Scott Ambler



Modern Software Development Strategies are More Effective

May 26, 2014



On average modern software development strategies such as Lean (think Kanban), Agile (think Scrum or Disciplined Agile Delivery), and Iterative (think Unified Process) appear to be the more effective than either Traditional (Waterfall) or Ad-Hoc (no defined process) strategies.  Overall, when it comes to delivering a quality product, stakeholder satisfaction, providing good return on investment (ROI), and delivering in a timely manner modern software development approaches work better than either traditional or no process at all.


How do we know this?  Our 2013 IT Project Success Rates Survey explored how effective the five most common software paradigms are.  The survey explored the effectiveness of these paradigms – Lean, Agile, Iterative, Ad-Hoc, and Traditional – by first asking respondents whether their organizations had such development teams and if so how successful were they.  The following infographic compares the effectiveness, on a scale of -10 to +10, of the common software development paradigms:




There are several important observations to make from these results:

1. When it comes to delivering product quality, Lean strategies are slightly better on average then Agile and Iterative strategies (which were statistically the same).  Traditional strategies which leave testing to the end of the development lifecycle fared poorly, and Ad-Hoc strategies very poorly.

2. For producing stakeholder value, Lean and Iterative strategies were best, followed by Agile (which was surprising given the focus on customer collaboration in agile), and once again Traditional and Ad-Hoc trailed the pack.

3. When considering ROI, Lean was slightly better than Agile which in turn was slightly better than Iterative.  Ad-Hoc and Traditional once again fared poorly.

4. When it comes to delivering in a timely manner the modern techniques once again outshone both Traditional and Ad-Hoc.


Of course these are averages and your mileage may vary.  A related SA+A Insight Lean and Agile Software Development is More Successful Than Waterfall (please link to the new Insight on this topic) should be of interest to you.  For more results from this survey, read the SA+A Insight Comparing Software Development Paradigms.


© 2015 Scott Ambler + Associates