Lessons Learned from the Failure of Agile Development

January 23, 2015

Intland-Software-Agile-Software-Development-336x336 Lessons Learned from the Failure of Agile Development agile There has been much written about the strengths of Agile Development and it is heavily promoted as a solution for software development woes. However, there are some high profile failures from which there is much to be learned.

High profile failures such as the UK governments welfare reform project – Universal Credit, are so high profile and costly (estimated final cost £2.4bn) that eventually, the truth leaks and after much speculation and political pressure, – investigations are carried out.

In the case of Universal Credit the National Audit Office (NAO) review of the project clearly indicated that the failure of the project was an Agile Adoption failure with work culture failures mentioned. Secondly, a failure of procurement and contracting, reinforcing the heresay and rumors. One particular problem noted was a lack of transparency and a failure of performance reporting. These are of course are one and the same thing since a failure of performance reporting is a failure of transparency on project progress.

Another more recent example of a UK government Agile project failure named Siren, was to be a crime, intelligence and custody suite, the official report blamed the inexperience of the in-house team in the ways of Agile Development along the Governmental project management and internal controls. In other words, this was a failure of Agile adoption at every level, and failure of communication between internal and external teams as well as a transparency problem when considering the long term nature of the project (8 years). In the details of the Siren report it states that the scope of the project was not well defined (clear demand and requirements management failure), and when you consider that there were 140 people working on this with no real direction it is not surprising at all that no useable product emerged from the project.

Failure of Agile Development or a failure of Agile Adoption?

As to the failure of project management and procurement, we would state that in both cases they certainly failed to purchase the tools and training necessary for Agile Development and scaling Agile Effectively, a project management platform designed for remote working teams that provides complete transparency throughout the Application Development Lifecycle is necessary. One critical failure is the failure to adapt to Agile Project Management which can only be addressed by training or bringing in an experienced Agile project Manager (Scrum Master perhaps).

In the case of Siren, the most basic of all failures occurred, the failure of Requirements Management, you could say that the project even failed to start with the failure of the collection of feature requirements and a way to prioritize them. One of the core modules of codeBeamers’ ALM software is Requirements Management, – designed and integrated with other tools for Agile Development.

None of the failures mentioned in the two cases above were a failure of Agile Development but rather a failure of Agile Adoption. A failure to facilitate a change to an Agile working culture.
Look at the features of codeBeamer ALM to understand why it is the best option for Large Agile Government Development Projects such as Universal Credit and Siren or equally for large Enterprise Software Development Projects.

The features of codeBeamer ALM address every failure mentioned above:

  • Demand Management (user requirements)
  • Requirements Management (project requirements)
  • A Project Management tool designed for remote collaboration. Involve all parties from the end user to management and stakeholders
  • Provides transparency throughout all phases of development

Basic training in Agile Methodology and processes is essential to facilitate an Agile work culture change, along with the adoption of codeBeamer ALM (with training in use), high profile project failures can be avoided.

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Eva Johnson

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Eva is an Economist (MSc) and also holds an MBA in Marketing Communications. She has over 10 years of experience in journalism, digital media communication and project management working with several multinational companies and governmental institutions. You will find her blogs posts on a variety of subjects from Agile-Waterfall Hybrid, Scrum to DevOps.

Eva Johnson has written 131 posts for Intland Software.

2 Comments. Leave new

This is pretty hilarious. You aren’t even a software developer and you are making broad statements about agile.

I’ve been living and breathing software development since 1983 (my background is embedded/Unisys/Oracle/Schneider Electric.). The conclusion I’ve come to in the years I’ve been around is that it doesn’t matter which process you choose, its more about intelligent management. And intelligent management, especially in software, is the rarest of all commodities.

The agile proponents love to co-opt good management practice and call it ‘agile’, but I’ve ‘been there, done that’ and am not so easily fooled by such smoke and mirrors. At the end of the day, you must manage well, and respond well to changes. We knew that long before agile was the fad that it currently is. The currently company I live at is proof that bad management can mess up anything.. they’ve tried waterfall, agile, its all the same.. terrible management = chaos.

I wish you guys well, but at the end of the day, there is no process silver-bullet.. its just plain old good management that wins the day. Absent that, good tools, no matter what their philosophy, will simply be misused.


Hi Richard, thanks for your comment. I agree with you, we should manage well and respond well to changes, and bad management can mess up anything. There are many companies that are doing well by using Agile, while others still develop with Waterfall. codeBeamer ALM enables you to develop by using both methods and hybrid model. codeBeamer ALM provides complete transparency, traceability throughout the Application Development Lifecycle.


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