Agile hype cycle

November 24, 2008 at 6:54 am 2 comments

Or why the recent “agile fails” blogs are actually a “good thing”.

Back in 1995, Gartner developed a concept of a so called hype cycle, which describes the changes in “visibility” of a new technologies with the passing of time.

According to that cycle there are 5 stages of any new technology adoption, each stage with unique adoption characteristics. I want to show in this post where agile is placed on this graph, and why it actually shows that agile is on its way to “conquer the world”.

Technology Trigger

The point where technology is invented – the “eureka” moment. No users yet, the technology is just an idea. Agile Manifesto maybe?

Peak of Inflated Expectations

Some work is done by “founders”, but the technology is not yet mature enough – more like an alpha version. There are some early adopters but no widespread use. Since the early adopters are people with some influence (bloggers, consultants, tech experts, evangelists) word starts to get out and “rest-of-us” start to take notice. This peaks at some point of maximum hype – this is a point where agile is perceived as a “silver bullet”.

Trough of Disillusionment

Once the hype peaks “normal” users start to try to use the technology… but the technology is still not ready for wide spread use. Agile specifically requires training and understanding and it takes time to actually adopt and make it useful. Because of misuse there appear failures – “we used agile for 3 months and it does not work” type of comments. In the background, the original community of founders and early adopters are trying to improve the technology but it takes some time. Arguably, this is where agile is now.

Slope of Enlightenment

As they say, it is always darkest before the dawn. Some time passes and people start to “get it”. Additionally, based on feedback from wide adoption and tons of work from the original community the technology finally reaches maturity. People realize agile is not silver bullet but it is still very valuable – “We tried agile and while at first it didnt work as expected we adapted and it is great for us now”.

Plateau of Productivity

Technology works, everyone uses it. Early adopters are already switching on the next big thing, everyone else just takes things for granted. Nobody really cares anymore. “Haha you are still using waterfall?” phase.

So what it means? It means that the recent surge of “agile fails” posts is actually a good thing because it clearly indicates we are moving forward in the adoption of agile methods and are closing to the point where it will just work. On the other hand, any technology that does not get to the “disappointment” phase will usually fail because it indicates that it did not reach the critical mass of widespread adoption to allow it to progress forward.

“Agile fails” posts are a good thing – it means people are actually using agile. 🙂

Don’t agree? The comments are there for a reason..


Entry filed under: Agile.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Franco  |  November 25, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    I like your usage of the Gartner curve. I think however than agile is more a change in software development culture than technique and therefore the “agile fails” stories are not so much that agile is not “working”, but more than most organizations are not able to adopt the agile culture. Many agile adopters a “pretending” that they use agile, but will for instance not give more power/freedom to developers. Following this, I doubt that organizations will become more “agile friendly” in the future and that the majority of business-side managers will abandon their “control” vision of software development (even if we not with the rate of project problems that there is little that can be “controlled”)

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Eric Stewart and Wanderson Santos, David Hawks. David Hawks said: RT @ericstewart: RT @wanswins: Finally we are getting a "Slope of Enlighment" in agile movement. #agile #hypecycle […]


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