Comparing Methods for Large-Scale Agile Software Development: A Systematic Literature Review


Following the highly pervasive and effective use of agile methods at the team level, many software organisations now wish to replicate this success at the organisational level, adopting large-scale agile methods such as SAFe, Scrum-at-Scale, and others. However, this has proven significantly challenging. An analysis of the extant literature reveals a disparate set of studies across each individual method, with no cross-method comparison based on empirical evidence. This systematic literature review compares the main large-scale agile methods, namely SAFe, LeSS, Scrum-at-Scale, DAD, and the Spotify model. It is the first study to analyse and compare each of the method’s principles, practices, tools, and metrics in a standardised manner. For each method, it presents not just the original method specifications but also all extensions and modifications to each method proposed by subsequent empirical research. It includes in this comparison not just commercial large-scale methods but also those that have been custom-built in organisations such as Nokia, Ericsson, and others. Based on the findings reported in this study, practitioners can make a more informed decision as to which commercial method or method component or, indeed, custom-built method is better suited to their needs. Our study reveals a number of theoretical and practical issues in the current literature, such as an emphasis on the practices of commercial frameworks at the expense of their underlying principles, or indeed any of the custom method. A set of challenges and success factors associated with the use of large-scale agile methods are identified. The study also identifies a number of research gaps to be addressed across methods.

IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering
Henry Edison
Henry Edison
Assistant Professor (Adjunkt) in Software Engineering