Following are the possible characteristics of a project where Agile need not be applied:
- The project carries no risks
- The stakeholders are not interested in continuous improvement of project quality.
- The stakeholders are confident that the project would go as per the project plan without any deviation. Even if it deviates, stakeholders/teams are fine with it.
Here is Ken Schwaber's take on "not" applying Scrum on projects:
Stakeholders and management team keep coming across situations to make decisions around complex and debatable subjects, similar to the one we are discussing now(Agile - Not Agile). In such situations Ralph Stacey's Agreement & Certainty Matrix might come handy.
I wouldn’t use Scrum if I were embarking on work in which there was absolutely no possibility of change or the unexpected. I would then confidently plan the project and await the predicted results on the day when it was due for the cost that was estimated. Wouldn’t this be a wonderful world ?