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Agile developers and the quest for quality

Todd DeCapua Executive Director, JP Morgan

A recent HP survey* shows that most developers and IT practitioners strongly associate agile development with continuous improvement over the application-development life cycle and the prioritization of user needs. This style of software development reflects more of an outcome orientation and less of a process orientation when compared to traditional waterfall development methods.

The survey found that respondents link agility to a greater emphasis on quality assurance (QA) and customer satisfaction. Teams using these methods report using a greater number of QA test practices and metrics, including customer experience metrics. The study shows that the longer organizations use agile practices, the higher they value quality assurance and customer experience.

Agile organizations emphasize testing and QA

Agile organizations report using a greater number and wider range of QA and test practices than organizations that use waterfall or a hybrid of agile and waterfall methodologies. This is especially true in the areas of security and performance testing. The one exception to this pattern is user acceptance testing—the survey showed that waterfall organizations use this practice more frequently than agile teams. This could be explained by the fact agile teams collect user feedback more frequently, decreasing the need for end-stage acceptance testing.

In general, and across a wide range of stages in the application life cycle, agile firms are investing more in QA processes, as shown in Figure 1.

Testing practices used by agile, hybrid, and waterfall development teams

Figure 1: Test practices used by agile, waterfall, and hybrid organizations.

Agile developers also use test metrics more frequently

Agile organizations also report using a greater number of QA and test metrics.

The largest discrepancies between agile and waterfall organizations are evident in user satisfaction and security. More than half of agile organizations incorporate user satisfaction into their testing process, while most waterfall teams do not. Overall, the survey results shown in Figure 2 suggest that organizations start placing more value on QA as they use agile for longer periods of time.

Test metrics used by agile, waterfall, and hybrid organizations.

Figure 2: Test metrics used by agile, waterfall, and hybrid organizations.

Emphasis on quality increases over time when using agile methods

The survey compared the attitudes of organizations that were relatively new to agile methods against those with more experience. Organizations with a longer agile tenure were more likely to say they valued testing and quality assurance. These same organizations were also more likely to say that customer experience is highly important to them.

Overall, the adoption of agile affects not only the development processes but also the development priorities concerning quality and customer experience, as shown in Figure 3.

Percent of survey respondents who agree with these statements about customer experience and testing.

Figure 3: Percent of survey respondents who agree with these statements about customer experience and testing.

About this research

HP Research interviewed 601 development and IT professionals using a 15-minute online survey.

Profile of respondents

  • Position: 401 professional developers and 200 IT professionals recruited from a panel of IT B2B employees
  • Size of business: 32 percent SORG (10-99 employees), 31 percent MORG (100-999) and 37 percent LORG (1000+)
  • Age range: 24 to 65

Key topic areas

  • Primary development methodology used in the respondent's organization and their most recent project
  • Time frame for agile adoption (among those using agile)
  • Perceptions/beliefs about agile development

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