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The agile measurement guru


When and how is agile development more efficient than regular software development? That is an important question for the whole software industry - and the main focus for Samireh Jalali, PhD student within EASE, at Blekinge tekniska högskola in Karlskrona.

– Everyone is claiming to be agile, even though there is really no specific definition for agility. So, we studied this and tried to measure and quantify the agility, says Samireh Jalali.

That was done through a case study at the Swedish software company Softhouse. By asking team members about their work routines and their Agile practices (for example pair programming and test drive development), Samireh and her colleagues in EASE’s “Team C” managed to find a most suitable tool to quantify agility.

We examined several existing tools and found only one of them to be most suitable for benchmarking and profiling agility in a software development team or organization.

– This tool asks simple questions about the team and its processes, then compares the answers with the answers given by other companies, and finally assigns a score to represent the degree of practicing agile in the examined team/organization, says Samireh Jalali.

In order to maximize the benefit of her research studies, Samireh is often visiting a couple of different software companies in southern Sweden. By doing so, she gets insights about industry demands – a somewhat unusual approach for a researcher in her home country, Iran.

Samireh came to Sweden in 2007, in order to study a master program in Software Engineering. In September 2009, she was accepted as PhD student, and has since then published 4 papers and articles, and collected data for a few more papers. Most cited is “Agile practices in global software engineering-A systematic map” which was presented at an IEEE conference about global software engineering in 2010.

Samireh Jalali is not only measuring agility, but also putting lots of effort into understanding the actual use of agile in software companies. She is collecting characteristics of team, organization, product, customer, etc. that help to successfully implement agile in software projects.

The outcome of this research project is a framework that helps project managers to investigate the applicability of certain agile practices based on their current situation when they are setting up agile projects.

Currently, Samireh Jalali is doing a study about alignment between agile practices and product goals as well as how agile can help to mitigate challenges of distributed software development. The final results from study will be presented in her dissertation, which is currently planned for late 2014.

– It is easy to have a perception of what you do as a software developer or manager, but in many cases, it is different from what you really do. People are often too busy to take a step back and reflect on what they actually are doing. That is why evaluations are required and they must be performed objectively, says Samireh.