Agile is an approach that helps software development teams deal with and ultimately succeed in an uncertain and rapidly-changing environment (i.e., the world we live in right now).
The authors behind the Agile Manifesto chose "Agile" as the label for their whole idea because that word represents the adaptiveness and responsiveness to change. This is the core value of Agile software development.
Agile methodologies help teams understand what's going on in their market, identify the uncertainty they're facing, and figure out how they can adapt to that as you go along. Keep on reading this article to see why Agile has become a de facto standard methodology across the entire IT industry.
Table of contents:
- Why is Agile software development so important?
- Agile software development – principles, patterns, and practices
- Agile software development – wrap up
Why is Agile software development so important?
Technologies are changing at a much faster pace than ever. Software companies work in a constantly evolving environment, so gathering all the project requirements at the time of starting the development is rarely possible. That's why they need something different than a conventional model like Waterfall, which depends on the complete specification.
When developing products in a dynamic market environment, organizations need teams that work within short development cycles to achieve a faster time-to-market.
Agile teams are desirable because of their adaptability and responsiveness to rapidly changing conditions. They can deliver tested, working software in two- to four-week-long iterations.
How is this possible? Because you have a tight-knit team of 3 to 10 highly skilled people who work together full-time. The team members represent diverse functional areas – developers, UX/UI designers, testers, analysts, technical writers, and others collaborate throughout the development process. They speak the same language no matter their discipline so that they can solve problems quickly and efficiently.
What is Agile software development?
Agile is more than its frameworks, such as Scrum, Extreme Programming, or Feature-Driven Development (FDD). Agile methods involve the practices, principles, and values expressed in the Manifesto for Agile and the 12 Principles behind it.
What separates Agile from other approaches to creating software is the focus on the people doing the work and their collaboration. Solutions evolve through teamwork involving self-organizing, cross-functional teams that use the practices and frameworks matching their context.
Agile has become so popular because it helps teams realize the following benefits:
- Better planning,
- Proper allocation of resources,
- Shorter development cycles,
- Easy control of the overall development process
- Ability to involve stakeholders in the analysis and testing phases,
- Greater process visibility,
- Helping to predict feature delivery work,
- Makes predicting cost and schedule easier,
- Easy acceptance of changes within the SDLC process to improve quality,
- Helps to collect current development feedback for further improvements.
Agile software development – principles, patterns, and practices
The Manifesto for Agile set out to establish principles to guide a better approach to building software. It's an instruction manual for how to develop software in an Agile way.
The first line of the manifesto says that it values people, their interactions, communication, and collaboration more than having all sorts of extensive processes and tools in place. Processes and tools are more valuable if they actually support people working together and delivering great products.
This is actually how we work at Codete: we value collaborating with our clients and believe in supporting our teams by ensuring that all the stakeholders are on the same page.
Agile is also based on 12 specific principles. Here's a short overview of these principles and how they apply to development.
12 principles of Agile
Source: Agile Alliance
- “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through the early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
- Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage.
- Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference for the shorter timescale.
- Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
- Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
- The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
- Working software is the primary measure of progress.
- Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
- Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
- Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
- The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
- At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.”
Key Agile concepts
- User Stories – When you're working on a project, your team divides the work up into functional units called "user stories." Each user story is supposed to bring something valuable to the table. This concept is part of the Scrum framework many development teams use today.
- Daily meeting – Team members and possibly people outside of the team meet every day to keep each other updated on what you're working on.
- Personas – This concept comes in handy when building a digital product. The idea here is to think of the people who will be using this product in the future as characters called personas.
- Team – A team is a small group of people who are all working together on one project or task at a time (and most likely full-time).
- Incremental development – Agile projects are developed incrementally, and each successive version of the product is usable and builds upon previous versions by adding new user-visible functionality. Agile projects are iterative since they intentionally allow for repeating software development activities and revisiting various work products throughout the project.
- Milestone retrospectives – After a certain amount of time has passed or once a project is completed, the entire team reflects in detail about significant events that took place over the course of the project and comes up with lessons learned.
Agile software development – best practices
1. Work closely with the customers
Customers are satisfied when products and services meet their requirements, expectations, and desires. To deliver what customers want, development teams traditionally record customer requirements at one end of the funnel and deliver the finished product at the other.
An Agile team maintains frequent communication with the customer throughout the process to clarify expectations, collaborate on fixes, and communicate options not previously considered.
The best teams manage risk by collaborating on how to meet customers' demands. Together, they come up with a better way to make the product do what users want it to do.
2. Fine-tune your daily work
Working together as a team doesn't mean that everyone works on the same project. For example, project managers may be using Agile project management practices. The value of teamwork is especially important for Agile teams that search for cross-team collaboration opportunities.
Practicing teamwork daily is one of the most important skills in any development process. While different teams should work together regularly, they shouldn't get stuck talking about processes or tools.
Agile teams need to interact with business stakeholders on a regular basis to enrich the development process with business priorities and domain expertise. By inviting stakeholders to brainstorm about features, functionality, or user-friendly solutions, you get to introduce fresh ideas and insights.
3. Create self-organizing teams
Self-organizing teams choose how to meet a series of goals under constraints by dividing the work into increments that can be completed within each iteration and then into tasks that can be completed each day.
The management shouldn't assign tasks or look over their shoulders but instead trust the team to make the right decisions. For this arrangement to work, each member has to be confident about their work and capabilities. They also need to stay committed to pushing through the most difficult and frustrating parts of the project.
As a whole, teams share responsibility and accountability. They may step outside of individual roles to resolve issues together. If the outcome doesn't match the vision, the team learns and adapts. The management should never second-guess or redirect the course of action.
Challenges of Agile methodology
- The Agile process is mainly concerned with code or development work. Writing documentation may not be a priority for the team – and the lack of documentation might make things difficult further down the line. Instead of focusing on building comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration becomes the top priority for the team.
- Another challenge of Agile is related to cost estimation. In large development projects, there is no way to estimate the total costs of the entire project in its initial stages.
- Experts often make key decisions in Agile teams based on experience and knowledge. This means that inexperienced developers might get fewer decision-making opportunities.
Agile software development – wrap up
Agile development is a go-to methodology for teams across the entire tech industry. Rather than focusing on one specific method that might not work for your project, Agile is about a set of techniques based on the values and principles in the Agile Manifesto. When you use these methods, teams are more likely to keep pace with your schedule and budget.
Are you planning to use Agile in your next project? Or perhaps you've already had some experience with it? Please share your thoughts in the comments section; we look forward to learning more about how teams adopt Agile to their needs to build future products.