If there’s confusion about agile, some would argue that it’s actually not about the nature of agile. As a set of development team practices, agile is pretty well understood at this point, according to Forrester Research analyst Tom Grant. “I think the bigger source of confusion is the goal for agile. Often, there’s a disconnect between what the team understands the goal to be and what people outside the team think the goal should be,” he said.

“For example, while executive management might see agile only as a vehicle for getting to market faster, teams might be adopting agile to deal with quality or customer satisfaction issues.”

Voke’s report also found that the average cost of agile software projects is rising dramatically in spite of smaller development teams working much shorter durations. This, the report says, is due to the rising cost of discovering and fixing defects. But, according to Humble, it is important for organizations to understand that building quality into software is central to lean and agile methodologies, which emphasize the importance of cross-functional teams (including QA and operations).

“Indeed, it was agile practitioners who pioneered engineering practices such as test-driven development, continuous integration and refactoring, which substantially reduce the cost of discovering and fixing defects,” Humble said.

In response to Voke’s report that agile software costs are rising, Humble said that Voke is making the same mistake as many enterprises that treat IT as a cost center: It is focusing on development cost instead of return on investment. Humble quoted Douglas W. Hubbard in his book “How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business”: “Even in projects with very uncertain development costs, we haven’t found that those costs have a significant information value for the investment decision… The single most important unknown is whether the project will be canceled…. The next most important variable is utilization of the system, including how quickly the system rolls out and whether some people will use it at all.”

Thus, according to Humble, getting a quality product that incorporates customer feedback in 11 months for the same price as getting a mediocre one in 17 months represents an incredible deal. “Today, enterprises are being challenged by technology-powered startups that are able to leverage lean and agile methodologies to create a competitive advantage,” Humble said. “Thus, the failure of many enterprises to implement agile at scale, as noted by Voke’s report, is indeed a serious problem.”