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Survey: Alarming Lack of Use of Formal Development Processes

Hot tech trends such as mobile, cloud and Big Data aren't replacing current platforms and programming languages, but rather are adding complexity to development efforts that too rarely use formal processes to drive important work, according to a recent survey from Forrester Research Inc.

"While we see solid adoption of formal methodologies among some developers, many--veterans and rookies alike--don't use any formal development process to drive their work," stated the survey. "This should trigger alarm bells among development managers, especially those in large organizations with mission-critical applications."

The "Development Landscape: 2013" report follows a survey of 1,611 developers in North America and Europe. The report is available for purchase or to Forrester clients.

One of the key takeaways of the report is that developers are supporting more technologies as new trends are adopted, while becoming more "polylingual" and testing on more configurations than previously reported.

But lack of formal development processes to support this added complexity was worrisome to authors Jeffrey S. Hammond and Vivian Brown.

"More than one-third of the developers in our survey stated that they use no formal development process at all!" the authors wrote. "What's worse is that these numbers aren't confined to young or lone-wolf developers; there are significant numbers of process-averse developers at large companies (33 percent) and among development veterans (43 percent)."

In response to the question: "Which methodology most closely reflects the development process that you currently use?", replies from 651 respondents included:

  • Do not use a methodology -- 37 percent
  • Software engineering (CMMI, FDD, spiral, V-model, iterative, waterfall) -- 27 percent
  • Agile (Kanban, Scrum, TDD, XP) -- 19 percent
  • Project management (Evo, Prince2, PMBOK, Six Sigma) -- 14 percent
  • Other -- 3 percent

The report authors weren't surprised by low numbers of developers practicing formal processes at very small companies, but were concerned about the low numbers at large enterprises. "The reason why is not clear, but we hypothesize that it’s a mix of three factors: lack of developer discipline, lack of awareness and lack of results," the report stated. "We’re planning follow-up research in this area to test our suspicions."

Speaking to the mixed bag of methods, practices and skills, the authors stated, "On the whole, it's not exactly a reassuring picture for those who depend on the software they build."

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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