Over the last four years we have been closely tracking adoption rates for various product development methodologies. It has been fascinating to track the exponential rise of Agile methodologies, particularly Scrum. Conversely, Waterfall has fallen off of a cliff but is somehow managing to hang on. That is, until this year. In fact, our data shows a break in the historical trend lines for both of these product development methodologies for the very first time.
A Bit of Background
Before I share the actual data it helps to provide a glimpse into the demographics underlying the study. Each year we conduct a survey that underpins our annual Study of Product Team Performance. Approximately, 1,200 to 1,500 global companies participate in our on-going research. Over 90% of survey participants tell us that they are actively involved in the development of their company’s products and services. Products range from technology (hardware and software) to consumer products and services.
A Closer Look at Historical Methodology Adoption Rates
If you closely examine the data an interesting picture starts to emerge. First, Blended product development methodologies peaked back in 2012 at 52.5%. Ever since then, they have pretty much flattened out and have been range bound between 45% and 43%. Blended methods remain the most commonly used approach to producing products. This has been true since we began tracking adoption rates.
Waterfall, on the other hand, also peaked in 2012 and had been on a steady decline. Waterfall usage reached a high of 18% in 2012 and a low of 10.2% in 2014. However, the trend line broke this year as Waterfall posted an unexpected gain bringing responses back up to 13.6%.
It is also worth noting that Agile methods did something we were not anticipating. In 2015, the Agile data broke with the historical trend as well. You can clearly see Agile’s rise to prominence in the 2012 and 2013 data. During this time Agile adoption rose from just less than 13% to 30.26% – in one year! Pretty staggering increase. Agile methods continued to be adopted in 2014 posting a heady increase of another 10% or so. Unexpectedly, the numbers for Agile adoption dropped off for the very first time in 2015. The data shows that Agile is in fact losing steam! Additionally, the decrease was pretty significant, roughly 7 percentage points.
It is still too early to tell conclusively whether Agile methodology adoption has topped out for good but the 2016 survey data will give a strong indication if this is the case or simply an aberration. The 2015 data indicates that Waterfall is gaining ground at Agile’s expense. Next year’s data should bring some clarity to whether this change is a pattern that we should all pay attention to.