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Survey: Companies Struggle with Agile Management Tool Selection

Has your company had a hard time finding the right project management tool for its Agile software development efforts and found itself unhappy with the tools used? If so, you're not alone, according to recent research.

A survey conducted earlier this year by two Swedish graduate students indicates companies have difficulty in picking the right Agile tools in a highly fragmented market and often resort to relying on simple "tangible" tools such as whiteboards and paper.

"The most surprising result was probably the large number [35] of different Agile project management tools mentioned in the survey answers," said Gayane Azizyan in an interview with this site.

Azizyan and Miganoush Magarian conducted the survey as part of a master's thesis at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, collecting 100 responses from 35 different countries in a Web-based questionnaire. The two embarked on the project in an attempt to find an Agile project management tool for Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson, where they both work as systems designers.

"We couldn't find any objective tool evaluations and tool usage surveys, all such evaluations and surveys being conducted by tool vendors," Azizyan said. "We also did not find any tool adoption guidelines that companies could follow."

Of the 100 responses, 35 different project management tools were mentioned, not counting simple physical tools and generic products such as MS Project. The survey results indicate 25 percent of respondents reported using the simple physical tools, with another 23 percent reported using spreadsheets (with multiple responses allowed). The largest single category was "other" at 27 percent. The most-used vendor solution was that of Rally Software, at 5 percent.

"The large number of such tools available on the market, coupled with the absence of objective guidelines for Agile tool adoption, gives a hint of the difficulties companies (especially larger ones) must be facing when choosing tools," Azizyan said.

Further indications of that difficulty in choosing the right tools, she said, was the high percentage of respondents who reported negative aspects of the tools they used. In fact, 92 percent of responses mentioned at least one negative aspect of the tools they used. The biggest negative aspect, the results indicate, was "lack of integration with other systems," followed by "lack of custom reports." That response "confirms the necessity of further objective research on the topic," Azizyan said.

Of the positive aspects of the tools mentioned by respondents, "ease of use" was by far the highest category.

As far as what specific Agile methodologies were used, Scrum was the clear leader, with 50 percent of respondents reported using, followed by a combination of Scrum and XP. Those respondents who only use XP came in third.

Azizyan and her partner used the research, in conjunction with other Agile-oriented research, to help implement a custom Agile project management solution at Ericsson. In the meantime, they shared their research in an August posting on their Agile Klover blog.

"In one sentence," she told this site, "this is what companies should take from the results: that picking an Agile tool is a complicated issue, given the large number of such available tools, and that picking a tool simply due to popularity might not necessarily provide an optimal solution, instead resulting in more issues and wasted resources."

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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