What Makes Agile Software Development Agile
Journal article, 2021

Together with many success stories, promises such as the increase in production speed and the improvement in stakeholders' collaboration have contributed to making agile a transformation in the software industry in which many companies want to take part. However, driven either by a natural and expected evolution or by contextual factors that challenge the adoption of agile methods as prescribed by their creator(s), software processes in practice mutate into hybrids over time. Are these still agile In this article, we investigate the question: what makes a software development method agile We present an empirical study grounded in a large-scale international survey that aims to identify software development methods and practices that improve or tame agility. Based on 556 data points, we analyze the perceived degree of agility in the implementation of standard project disciplines and its relation to used development methods and practices. Our findings suggest that only a small number of participants operate their projects in a purely traditional or agile manner (under 15%). That said, most project disciplines and most practices show a clear trend towards increasing degrees of agility. Compared to the methods used to develop software, the selection of practices has a stronger effect on the degree of agility of a given discipline. Finally, there are no methods or practices that explicitly guarantee or prevent agility. We conclude that agility cannot be defined solely at the process level. Additional factors need to be taken into account when trying to implement or improve agility in a software company. Finally, we discuss the field of software process-related research in the light of our findings and present a roadmap for future research.



Software Development


Survey Research

Agile Software Development


Data collection

Hybrid Development Methods

Market research


Software Process


Marco Kuhrmann

Universität Passau

Paolo Tell

IT University of Copenhagen

Regina Hebig

Chalmers, Computer Science and Engineering (Chalmers), Software Engineering (Chalmers), Software Engineering for Testing, Requirements, Innovation and Psychology

Jil Klünder

University of Hanover

Jürgen Münch

Reutlingen University

Oliver Linssen

FOM University of Applied Sciences

Dietmar Pfahl

University of Tartu

Michael Felderer

University of Innsbruck

Christian R. Prause

German Aerospace Center (DLR)

Steve Macdonell

Auckland University of Technology

Joyce Nakatumba-Nabende

Makerere University

David Raffo

Portland State University

Sarah Beecham

University of Limerick

Eray Tuzun

Bilkent University

Gustavo Lopez

University of Costa Rica

Nicolas Paez

Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero

Diego Fontdevila

Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero

S. A. Licorish

University of Otago

Steffen Küpper

Clausthal University of Technology

Guenther Ruhe

University of Calgary

Eric Knauss

University of Gothenburg

Ozden Ozcan Top

Middle East Technical University (METU)

Paul Clarke

Dublin City University

Fergal Hugh Mc Caffery

Dundalk Institute of Technology

Marcela Genero

University of Castilla, La Mancha

Aurora Vizcaino

University of Castilla, La Mancha

Mario Piattini

University of Castilla, La Mancha

Marcos Kalinowski

Pontificia Universidade Catolica do Rio de Janeiro

Tayana Conte

Universidade Federal do Amazonas

Rafael Prikladnicki

Pontificia Universidade Catolica do Rio Grande do Sul

Stephan Krusche

Technical University of Munich

Ahmet Coskuncay

Atatürk University

Ezequiel Scott

University of Tartu

Fabio Calefato

University of Bari Aldo Moro

Svetlana Pimonova

National Research University Higher School of Economics

Rolf Helge Pfeiffer

IT University of Copenhagen

Ulrik Pagh Schultz

University of Southern Denmark

Rogardt Heldal

Western Norway University of Applied Sciences

Masud Fazal-Baqaie


Craig Anslow

Victoria University of Wellington

Maleknaz Nayebi

École Polytechnique de Montréal

Kurt Schneider

University of Hanover

Stefan Sauer

Padernborn University

Dietmar Winkler

Vienna University of Technology

S. Biffl

Vienna University of Technology

Cecilia Bastarrica

University of Chile (UCH)

Ita Richardson

Lero - The Irish Software Engineering Research Centre

IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering

0098-5589 (ISSN)

Vol. In Press

Subject Categories

Human Aspects of ICT

Software Engineering

Information Science



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