • Do benefits persist when Agile is applied beyond technology departments?
  • Do Agile enterprises improve results?

While writing Doing Agile Right, we dug up as much research as we could find on the results of Agile approaches. We reviewed numerous anecdotes, including from hundreds of our own clients. We examined correlations from diagnostic surveys completed by thousands of Agile practitioners who track their progress using our Bain Agility Quotient.

To be as objective as possible, we also collected and analyzed 70 third-party research reports. (A complete list of the reports is included in Appendix C on page 201 of the book.) They include journal articles, books, government papers, academic theses, conference papers, consultancy research, corporate research, and so on. Some reports have been updated regularly for many years. Others are meta-studies synthesizing the findings of several researchers. Certain ones are more academically rigorous than others. Some addressed more than one question.

On the whole, we found, as the summary chart below shows, strong support across all five of the questions, with particularly strong support for the ideas that “innovation improves business results broadly,” “Agile enterprises can improve results,” and “Agile works beyond IT.”

Figure 1

Agile’s ability to improve results has been proven by numerous research projects and Agile teams for more than 25 years

While this empirical data is very encouraging, it is not 100% positive, and it can change.  You are wise to examine the data for yourself. Studying the details of the research, understanding the methodologies, and tracking results as further research pours in will lead you to your own conclusion about the impact of Agile as it is used in different places, in different ways, and for longer periods of time.

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