Over the past several years, agile software development methodologies have slowly become commonplace. While not all shops look to adopt such processes, others have found these methodologies to be answers to commonly occurring software development issues. Lack of communication, prolonged delivery dates and missed opportunities for mid-course corrections, to name a few, are some reasons why people are adopting agile methodologies. However, once adopted, each organization tends to tweak the methodology to their own needs, raising the question: Is there such a thing as an “agile purist?”

In a 2009 survey, Forrester, an independent research company, found that most teams see agile as an ethos, not a creed. Asking 575 enterprise IT professionals, the survey, called Global Developer Technographics, found that 47% of its respondents view their methodology as a helpful guide, but diverge from it in order to deliver on time. Only 15% of respondents said they followed their methodology closely and seldom diverged from it.

Dave West, a senior analyst at Forrester, said there will never be one agile religion because “people take bits.” And although he believes key agile concepts, like short delivery times, will certainly be fully adopted in time, one methodology will never prevail over another or be the answer to all software development process needs.

Practicality and flexibility are typical essentials in any shop, and agile offers a means to them. But most shops want to tailor what works best into their own processes, not simply follow a process religiously.

“What I’ve found is pragmatic as opposed to purist,” said Bola Rotibi, principal analyst at MWD Advisors, a European IT advisory firm. “When people first start out, they probably do do it [agile methodologies] verbatim, especially if they have no experience. Then they’ll look to work out the things that don’t work but leave the core principles. That’s what I mean by pragmatic. That’s the beauty of it.”

Of agile’s core tenets—daily standup, iteration planning and unit testing—VerisonOne found in its fourth annual “State of Agile Development” survey that 69% of the 2,570 participants adhered to these three things. Conducted last year between July 22 and Nov. 5, research by the agile project management tool vendor also found that Scrum, or a variant of it, was by far the most commonly employed methodology.

Fifty percent of the participants, from 88 different countries, responded to employing Scrum while 24% adopted a Scrum/Extreme Programming (XP) hybrid. The survey also found that 84% of participants worked in organizations that used agile development practices to some degree.

Forrester’s survey, conducted from July to August 2009, rendered similar findings. Thirty-five percent of the respondents mix agile with other methodologies, such as agile with traditional methods or agile with no formal process at all. “Hybrid models are the reality of agile adoption,” the report said.

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