How Can Agile Methodologies Be Used to Enhance the Success of Information Technology Projects?

How Can Agile Methodologies Be Used to Enhance the Success of Information Technology Projects?

Dothang Truong, Thawatchai Jitbaipoon
DOI: 10.4018/IJITPM.2016040101
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Dynamic and unpredictable business environments in the information technology (IT) sector have led to a rapid growth of agile methodologies. Organizations claim that using agile methodologies can enhance the success of IT projects in such environments. However, fluctuating patterns of successful and failed agile IT projects recently raise a question about a path to successful IT projects using agile methodologies. The purpose of this research is to examine agile driven factors and relationships between them and IT project success. Data collected from a pilot survey of agile practitioners were used to confirm important agile driven factors: Agile Team Capability, IT Development Agility, and Agile Culture. The research also tested a structural model that examined indirect impacts of IT development agility and agile culture on project success via a mediation of agile team capability. Theoretical and practical implications are also discussed.
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Agile development methodologies have grown rapidly in the past decade and are used by organizations as an effective strategy to complete information technology (IT) projects (Conboy, 2009). Agile practitioners claim that agile methodologies better handle the dynamic nature of business environments by focusing on short iterations of clearly defined deliverables and direct communication with partners in the development process (Cervone, 2011). Agile methodologies enable a project team to adapt quickly to unpredictable and rapidly changing requirements existing in most software development projects. Despite many reported benefits, agile methodologies still present some disadvantages in managing complex projects and dealing with environmental dynamism (Nerur et al., 2005; Barlow et al., 2011; Cervone, 2011).

As more and more IT projects engage agile methodologies, there are emerging patterns of success and failure. This raises a question of whether agile methodologies have been used properly and effectively to enhance IT projects. As the adoption of agile methodologies continues to grow, IT practitioners need to understand what agile driven factors play are important and how they drive the success of IT projects.

While recent research on agile methodologies has shown promising results, practical implications have not yet been validated (Tripp, 2012). Most empirical studies in agile development focused on examining benefits of agile methodologies or agile practice adoption with more concentration on particular types of agile methodologies, such as Scrum or Extreme Programming (XP) (Maruping et al., 2009, Harris et al., 2009; Moe et al., 2010; Lee, 2012). Only a small number of empirical studies investigated factors that affected the success of IT projects using agile methodologies, the so-called agile IT projects (Chow & Cao, 2008; Misra et al., 2009; Wan & Wang, 2011; Stankovic et al., 2013; Sheffield & Lemétayer, 2013). These studies used the critical success factor method to examine direct effects of impact factors (e.g., organizational factors, people factors, technical factors, and process factors) on project success, but failed to explain the structural interrelationship among these variables and how the project success can be achieved. In addition, while these studies developed constructs measuring impact factors, they did not incorporate differences between traditional and agile methodologies in their models. The role of agile driven processes and agile driven organizations in the success of IT projects was not adequately addressed. Few studies examined the importance of agility at some level, but only focused on a specific aspect of project management, thereby missing the interrelationship among factors (Trip, 2012; Moe et al., 2010; Lee, 2012; Sheffield & Lemétayer, 2013). In order to achieve a success in an agile IT project, following a step-by-step process is not enough. Organizations need to embrace agile philosophy in all organizational and project management aspects, and create agile driven project development process, culture, and team capability. It should be noted that agile capability of a project team is a crucial factor that glues other factors together to form a path to a successful project.

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