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Focus on flexibility: Agility in Software Development

In this year's analyses on flexibility of Finnish software firms, we first focus on the software development activities. Our survey instrument contained questions based on the Agile Manifesto, and we were basically interested in whether the firms favor agile approaches over plan-based approaches in software development. On most of the measured aspects, the respondents clearly report agile orientation. Customer collaboration is preferred over contracting, reactivity favored over fixed plans, and empowering individuals is promoted over fixed processes. Yet, it seems that the Finnish software firms are not willing to give up documentation for the benefit of working software.

Frequencies of responses to questions regarding kind of software development approaches:
agile approaches to the left and plan-based approaches to the right

We also found differences in agility between software firms. We found that software product firms report more flexible collaboration with customers compared to the software services firms. Younger firms are more likely to emphasize individuals. And more established firms are less inclined to change the plans during the software development projects.

Smaller software companies tend to utilize individual strengths more, whereas larger companies tend to standardize their ways of working. Smaller firms also report to be more open to continual customer collaboration and changes during the software development projects. Overall, we found that the size of the company seems to be the strongest explaining factor in the use of agile approaches.

We feel that some of these differences are inherently related to the firms’ business models. We also believe that the startup firms have less pressure to standardize their operations, as they are still searching for their business opportunity. Indeed, the young and small firms should seek their advantage from being nimble, customer-oriented and making best use of the expertise of individuals.

- Hanna and Eetu