Software development can be a complex task, and over the decades there has been a strong focus on streamlining the process to benefit both cross-functional teams and consumers. As software development dominates more of our lives, this need for consistent and reliable delivery of software goals has only become more important.
Agile software development takes the idea of iterative development and ascribes a methodology to it. Like its name, Agile refers to the quick, steady, and predictable delivery of development goals.
Here, we cover what is Agile methodology, the Agile Manifesto that governs its development, some specific Agile methods, and more.
What is Agile Methodology? An Overview
Agile project management refers to the idea of developing software through iterations, i.e., it focuses on iterative development through cross-functional collaboration. One common manifestation of Agile development is when large projects are divided into smaller ones.
These smaller tasks are scheduled to be completed in short durations throughout the software development life cycle. Furthermore, these tasks go through frequent reassessment and adapt to changes in plans.
Agile development is quite a broad term and, as we shall see, there are several methodologies that all qualify as Agile development. Any development process that meets the criteria established by the Agile Manifesto is considered to be Agile development.
The Agile process has become popular since its inception in the early 2000s, with the Project Management Institute stating that approximately 71% of organizations embrace Agile approaches for their projects. This is unsurprising, as it helps teams accomplish their tasks faster and optimize their workflow. The traditional ‘waterfall method’ that was previously used is less efficient than the approach of dividing and conquering, though it does have its uses.
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What are the Benefits of Agile?
Agile brings several benefits to all stakeholders in the software development ecosystem, including customers, vendors, and development teams. The benefits are easy to see even with a cursory glance, as iterative development makes work easier to produce and deliver.
Customers can receive deliverables more quickly with shorter development cycles, and the consensus is that vendors are more responsive to development requests. Vendors themselves can focus on high-value features with less overhead. Development teams see their non-productive work reduced by allowing them to focus on those high-value features that are a priority.
Product and project managers also have the benefit of better planning as they can speculate less with the visible development progress that Agile facilitates. They get a better sense of the state the project is in, and make decisions based on tangible data. They can even use an agile project management template to simplify their project planning and execution.
What is the Agile Manifesto?
Any development process that follows the principles laid out in the Agile Manifesto is considered an Agile project. There are 12 such guiding principles, along with four core rules that the Agile Manifesto outlines.
The Agile Manifesto was established in 2001 by a group of 17 industry veterans who saw the need to create software development processes that weren’t cumbersome and unresponsive. The idea was to lay out a new process that would make software development more efficient. After such discussions, they came up with a series of principles that defined efficient and responsive software development processes.
That came to be known as the Agile Manifesto, and it has played an enormous role in the software development world since. By focusing on releasing software incrementally, Agile was a major switch from previous software development models and one that would quickly see adoption from major tech firms.
Why is the Agile Manifesto Important?
Agile strongly contrasts with the previously used waterfall model, which would release projects at the end of the whole cycle. Agile made it possible to release core features consistently throughout the development cycle while still reducing development cycles for these shorter sprints of work.
Generally speaking, the focus is more on interacting with stakeholders within the pipeline to deliver the right product. There is a much greater emphasis on this aspect through the iterations, as opposed to the waterfall model where there was a long gap between conception and the end of the project cycle.
Core Values of the Agile Manifesto
Supporting this vision of iterative development are the core values of the Agile Manifesto, which are different from the 12 guiding principles themselves. The four core values describe what the guiding principles should be aspiring to, and largely have to do with making the project experience better for all stakeholders.
The four core values of the Agile Manifesto are:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change by following a plan
Individuals and Interactions Over Processes and Tools
The first core value focuses on teamwork and communication.
There are many tools and resources to coordinate with the team members and the customers while working on a project. It is essential to incorporate such tools into the project. However, it is not suggested to rely on the tools completely. Instead, teams should focus on human interaction or discussions to resolve any prevailing ambiguities. After all, the human element is extremely vital to communicating well.
Working Software Over Comprehensive Documentation
Undoubtedly, documentation is extremely important, and a great reference for users, but working software is more vital. The primary aim of software development is to build software that guarantees business advantages rather than bulky documentation.
Customer Collaboration Over Contract Negotiation
Development teams need to have regular conversations with their customers, as they are in fact a very useful part of the development process. Communication sessions help teams understand the needs of the clients and feedback is imperative to iterative improvement. This way, the teams are clear about the demands of the stakeholders and deliver a suitably refined end product.
Responding to Change Over Following a Plan
The saying goes that ‘change is the only constant’, and the Agile Manifesto asks you to embrace it. There are several instances where a project requires amendments borne out of the needs of customers. In such cases, your project plan must have the flexibility to change as required.
Now that you know about the four core values, it’s time to analyze the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto. These are designed to guide you to build products with efficiency.
The 12 Principles of the Agile Manifesto
The Agile Manifesto consists of 12 principles. The 12 guiding principles are as follows:
- The topmost priority is to satisfy the customers via early and continuous delivery of the software.
- Welcome changes in requirements even at a late stage of development. Change can harness competitive advantage.
- Deliver working software frequently to stakeholders.
- Developers and clients must work together on the project daily.
- Build your projects around motivated individuals. Provide them with a good environment and support.
- A face-to-face conversation is the most efficient and effective method to convey information to a development team.
- Working software is the basis for measuring progress.
- Agile methods boost sustainable development. The developers, sponsors, and users should maintain a continual collaborative speed.
- Consistent attention to good design and technical excellence enhances agility.
- Opt for simplicity, as it is the art to maximize the amount of work not done.
- Self-organizing teams deliver the best designs, architectures, and requirements.
- The team must reflect on how to enhance effectiveness at regular intervals and adjust to its behavior accordingly.
These principles are quite self-explanatory and serve as an overall guideline on how to go about developing software. It’s clear that the emphasis is on communication between the client and development team, and ensuring that there is no room for misinterpretation of the requirements.
Agile Model vs. Waterfall Method
The Agile model has come to replace the older waterfall model. There are some clear distinctions between the two.
The waterfall model is a linear sequential model as opposed to the iterative style of Agile. There are pros and cons to both, but what is important to know is that the waterfall model does not offer room to change goals midway through the project and that it is not suitable for large-scale projects.
Read more: Agile vs Waterfall
- The Agile Method outlines an interactive approach to software design
- This method breaks a large project into smaller sub-tasks. This way, you reach the end product faster and in an efficient manner
- The customer can frequently visit to check the progress of the product and make several changes if required
- The Agile Method is called unstructured when compared to the waterfall method
- If any error occurs in between the project, it can be fixed
- Software development is given more priority over documentation
- The development workflow of the software runs in a sequence from start to end
- In this model, bifurcation of the project into several sub-tasks is not done
- The customer is prohibited from seeing a product in the development stage
- The waterfall model is extensively planned-oriented. Hence, it is considered more secure
- The project is only tested after it is concluded. If any error occurs, the project is restarted from scratch
- Documentation is prioritized over software development
What are Some Agile Development Methodologies?
So you now know that the Agile methodology outlines a method that helps continuously develop and test the software throughout the development life-cycle. There are actually quite a few methodologies that teams use to implement an effective and systematic Agile approach in their projects.
The following are some of the most popular methodologies adopted by organizations:
- Adaptive Software Development
- Extreme Programming
- Feature Driven Development
- Dynamic Software Development Method
- Behavior Driven Development
It’s worth going over some of these in detail.
Which Agile Methodology Should You Use - Scrum, Kanban, or Something Else?
Even within the Agile Methodology, there is a whole spectrum of frameworks that a team could use to better optimize their software development processes. On the whole, they follow the same overarching philosophy, just deviating in the details of the process. We describe some of the most popular frameworks below.
Established by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, Scrum is a lightweight framework to work with complex adaptive problems. Scrum executes small teams of 8 to 10 developers that include a product owner and a Scrum Master. It is one of the most popular Agile methodologies.
The official Scrum website prefers to refer to itself as a scientific method of empiricism as opposed to a methodology. Scrum events define meetings between developers, with each having its own set time and purpose. Some of these are a sprint, sprint planning, and sprint retrospective.
The project is split into 2- or 3-week cycles — which is what sprints are. A sprint outlines a period in which the development of any project happens. Multiple sprints are performed to deliver the product to the customer.
Additionally, the product owner explains the product functionality in a set of instructions. These instructions are allocated specific priority levels and are incorporated into each sprint.
The ultimate objective of this methodology is to let the team explain the functionality and results of each sprint to the product owner at the end.
Adaptive Software Development (ASD)
Created by Sam Bayer and Jim Highsmith in the early 1990s, ASD or Adaptive Software Development uses a dynamic development cycle called Speculate, Collaborate, and Learn.
This cycle implies constant learning and continuous collaboration between the clients and developers. Frequent changes may occur in product development.
Moreover, ASD inhabits Rapid Application Development or RAD. RAD emphasizes the development speed to create a precise product that involves the user at every stage.
Here are some of the key characteristics of ASD:
- Speculate: The initial phase of the project where stakeholders set basic goals by analyzing the risk areas involved in the life cycle of the project.
- Collaborate: This phase includes development and communication. All the teams coordinate with each other to understand the progress and the requirements of the project.
- Learn: The learning stage focuses on the collaboration cycles where the teammates analyze the knowledge gained while working on the project. It reflects the effectiveness of the work.
Extreme Programming (XP)
Extreme Programming (XP) is a software development framework that lists its goal as wanting to produce higher quality software and higher quality of life for the development team.
The prime focus is to enhance personal connections within the team to better software development. The general characteristics of XP are:
- Dynamically changing software requirements
- Risks caused by fixed-time projects using new technology
- The small, co-located extended development team
- The technology you are using allows for automated unit and functional tests
XP is recommended for projects that have high changing requirements.
Feature Driven Development
The Feature Driven Development framework, developed in 1997 by Jeff De Luca and Peter Coad, specifically focuses on large teams working with short iterations. The goal is to facilitate the delivery of features in a short period of time.
The project generally has 5 stages under the FDD framework, putting the individual features front and center. The initial three stages are sequential — these are the “develop an overall model”, “build a features list”, and “plan by feature” stages. The final two stages — “design by feature” and “build by feature” — are interactive.
In FDD, there are various activities that assist teammates in addressing communication challenges and coordinating better. It has found particular use in large organizations but isn’t often used for smaller projects.
Dynamic Software Development Method
The Dynamic Software Development Method (DSDM) is a framework that focuses on the large strategic goal of a project and tailors the development process to best fit achieving that goal. It has eight principles that guide, which are quite similar to the Agile Manifesto principles.
One of the major objectives of the DSDM is to characterize software projects based on schedules and budgets. It is also vendor-independent and suggests using facilitated workshops, modeling and iterative development, Moscow prioritization, and time boxing.
DSDM also works in tandem with Scrum and other Agile frameworks. It has been gaining popularity in the past few years.
Behavior Driven Development
The Behavior Driven Development (BDD) framework evolves from Test-Driven Development and Acceptance Test-Driven Development.
This process aims to facilitate the inclusion of non-technical personnel into the software development process. The idea is to better integrate business-related goals into the product’s functionality by making clear what the business outcomes are.
BDD motivates technical and non-technical people to work collaboratively on a software project by following certain procedures. These include creating test scenarios and features in the development process. BDD helps teams communicate regularly, spot errors or defects, and build sustainable software products.
Interestingly, the Kanban method originates from the Just-in-Time (JIT) production processes developed by Toyota, wherein several cards were used to identify needs in the production chain. David Anderson developed it in the mid-2000s.
As described by the Agile Alliance, the Kanban Method is focused on designing, managing, and improving flow systems for knowledge work. It holds transparency, balance, collaboration, flow, and leadership among its values, though there are other characteristics as well.
Kanban is a visual system that leads to work management by visualizing the workflow and actual work. The primary goal is to identify obstacles that may occur in the development journey and subsequently resolve them.
The method evolved out of a response to various challenges faced by other agile methods, precisely Scrum. This method is opposite to that of a non-disruptive evolutionary method.
In addition, it helps to deliver the product continuously instead of a time duration of 2 to 3 weeks. This results in a much quicker turnaround.
Agile Methodology is Essential for Software Development
In recent years, organizations have started to focus on different methodologies to build a project, with Agile leading the way. This is essential, as Agile methods help increase efficiency and effectiveness, and decrease the time taken to complete the project.
Agile adoption grows by the day, with companies in finance, media, technology, and government also taking to the Agile approach. Now that you know exactly what is Agile methodology, we recommend you try practicing its core principles in your future projects. It’s well worth knowing if you intend to join a large-scale organization, and it can greatly streamline the development process.
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