Definition Synthesis of Agility in Software Development: Comprehensive Review of Theory to Practice

Full Text (PDF, 526KB), PP.26-44

Views: 0 Downloads: 0


Necmettin Ozkan 1,* Mehmet Sahin Gok 2

1. Information Technologies Research and Development Center, Kuveyt Turk Participation Bank, Kocaeli, Turkey

2. Department of Business, Gebze Technical University, Kocaeli, Turkey

* Corresponding author.


Received: 16 Sep. 2021 / Revised: 13 Dec. 2021 / Accepted: 19 Mar. 2022 / Published: 8 Jun. 2022

Index Terms

Agile, Agility, Flexibility, Adaptation, Response, Software Development, SLR, Systematic Literature Review


Software development agility has been regarded as a critical pillar of modern businesses. However, there is still a way to find whether there exists a consistent, complete, precise, agreed and uniformed definition of it. In this regard, this study firstly reviews the existing definitions of agility in the software development domain from the literature. As one of the main results of this phase, we have seen that although agility has a remarkable root in the software development domain, even its definition is still debatable and there are other concepts close to agility in terms of definition but used interchangeably. There is another confusion about how some researchers define agility over other different concepts, although there is no apparent unifying factor in their origins except their historical co-occurrence. In addition, there are particular practices embedded into the agility definitions mostly from the manifesto and Scrum. After uncovering the deficiencies of the existing definitions, we aimed to ratify the definition of the agility concept. Then, we intended to synthesize the underlying facets of the identified definitions and propose a new yet more comprehensive definition revealing the agility characteristics properly by considering the interpretations of the existing definitions. Our study stands out by using a customized synthesis method for analysis, providing inputs to this analysis with a comprehensive literature review, and the comprehensive evaluation of the facets with the support of the literature. We are aware that agreeing on a definition is a valuable exercise and a good starting point for a better understanding of the agility phenomenon that could enable and lead to more realistic implementations, less disappointment and disillusionment, and possibly greater success rates for both practitioners and researchers.

Cite This Paper

Necmettin Ozkan, Mehmet Sahin Gok, "Definition Synthesis of Agility in Software Development: Comprehensive Review of Theory to Practice", International Journal of Modern Education and Computer Science(IJMECS), Vol.14, No.3, pp. 26-44, 2022. DOI:10.5815/ijmecs.2022.03.02


[1]H. Yang, P. Antunes, and M. Tate, “Towards a unified conceptualisation of IS agility”, IEEE 20th International Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work in Design (CSCWD), IEEE, pp. 269-275, 2016.
[2]M. Kalenda, P. Hyna, and B. Rossi, “Scaling agile in large organizations: Practices, challenges, and success factors”, Journal of Software: Evolution and Process, Vol. 30, No. 10, 2018.
[3]L. Gren, A. Goldman, and C. Jacobsson, “Agile ways of working: a team maturity perspective”, Journal of Software: Evolution and Process, Vol.32, No.6, e2244, 2020.
[4]E. C. Conforto, D. C. Amaral, S. L. da Silva, A. Di Felippo, and D. S. L. Kamikawachi, “The agility construct on project management theory”, International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 34, No.4, pp.660-674, 2016.
[5]P. Kettunen, “Extending software project agility with new product development enterprise agility”, Software Process: Improvement and Practice, Vol. 12, No.6, pp.541-548, 2007.
[6]P. Kettunen, and M. Laanti, “Combining agile software projects and large‐scale organizational agility”, Software Process: Improvement and Practice, Vol.13, No.2, pp.183-193, 2008.
[7]Y. Gong, and M. Janssen, “Measuring process flexibility and agility”, 4th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance, pp.173-182, 2010.
[8]M. Hummel, “State-of-the-art: A systematic literature review on agile information systems development”, 47th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, IEEE, pp. 4712-4721, 2014.
[9]A. Q. Gill, and B. Henderson-Sellers, “Measuring agility and adaptibility of agile methods: A 4 dimensional analytical tool”, The IADIS international conference on applied computing, IADIS Press, 2006.
[10]S. Wadhwa, and K.S. Rao, “Enterprise modeling of supply chains involving multiple entity flows: role of flexibility in enhancing lead time performance”, SIC Journal, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 5-20, 2003.
[11]A. K., Schirrmacher, and M. Schoop, “Agility in Information Systems-A Literature Review on Terms and Definitions”, UKAIS, pp. 25, 2018.
[12]C. Prange, and L. Heracleous (Eds.), Agility. X: How Organizations Thrive in Unpredictable Times. Cambridge University Press, 2018.
[13]R. Turner, “Toward Agile systems engineering processes”, Crosstalk. The Journal of Defense Software Engineering, pp.11-15, 2007.
[14]N. Abbas, A. M. Gravell, and G. B. Wills, “Historical roots of agile methods: Where did “Agile thinking” come from?”, International conference on agile processes and extreme programming in software engineering, Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, pp. 94-103, 2008.
[15]L. Gren, and P. Lenberg, “Agility is responsiveness to change: An essential definition”, Evaluation and Assessment in Software Engineering Conference, pp. 348-353, 2020.
[16]J. Moore, “An ethnography of multiplicity: Wittgenstein and plurality in the organization”, 12th Annual International Ethnography Symposium, 2017.
[17]M. Laanti, J. Similä, and P. Abrahamsson, “Definitions of agile software development and agility”, European Conference on Software Process Improvement, Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, pp.247-258, 2013.
[18]G. Lee, and W. Xia, “Toward agile: an integrated analysis of quantitative and qualitative field data on software development agility”, MIS quarterly, Vol.34, No.1, pp.87-114, 2010.
[19]D. Ø. Madsen, “The Evolutionary Trajectory of the Agile Concept Viewed from a Management Fashion Perspective”, Social Sciences, Vol.9, No.5, pp.69, 2020.
[20]O. McHugh, K. Conboy, and M. Lang, “Agile practices: The impact on trust in software project teams”, IEEE Software, Vol.29, No.3, pp.71-76, 2011.
[21]E. Asan,., and S. Bilgen, “Agile Collaborative Systems Engineering‐Motivation for a Novel Approach to Systems Engineering”, INCOSE international symposium, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp.1746-1760, 2012.
[22]K. Conboy, and B. Fitzgerald, “Toward a conceptual framework of agile methods: a study of agility in different disciplines”, 2004 ACM workshop on Interdisciplinary software engineering research, pp. 37-44, 2004.
[23]K. Conboy, “Agility from first principles: Reconstructing the concept of agility in information systems development”, Information systems research, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp.329-354, 2009.
[24]E. Overby, A. Bharadwaj, and V. Sambamurthy, “Enterprise agility and the enabling role of information technology”, European Journal of Information Systems, Vol.15, No.2, pp.120-131, 2006.
[25]F. Benaben, and F. B. Vernadat, “Information System agility to support collaborative organisations”, Enterprise Information Systems, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 470-473, 2017.
[26]I. Institute, 21st Century Manufacturing Enterprise Strategy, An Industry-led View. Iacocca Institute, 1991.
[27]C. Hoon, “Meta-synthesis of qualitative case studies: An approach to theory building”, Organizational Research Methods, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp.522-556, 2013.
[28]D. R. Dalton, and C.M. Dalton, “Meta-analyses: Some very good steps toward a bit longer journey”, Organ. Res. Methods, Vol. 11, pp.127–147, 2008.
[29]A. Qumer, and B. Henderson-Sellers, “Crystallization of agility: back to basics”, 1st International Conference on Software and Data Technologies, Proceedings, 2006.
[30]A. Cockburn, Agile Software Development. Addison-Wesley, 2001.
[31]P. Kruchten, “Contextualizing agile software development”, Journal of software: Evolution and Process, Vol.25, No.4, pp.351-361, 2011.
[32]D. J. Anderson, Agile management for software engineering: Applying the theory of constraints for business results. Prentice Hall Professional, 2003.
[33]E.S. Bernardes, and M.D. Hanna, “A theoretical review of flexibility, agility and responsiveness in the operations management literature: toward a conceptual definition of customer responsiveness”, International Journal of Operations and Production Management, Vol. 29, No. 1, pp. 30-53, 2009.
[34]Cambridge, Oxford and Macmillan Dictionaries. Available at:,,
[35]M. Cohn, and K. Rubin, “Comparative Agility”, 2007. Available at:
[37]C. Larman, Agile and iterative development: a manager's guide. Addison-Wesley Professional, 2004.
[38]H. Sharifi, and Z. Zhang, “A methodology for achieving agility in manufacturing organisations: An introduction”, International journal of production economics, Vol.62, No.1-2, pp.7-22, 1999.
[39]V. Subramaniam, and A. Hunt, Practices of an agile developer: Working in the real world. Pragmatic Bookshelf, 2006.
[40]H. Vanharanta, J. Kantola, E. Markopoulos, M. Salo, J. Einolander, and T. Hanhisalo, “The degree of agility in a technology company’s strategy, management, and leadership”, Management and Production Engineering Review, Vol.9, 2018.
[41]S. P. Wong, and L. Whitman, “Attaining Agility at The Enterprise Level”, 4th Annual International Conference on Industrial Engineering Theory, Applications and Practice, San Antonio, 1999.
[42]S.W. Ambler, “Disciplined Agile Software Development: Definition”, 2007. Available at: Development.htm.
[43]A. I. Böhmer, and U. Lindemann, “Open innovation ecosystem: Towards collaborative innovation”, 20th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED 15), Vol 8: Innovation and Creativity, Milan, Italy, pp.031-040, 2015.
[44]J. Erickson, K. Lyytinen, and K. Siau, “Agile modeling, agile software development, and extreme programming: the state of research”, Journal of Database Management (JDM), Vol.16, No.4, pp.88-100, 2005.
[45]K. P. Gallagher, and J. L. Worrell, “Organizing IT to promote agility”, Information technology and management, Vol.9, No.1, pp.71-88, 2008.
[46]P. Abrahamsson, O. Salo, J. Ronkainen, and J. Warsta, Agile software development methods: Review and analysis. Espoo, Finland: VTT publication, 2002.
[47]J. Highsmith, Agile software development ecosystems. Addison-Wesley Professional, 2002.
[48]M. Ikoma, M. Ooshima, T. Tanida, M. Oba, and S. Sakai, “Using a validation model to measure the agility of software development in a large software development organization”, 31st International Conference on Software Engineering-Companion Volume, IEEE, pp. 91-100, 2009.
[49]T. Kurian, “Agility in IT: Creating Software through Agile Techniques”, IEI-International Conference on Agility Design and Manufacturing (ADEMSE-05), Bangalore, India, 2005.
[50]T. W. Lui, G. Piccoli, and K. C. Desouza, “Degrees of agility: implications for information systems design and firm strategy”, Agile information systems: Conceptualization, construction, and management, pp.122-133, 2007.
[51]K. Lyytinen, and G. M. Rose, “Information system development agility as organizational learning”, European Journal of Information Systems, Vol.15, No.2, pp.183-199, 2006.
[52]T. Mackley, S. Barker, and P. John, “Concepts of agility in network enabled capability”, Conference on Networked Enabled Capability, Leeds, UK, 2008.
[53]C. Maurer, “Measuring information systems agility: Construct definition and scale development”, Southern Association for Information Systems Conference, pp.155-160, 2010.
[54]N. Ozkan, M. Ş. Gök, and B. Ö. Köse, “Towards a Better Understanding of Agile Mindset by Using Principles of Agile Methods”, 15th Conference on Computer Science and Information Systems (FedCSIS), IEEE, pp.721-730, 2020.
[55]P. Schuh, Integrating agile development in the real world. Charles River Media Inc., 2004.
[56]F. Z. Tanane, J. Laval, and V. Cheutet, “Towards Assessment of information system agility”, 10th International Conference on Software, Knowledge, Information Management and Applications (SKIMA), IEEE, pp. 348-353, 2016.
[57]S. W. O'Leary-Kelly, and R. J. Vokurka, “The empirical assessment of construct validity”, Journal of operations management, Vol.16, No.4, pp.387-405, 1998.
[58]E. D. Rosenzweig, and A. V. Roth, “Towards a theory of competitive progression: evidence from high‐tech manufacturing”, Production and Operations Management, Vol.13, No.4, pp.354-368, 2004.
[59]L. Li, and X. Zhao, “Enhancing competitive edge through knowledge management in implementing ERP systems. Systems Research and Behavioral Science”, The Official Journal of the International Federation for Systems Research, Vol.23, No.2, pp.129-140, 2006.
[60]R. E. McGaughey, “Internet technology: contributing to agility in the twenty‐first century”, International Journal of Agile Management Systems, Vol.1, No.1, pp.7-13, 1999.
[61]H. T. Goranson, and T. Goranson, The agile virtual enterprise: cases, metrics, tools. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999.
[62]S. Wadhawa, and K. S. Rao, “Flexibility and agility for enterprise synchronization: knowledge and innovation management towards flexagility”, Studies in Informatics and Control, Vol.12, No.2, pp.111-128, 2003.
[63]S. Goldman, R. Nagel, K. Preiss, Agile Competitors and Virtual Organisations. Strategies for Enriching the Customer. New York, NY: Von Nostrand Reinhold, 1995.
[64]J. Appelo, Management 3.0. Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders. Addison-Wesley, 2011. ISBN-10: 0-321-71247-1, ISBN-13: 978-0-321-71247-9.
[65]D. Leffingwell, Agile Software Requirements. In: Lean Requirements Practices for Teams, Programs, and the Enterprise. Addison-Wesley, 2011. ISBN-10: 0-321-63584-1
[66]K. Conboy, and B. Fitzgerald, “The views of experts on the current state of agile method tailoring”, IFIP International Working Conference on Organizational Dynamics of Technology-Based Innovation, Springer, Boston, MA, pp. 217-234, 2007.
[67]P. Hohl, et. al, “Back to the future: origins and directions of the “Agile Manifesto”–views of the originators”, Journal of Software Engineering Research and Development, Vol.6, No.1, pp.15, 2018.
[68]I. Jacobson, R. Stimson, and S. Hastie, “Escaping Method Prison”, 2017. Available at: http://semat. org/news/-/asset_publisher/eaHEtyeuE9wP/content/escaping-method-prison.
[69]S. Adolph, “What lessons can the agile community learn from a maverick fighter pilot?”, AGILE 2006 (AGILE'06), IEEE, 2006.
[70]E. Markopoulos, and J. C. Panayiotopoulos, “A project management methodology selection approach based on practical project and organizational constraints”, WSEAS Transactions on Computers, Vol.4, No.8, pp.934-942, 2005.
[71]M. C. Annosi, N. Foss, and A. Martini, “When Agile Harms Learning and Innovation:(and What Can Be Done About It)”, California Management Review, Vol. 63, No. 1, pp.61-80, 2020.
[72]B. Henderson-Sellers and M. K. Serour, “Creating a dual-agility method: the value of method engineering”, Journal of Database Management, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp. 1–23, 2005.
[73]B. Boehm, and R. Turner, Balancing Agility and Discipline: A Guide for the Perplexed. Boston: Pearson Education Inc., 2004.
[74]K. Petersen, “Is lean agile and agile lean?: a comparison between two software development paradigms”, Modern software engineering concepts and practices: Advanced approaches, IGI Global, pp. 19-46, 2011.
[75]J. P. Womack and D. T. Jones, Lean thinking: Banish waste and create wealth in your corporation. London: Free Press Business, 2003.
[76]J. Naylor, M. Naim, and D. Berry, “Leagility: Integrating the Lean and Agile Manufacturing Paradigm in the Total Supply Chain”, Engineering Costs and Production Economics, Vol. 62, p.107 118, 1999.
[77]T. Ohno, The Toyota Production System: Beyond Large Scale Production. Portland. OR: Productivity Press, 1988.
[78]D. Towill, and M. Christopher, “The Supply Chain Strategy Conundrum: To Be Lean or Agile or To Be Lean and Agile”, International Journal of Logistics: Research and Applications, Vol.5, No.3, 2002.
[79]R. Dove, “The Meaning of Life and The Meaning of Agility, Paradigm Shift International”, 1997. Available at:
[80]H. Volberda, Building the Flexible Firm: How to Remain Competitive, New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
[81]M. Aoyama, “Agile software process and its experience”, 20th international conference on Software engineering, IEEE, pp. 3-12, 1998.
[82]T. Schweigert, R. Nevalainen, D. Vohwinkel, M. Korsaa, and M. Biro, “Agile maturity model: oxymoron or the next level of understanding”, International Conference on Software Process Improvement and Capability Determination, Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, pp.289-294, 2012.
[83]I.P. Barclay, and Z. Dann, “Improving competitive responsiveness via the virtual environment”, Engineering and Technology Management. Pioneering New Technologies: Management Issues and Challenges in the Third Millennium, IEMC, Vancouver, 1996.
[84]J. Iivari, and N. Iivari, “The relationship between organizational culture and the deployment of agile methods”, Information and software technology, Vol. 53, No.5, pp.509-520, 2011.
[85]M. Salo, E. Markopoulos, H. Vanharanta, and J. I. Kantola, “Degree of agility with an ontology based application”, Advances in Human Factors, Business Management, Training and Education, Springer, Cham, pp.1007-1018, 2017.
[86]P. Abrahamsson, M. A. Babar, and P. Kruchten, “Agility and architecture: Can they coexist?, IEEE Software, Vol. 27, No. 2, pp.16-22, 2010.
[87]M. van Oosterhout, E. Waarts, E. van Heck, and J. van Hillegersberg, “Business agility: need, readiness and alignment with IT-strategies”, Agile Information Systems: Conceptualization, Construction and Management, pp.52-69, 2006.
[88]D. X. Houston, “Agility beyond software development”, 2014 International Conference on Software and System Process, pp. 65-69, 2014.
[89]L. Gren, R. Torkar, and R. Feldt, “Group Maturity and Agility, Are They Connected?-A Survey Study”, 41st Euromicro Conference on Software Engineering and Advanced Applications, IEEE, pp.1-8, 2015.
[90]M. Müller-Amthor, G. Hagel, M. Gensheimer, and F. Huber, “Scrum Higher Education–The Scrum Master Supports as Solution-focused Coach”, IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference (EDUCON), IEEE, pp. 948-952, 2020.
[91]A. A. Albarqi, and R. Qureshi, “The proposed L-Scrumban methodology to improve the efficiency of agile software development”, International Journal of Information Engineering and Electronic Business, Vol. 11, No. 3, 2018.
[92]M. R. J. Qureshi, and A. Albarqi, “Proposal of new PRORISK model for GSD projects”, International Journal of Information Technology and Computer Science, Vol. 6, No. 6, pp.38-44, 2015.
[93]A. S. AL_Zaidi, M. R. J. Qureshi, and M. R. Jameel Qureshi, “Scrum practices and global software development”, International Journal of Information Engineering and Electronic Business, Vol. 6, No. 5, pp.22-28, 2014.