Agile vs. Structured Distributed Software Development: A Case Study

Author(s): H.-Christian, Estler Martin, Nordio Carlo A., Furia Bertrand Meyer
Venue: International Conference on Software Engineering
Date: 2012

Type of Experiement: Case Study
Sample Size: 66
Class/Experience Level: Professional
Participant Selection: Responded to survey
Data Collection Method: Survey


This paper investigates the effect of chosen software process on the success of globally distributed software projects. The study compares agile software processes, such as XP and Scrum, to structured software processes such as RUP and waterfall. Among the effects studied were: "the overall success and economic savings of distributed projects; the importance customers attribute to projects; the motivation of the development teams; and the amount of real-time or asynchronous communication required
during project development."

The case study includes data from 66 projects spanning Europe, Asia, and the Americas. The data was collected in two phases: a questionnaire, and an interview. The questionnaire was used to gather quantitative results (i.e frequency of real time and asynchronous communication), and the interviews were used to gather qualitative results (i.e project success and team motivation). The results from companies adopting "agile" processes were compared to the results from companies adopting "structured" processes.

The authors discovered that there was no statistically significant correlation between software process and any of the success factors mentioned on globally distributed software projects. According to the participants, the biggest determining factors of overall success were the qualification level of personnel, communication between units, and effectiveness of team building. A future study is outlined in which the authors plan to investigate individual software process models in more detail, determine which practices are actually used, and find practices common to both structured and agile processes.