Our bi-yearly Forrester Agile survey suggests that Agile development (or simply "Agile") continues to see consistent, strong adoption. However, the same survey data shows that only a small percentage of firms are outsourcing Agile application development due to a lack of experience with the development sourcing approaches and governance models needed to make it work. Successfully outsourcing Agile development, either fully or partially, involves redefining roles and responsibilities, change management processes, metrics and SLAs, service descriptions, and other contractual elements. Merely using traditional outsourcing language and practices risks jeopardizing the benefits of Agile. There is no single way of doing this right.  

Wolfgang Benkel and I have just published the results of in-depth research conducted through extensive interviews with systems integrators that offer Agile services. Our research series, “Developing Modern Applications with Agile Outsourcing,” comprises two reports: Part 1 and Part 2. If you are currently outsourcing application development and want to leverage the benefits of Agile development and scale, read on. Also, for those of you based in Europe, DO NOT miss the opportunity to come and see our joint speech on the topic at Forrester's Forum For Technology Management Leaders in London on June 12-13.

In doing this research, we also discovered that the immaturity of Agile outsourcing is partly the responsibility of the SIs; they need to undergo their own internal transformation of skills and practices and, to some extent, move to a new business operating model (huge changes are needed in the testing area). Some of the SIs we interviewed had already undergone this major internal transformation and had retrained their workforce; others are on their way to getting there; while a few of them are just paying lip service to the concept in their marketing. Wolfgang and I will deal with this aspect of SI services maturity in a future market overview report; we will publish this later in the year, so stay tuned!.

So, what should you do if you're trying to outsource your Agile app development? In a nutshell, here are some of the takeaways from our research:

  • AD&D leaders must engage with their sourcing and vendor management teams to reduce Agile outsourcing risks.
  • As an enterprise organization, you must embrace the values and principles of Agile and Lean before outsourcing Agile; only then can you more safely think about outsourcing.
  • You must avoid the "iron triangle": Fix dates and costs but not scope in outsourcing contracts.
  • Contracts depend on sourcing models. One size does not fit all.

Our speech “Agile And Outsourcing: An Oxymoron?” at the upcoming Forrester Forum For Technology Management Leaders in London on June 12-13 will be a fun session in which Wolfgang and I will play out the everyday battles between application development (AD&D) and sourcing (SVM) professionals. We will also provide our audience with a number of solutions. We really hope to see you there; come and ask the tough questions!

Diego and Wolfgang