Agile Developers Needed, Demand Outpaces Supply: Study

The number of available agile jobs outnumbered qualified candidates by nearly 5 to 1 over the last two years, according to a study by Yoh Services.

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 America 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.

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 capitalize on agile practices, many agile professionals struggle to find an established program that fits their abilities.

Agile 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-organizing, 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 emphasizes 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 U.S., 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. Organizations that get available, experienced talent are forced to pay premiums, whereas others are forced to hire and train professionals on agile methodologies.