Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice: The Agile Research Network

Gregory, Peggy orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-7891-6666, Plonka, Laura, Sharp, Helen and Taylor, Katie Jane orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-4840-9991 (2014) Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice: The Agile Research Network. In: ECRM 2014, 13th European Conference on Research Methodology for Business and Management Studies, 16-17 June 2014, London, UK.

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We report an action research-oriented approach to investigating agile project management methods which aims to bridge the gap between academic research and agile practice. We have set up a research network of academics from two universities, through which we run focussed project-based research into agile methods. Organisations are invited to suggest an ‘agile challenge’ and we work closely with them to investigate how challenge affects them. Our approach is both academic and practical. We use appropriate research methods such as interviews, observation and discussion to clarify and explore the nature of the challenge. We then undertake a detailed literature review to identify practical approaches that may be appropriate for adoption, and report our findings. If the organisation introduces new practices or approaches as a result of our work, we conduct an academic evaluation. Alternatively, if we uncover an under-researched area, we propose undertaking some basic research. As befits the topic, we work iteratively and incrementally and produce regular outputs.

In this paper we introduce our approach, overview research methods used in the agile research literature, describe our research model, outline a case study, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of our approach. We discuss the importance of producing outputs that are accessible to practitioners as well as researchers. Findings suggest that by investigating the challenges that organisations propose, we uncover problems that are of real relevance to the agile community and obtain rich insights into the facilitators and barriers that organisations face when using agile methods. Additionally, we find that practitioners are interested in research results as long as publications are relevant to their needs and are written accessibly. We are satisfied with the basic structure of our approach, but we anticipate that the method will evolve as we continue to work with collaborators.

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