Project Management Institute

Exploring the Role of Project Management in the Development of the Academic Agile Software Discourse

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Thomas G. Lechler | Siwen Yang
Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey, USA

img   ABSTRACT

KEY WORDS

Agile Methodology
Project Management Practices

This article explores and reveals the role of Project Management research in the Agile discourse. The researchers analyzed 827 articles identifying central topics over two time periods (2001-2007 and 2008-2014). The results reveal the evolution of the academic Agile discussion over time.

img   THE PROBLEM

“This study identifies the main topics of the academic agile discussion over time, and explores the role project management research played in the development of Agile methods”

Since the publication of the Agile Manifesto in 2001 agile models have taken a central role in the practice of software development. Project management and agile concepts share many conceptual similarities and, not surprisingly, agile software development (ASD) is already been mentioned in the general project management standards.

This study identifies the main topics of the academic agile discussion over time, and explores the role project management research played in the development of Agile methods. The research used bibliometric methods to analyze publications listed in the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI), and covered a timeframe from 2001 (the year The Agile Manifesto was published) to 2014.

827 academic articles published in 394 different journals by 690 different first authors were identified. The analysis used the top 5% cited references that were referenced in the 827 articles. The resulting sample was a set of 31 documents for the period 2001-2007 and 102 documents for the period 2008-2014.

The method provided quantitative measures for evaluating the impact of project management research on the development of agile software development, their interrelations, and how they have evolved over two seven-year time periods.

img   FINDINGS

For the first period (2001-2007) five key topics were identified:

img   Test driven development

img   Empirical Analysis (the empirical exploration of agile software methods in different contexts)

img   XP (extreme programming)

img   Agile adoption

img   Engineering methods

For the second period (2008-2014) nine key topics were identified:

img   Agile adoption

img   Project management (use of agile project management and the relationship between agile and project management standards and processes)

img   Test driven development

img   Agile in global context

img   Pair programming (one of the techniques of XP)

img   Engineering methods

img   XP

img   Scrum

The analysis of the evolution of topics over time shows that some topics have prevailed from the first to the second period, others have emerged (like Scrum), and only one has disappeared from the articles (empirical analysis).

The second seven-year period (2008–2014) is characterized by a strong growth of agile-related academic research that is reflected in more than 100 co-cited articles. The main focus of the discussion remains on the introduction and implementation of new agile models (test-driven development, XP, and Scrum). The topics that remain important during the second period are:

img   Agile adoption

img   Test driven development

img   Engineering methods

img   XP

The topics emerged during the second period are:

img   Agile project management

img   Agile and plan-driven

img   Agile in global context

img   Pair programming

img   Scrum

img   PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS

The goals of this research were to discover distinct research streams in the agile movement, to identify changes in these streams over time, and clarify the role that project management–related themes played in the development of the academic agile discussion.

The study relies on the data of the Social Science Citation Index database. A limitation of this database is that it does not list all types of publications, for example, books and outlets other than journals and conferences.

Another limitation is the relatively adolescent status of the academic agile discussion, which is reflected in the dynamics between the two analyzed time periods; it is very likely that some of the research streams that were identified might disappear in the future or that others might evolve over the next few years.

“The majority of topics identified were related to specific agile methods, including test-driven development, XP, pair programming, and Scrum.”

The quantitative approach provided a broad understanding of the state of the academic agile discussion and the role that project management played in its development. The majority of topics identified were related to specific agile methods, including test-driven development, XP, pair programming, and Scrum.

The results demonstrate that project management is increasingly recognized in the agile software development discussion, and that the management aspect has grown to become an important distinct topic. This trend will continue, and vice versa agile principles are expected to play an important role in the future development of project management.

“The results demonstrate that project management is increasingly recognized in the agile software development discussion, and that the management aspect has grown to become an important distinct topic”.

Classic topics in the project management discussion are currently underrepresented or have not yet found their way into the agile discussion. For instance the following project management topics have not yet been picked up by the agile literature that can be relevant for the future development of agile methods and agile project management:

img   Risk management and its different concepts and tools

img   Linking agile with multi-project management

img   Project governance

img   Stakeholder management

img   Knowledge management

img   Linking strategy to project and portfolio implementation

img   Internal versus external software development

img   Change control management

These topics are also central to agile and need to be conceptually integrated to develop comprehensive agile process models and agile project management.

img   FULL CITATION

Thomas Lechler and Siwen Yang. Exploring the Role of Project Management in the Development of the Academic Agile Software Discourse. Project Management Journal, February/March 2017. Volume 48, Number 1.

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From Academia: Summaries of Research for the Reflective Practitioner | April 2017

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