We often hear that agile software development is fine when you face a simple problem, but that agile isn’t sufficient for more difficult problems. Of course this falsehood is promoted by people who have little or no agile experience, or who have been involved with a failed “agile adoption” (usually these teams adopted ad hoc strategies thinking they were agile). Anyway, we decided to look into whether agile teams are taking on hard domain problems in practice.
The following diagram summarizes the responses to our question around agile teams and compliance from our 2016 Agility at Scale study. As you can see, 40% of respondents indicated that their agile team faced either complex or very complex problems, and that a further 38% faced medium complexity. Interestingly, only one in eight respondents said that their team faced a straight forward problem.
The bottom line is that agile strategies, and in particular disciplined agile strategies, are in fact applicable for taking on complex problems. More importantly, this is happening in practice around the world on a regular basis.