Demand For Agile Developers Outstrips Supply

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The number of jobs for agile developers has outnumbered qualified candidates by nearly 5 to 1 over the past two years, according to a new study

As more and more enterprises begin to adopt agile software development methodologies, the need for qualified agile developers has skyrocketed. However, the number of available agile developers cannot keep up with demand, according to a recent study.

Many of the Fortune 500 and leading brands in the US are increasingly searching for agile software developers that can help them improve speed of delivery and provide more and better value to their customers. Yet a study conducted by staffing firm Yoh Services based on data from CareerBuilder’s Supply and Demand Portal revealed that the number of advertised agile jobs outnumbered active candidates by 4.59 to 1.

Skills gap

This skills gap has not only made it difficult for companies to quickly source quality talent on demand, but also puts them at risk of hiring technical professionals that have poor agile methodology skills. At the same time, as more companies seek to capitalise on agile practices, many agile professionals struggle to find an established programme that fits their abilities.

agile development, gymnast computer © Poulsons Photography - Fotolia.comAgile software development refers to a group of software development methods based on iterative and incremental development, in which requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organising, cross-functional teams. It promotes adaptive planning, evolutionary development and delivery, a time-boxed iterative approach, and encourages rapid and flexible response to change.

Agile methods break tasks into small increments with minimal planning and do not directly involve long-term planning. Iterations are short time frames or “timeboxes” that typically last from one to four weeks.

Each iteration involves a cross-functional team working in all functions: planning, requirements analysis, design, coding, unit testing and acceptance testing. At the end of the iteration, a working product is demonstrated to stakeholders. Agile development emphasises working software as the primary measure of progress.

The Yoh analysis showed that companies advertised a total of 558,918 agile jobs from 2010 to 2012. During the same time period, there were merely 121,876 active candidates, just 17 candidates for every 100 jobs.


Inconsistencies in experience and geography compound this “agile gap”, the Yoh study showed. Of the available job seekers, more than 50 percent have 10 years of experience or more, while less than 2 percent have one to two years of experience.

The agile gap exists across the US, varying only in its degree of severity. For instance, while states like Florida and Texas have a higher average number of active candidates, the ratio of open positions to candidates remains high, at 4 to 1.

States with a more severe gap, however, such as Washington and California, have 10 open positions for every candidate, the study revealed.

The adoption of the agile development methodology has accelerated since the latter part of the last decade, while training for frontline developers failed to keep pace. As a result of the high demand for a limited number of agile developers, many industries, such as computer systems design services, custom computer programming services and software publishing, struggle to attract the agile talent they need.

Organisations that get available, experienced talent are forced to pay premiums, whereas others are forced to hire and train professionals on agile methodologies.

“These discrepancies can hurt the hiring companies in the form of increased costs, salaries and turnover,” Don Hanson, senior vice president of the eastern region at Yoh, said in a statement. “When companies hire the wrong candidate, they jeopardise employee engagement as well as potentially damage their reputation in the agile community, hurting future recruiting efforts. More than ever, a thorough vetting and hiring process is crucial for both agile employers and job seekers.”

Growing demand

For this reason, “agile developers hold all the cards”, Bob Schatz, chief agile evangelist at Yoh and owner of Agile Infusion, an agile coaching firm, said in a statement. “As demand for agile skills continues to grow, employers must clarify the extent of their agile programmes, whether they’re established, new, or still just an idea. “By erring on the side of transparency about the state of the company’s agile culture, employers will be able to find the best talent for their open positions and avoid turnover costs as well as misunderstandings during the hiring process that could alienate future agile recruits,” he said.

Yoh, a Day & Zimmerman company, sought insight into the state of the agile talent pool as demand continues to rise for agile practitioners, who build software and transform business processes through teamwork; customer collaboration; short, iterative cycles; and responses to change.

As more companies seek a nimble and entrepreneurial approach to business, the agile development methods of companies like Facebook and Apple are quickly spreading, but a lack of educational resources has left few agile practitioners to fill that need, Yoh officials said.

“Given the gap between available talent and demand, companies seeking to hire an agile team must understand that the adoption of agile development requires a complete change in culture, and they must make that transition or risk high turnover, lower morale, and loss of credibility in the agile community,” Schatz said in a statement.

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Originally published on eWeek.

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