Having decided to invest in software, you’re now curious to learn what exactly is the agile methodology. Very succinctly, agile is a process for creating, deploying and refining software in the shortest possible time and at the lowest cost. At the core of agile software development is collaboration – namely, cross-functional and self-organizing teams working in small, yet flexible, increments, to build and deliver software. So, what does agile have to offer over other software development methodologies like waterfall?
In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about agile software development. Specifically, we’ll highlight the key benefits of going agile and give you compelling reasons to choose this methodology over other techniques. Whether you need to build an eCommerce platform, deploy a bespoke CRM or simply refresh your enterprise mobile app, adopting agile methodologies provides an easy way to achieve software excellence.
What Is Agile Software Development?
Agile software development is an umbrella term for a set of practices and frameworks that enable teams to work more efficiently. It provides a way for developers to create better software, fast though short interactive and iterative sprints/sessions. Whereas more traditional development methodologies like waterfall require project completion to gauge success, agile tracks the quality and speed of development regularly, making it easier to make changes as required.
Although incremental software development techniques go as far back as the late 1950s, agile gained traction in 2001 when a group of 17 leading developers published the “Agile Manifesto”. The manifesto introduced 12 principles and four key values that guide developers on how to exercise iterative techniques for great results.
For example, the manifesto’s values encourage developers to prioritize:
- People and interactions over tools and processes
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiations
- Working software over formal documentation
- Being flexible over following a plan
Traditional software development often results in dysfunctional teams with conflicting self-interests. Agile, in contrast, helps teams maintain their integrity and build better software while providing greater adaptability. Daily team meetings are typical in agile companies to ensure everyone is up to date on their current responsibilities.
Key Stages of the Agile Software Development Life Cycle
The agile methodology shortens the software development life cycle (SLDC) by breaking builds into smaller segments. Here are the key stages:
1. Concept – This is where the team assesses the economy and technical feasibility of projects and decides which ones to prioritize.
2. Inception – Team leaders work with stakeholders to identify requirements. Next, they pick team members individually and map out each member’s workload for the duration of the increment.
3. Iteration/Construction – The team begins to work on the first iteration of the project, which may just be a minimum viable product. Developers and UX designers mostly focus on feedback and iteration requirements in this phase.
4. Release – Quality testing, bug fixes and user documentation help the team release the iteration into production.
5. Production – The team offers continuous support to help the software run smoothly and ensure it can bounce back from any uncertainties of sudden changes.
6. Retirement – This phase is reserved for end-of-life activities. It involves removing a software release from production and starting over with a new project.
These six phases define Agile SDLC.
Typically, the work within the SDLC is categorized into sprints – a set period during which a specific activity or task is finished and reviewed. For each sprint, the development team and customer discuss the tasks that need to be completed during that time frame. Plus, the team solicits feedback from the stakeholders and customers and develops strategies to incorporate learnings into the next sprint.
Sprint meetings should follow a consistent schedule after arranging the first gathering. On average, a sprint lasts for ten business days or two weeks. Besides attending sprint meetings, teams also have daily meetings to check in and keep track of the development, resolve any conflicts, and work to push the development forward.
What Are the Different Types of Agile Methodologies?
Agile methodologies cover a broad spectrum of practices. Some of the most common and popular ones are:
This agile software development methodology centers around task management in a team-based development setting. Scrum focuses on small teams of 7 to 8 members and encourages them to develop software through mutual cooperation. From product owners to developers, Scrum brings everyone together to agree on methodology and features.
After stakeholders reach an agreement, Scrum supports the delivery of minimum viable software increments during successive sprints, with each lasting for 30 days. Customer needs are discussed beforehand and make up the “product backlog”, which can include things like integrating certain features, fixing bugs, etc.
The Kanban methodology originated from the automotive industry in the 1940s. Toyota’s production system applied the just-in-time manufacturing process to its production cycle. The company followed a system where production was fueled by customer demands, rather than producing more goods to sell to the market.
The software industry quickly gained inspiration from this new and cost-effective method of delivering services, and the ‘Kanban Method’ was born. The four core principles of the Kanban Method are:
- Visualize your workflow.
- Limit the workflow on each step to deliver products only when customer demand increases.
- Keep the workflow smooth and learn from any disruptions that cause hindrances in the workflow.
- Nothing is perfect, so keep improving on each step.
Lean Software Development
Lean software development is simply the application of Lean principles to the process of software development. This methodology focuses on minimizing wastage and maximizing value. In terms of software development, ‘wastage’ or ‘waste’ is a subjective term because the key value of software comes from the mind of the developer. There are seven Lean principles guide the software development process:
- Eliminating wastage
- Focus on quality
- Create knowledge
- Defer commitment
- Deliver fast and quick
- Respect people
You can learn more about applying these principles to software development in this toolkit.
eXtreme Programming (XP)
eXtreme Programming or XP is another important agile methodology for software development. It teaches us to learn from the best practices that worked in the past and apply them to future projects on an extreme level. Some practices that worked out in the past include code review, testing, simplicity, and integration testing. The XP model is suitable for small teams working on small projects. It is also effective for research projects or projects involving new technology.
Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)
The Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) provides a framework for building and maintaining systems. This Agile method borrows a lot of inspiration from the sociologist principle, where 80 percent of an application is delivered in 20 percent of the time it takes to deliver the entire application. The remaining details are delivered when business necessities are dealt with, and changes are recorded.
Adaptive Software Development (ASD)
Adaptive Software Development (ASD) is an Agile process aimed at building high-quality software in a short period. This innovative technique focuses on learning throughout the development journey and taking explicit consideration of risks. There are three main phases of ASD:
By focusing on these phases, development teams can achieve the agility that is required for a successful software project.
Feature Driven Development (FDD)
The Feature Driven Development (FDD) framework focuses on organizing software development around key features. FDD revolves around a five-step software development process, with a focus on features. Here is what the life cycle looks like:
- Develop a model
- Build a list of features
- Plan according to each feature
- Design according to each feature
- Build according to each feature
If you are working on a large-scale development project, FDD is the right agile approach for you. However, this framework is too reliant on chief developers, unlike other agile models like XP. Benefits of Using Agile Software Development Methodologies.
Agile has become a highly effective and widely adopted development methodology that provides companies many benefits including these:
Shorter time to market
With agile, there is a greater focus on the tasks that need to be done. Developers’ energy is dedicated to building the software and delivering a working variant with each sprint or iteration. At the close of each sprint, the developers review the backlog of essentials and re-strategize how they should approach the next sprint.
The agile methodology infuses efficiency into resource utilization processes, allowing developers to start work faster and remain productive throughout. As tasks are broken into iterations, milestones and deadlines are always present. Developers, as a result, are focused on re-factoring and progressing through the iterations. Compare this to traditional software development, where it’s common for teams to sit idle waiting for work during the concept and inception phase.
Visibility from concept
Agile allows teams to check and become intimately familiar with the software from concept to production. While moving between sprints, they can provide feedback when necessary. And once a sprint ends, the team can analyze their velocity. This enables better planning, as the team can use it as a guide in future sprints to determine what they will be able to achieve.
Agile software development is completely transparent. From end-users to developers to managers to stakeholders, everyone knows who’s working on the core, what decisions are being made and what’s not working. When the whole organization sees the big picture, development tends to progress quickly. Clear insights give stakeholders more accountability, and everyone realizes the importance of working collectively for the greater good.
Improved customer Engagement
Agile development requires that customers are involved in the SDLC. That’s because developers are going to rely on clients to prioritize what’s going into the next session and to review minimum viable products during the release phase. This ongoing interaction minimizes the back and forth between the developers and the client. Client feedback becomes the ultimate, prioritized document that lives out in the office for everyone to see.
More opportunities for creativity
Agile practices work best when product features and vision are not clearly defined. The methodology enables product owners to adjust prioritizes and needs along the journey to take advantage of new developments. All of this allows developers to create a better product for all stakeholders. Real-time changes are a part of the process – and the software is defined as the product owners reiterate.
Common Agile Methodology Tools, When it comes to agile development tools, teams may use:
Agile for Scrum – automatically updates stakeholders on a project’s progress. Plus, the tool allows for better data minimum with burn down charts and sprint reports.
Pivotal Tracker – helps with the management of mobile-related projects. Though a little complicated on the surface, it’s easy to use after a brief orientation session.
AtlassianJira + Agile – facilitates development by incorporating flexible workflows along with Kanban and Scrum.
ActiveCollab – aids software development in small companies. The tool provides excellent support and requires little training to get started.
While software development takes longer than most companies think, agile development offers a way to accelerate software delivery. The approach embraces continuous changes that arise in the software development life cycle – enabling teams to break the long phases into smaller segments. This allows quicker and more frequent delivery of working software.
With other methodologies like waterfall, it isn’t possible to see working software until you’re almost at the completion stage. With agile, teams provide functioning software in all key stages of the agile SDLC. So, rather than using four fixed stages, why not use a methodology that enables you to approve features without having to worry about finances and other risks? Agile software development allows for better product quality while offering flexibility that all project stakeholders crave.
At ShopDev, we use agile software development to help our customers achieve tangible outcomes right from the beginning. The methodology helps us create more features in a shorter period and also enables clients to capitalize on opportunities as the project unfolds. If you require software and want it to be built in the best way possible, contact us today so that we can start developing your software in an innovative and agile way.