The journey to technical excellence in agile software development

Adam Alami*, Oliver Krancher, Maria Paasivaara

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
109 Downloads (Pure)


Context: Technical excellence is a nebulous term in agile software development. This vagueness is risky because it may lead to misunderstandings and to agile implementations that may overlook a key principle of agile development. Objective: This study investigates how agile practitioners interpret the concept of technical excellence brought up in Principle 9 of the Agile manifesto. Moreover, we investigate how agile practitioners put the concept into practice and what conditions facilitate putting technical excellence into practice. Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews with twenty agile practitioners, coded the data inductively, and performed two sessions to validate the emerging findings. Results: We find that technical excellence is first and foremost a mindset that is underpinned by continuous attention to sustainable code, continuous learning, and teamwork. Fostering technical excellence requires the adoption of design and development practices, such as continuous architecting, and is supported by continuous learning. We also identify three enabling conditions for technical excellence: Leadership support, customer buy-in, and psychological safety. These enablers provide teams with leeway to nurture their pursuit of technical excellence. Conclusion: Our findings highlight the key role of people-based strategies in promoting technical excellence in agile software development. They show that the attainment of technical excellence does not only involve technical practices. On the contrary, it relies on social and organizational support and, most importantly, a mindset.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106959
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalInformation and Software Technology
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Agile principles
  • Agile software development
  • Software development methods
  • Technical excellence


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