Why agile hype could lead to project failure

Published on the 31/03/2015 | Written by Darren Christophersen

Darren Christophersen, general manager of applications & consulting at Empired explains why you should be wary of the hype…

Agile methodology, which involves collaboration and adaptive planning to meet businesses’ needs, has been championed by many as the future of delivering software projects. Benefits such as faster and more efficient delivery and the ability to incorporate changing and/or late requirements are being used to convince businesses that agile is the right path for them.

The issue for businesses is that they are often being sold on the agile approach without the tools to ensure successful implementation.

Agile software implementations can undoubtedly deliver an end product that is much closer to the business requirements. However, little consideration is being given to how these benefits are realised within organisations.

There are many consultants advocating for organisations to move to an agile approach but success has been sporadic and inconsistent particularly within large enterprises.

This can be because what worked for small projects and/or product development does not necessarily work for large enterprise projects. Enterprise applications have a much broader range of stakeholders and dependencies, are often contracted for delivery outside of the organisation, and the funding model for enterprise projects is often structured and staged, whereas smaller projects can be run from operating expenditure.

Other reasons for failure include lack of governance and consideration for how the project will transition into support; deviation from the principals of agile; and an overall lack of communication.

In my experience large enterprise agile implementations have been thwarted due to a number of different issues: having only small parts of the team trained in agile, time-wasting because of extended meetings, internal politics, differences of opinion among stakeholders and a failure to deliver early and often, which means that what is delivered can’t be used.

In addition, many projects are conducted in an agile bubble with no consideration as to how they make the transition into support – almost always a recipe for disaster.

All of the challenges aside, when organisations are properly equipped for an agile implementation they will realise significant benefits. A successful agile project will let the client use and review progress throughout the project. This means regular feedback can be provided and quickly incorporated, reducing issues with the production environment and the need to rework. Ultimately, this leads to a better software project outcome.

Five ways to ensure agile success:

  1. Recognise that the method of gaining access to capital is not going to change. Project identification, feasibility, capital request and execution is the process for how all business initiatives are assessed. This will not change just because an agile approach is being used. Identify ways to work within the model such as the use of fixed feature points and roadmaps with specific goals.
  2. Understand that commitment and involvement from all stakeholders is critical. Ensure there is are fast, regular and high-quality feedback loops to and from stakeholders through regular delivery using rapid, flexible and controlled environment creation and management and automation of test and release.
  3. Make governance and control a priority. As with any project governance and control will ensure that ownership, responsibility and accountability are in place.
  4. Have the right team ready to perform and ensure they remain close to the business users. Make sure your team is trained and experienced, and understands agile and the importance of project management.
  5. Ensure you have the right tools to support the team. This includes voice, video and messaging for efficient remote collaboration, project tracking and reporting tools, continuous integration and deployment tools, and environment management and automation.


Darren is general manager of applications & consulting at Empired and has extensive experience in leading and managing teams delivering technology solutions. Prior to this he co-founded and grew a technology and consulting firm, Conducive, which was purchased by Empired in 2012. His pragmatic, customer focused, one-team approach has enabled him to build highly successful teams.

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