In present times, nearly all software development companies and teams tend to follow Agile in one form or another. But, before committing to Agile, it is very important to understand-
Organizations and project teams should primarily understand “why” they want to adopt Agile. If you are keen on learning more about Agile, you have landed yourself in the perfect place, where you will get to know everything that you need to know about Agile, right from the history to its usage.
Here, we will not only discuss what Agile is but also talk about what Agile is not. Once you understand what Agile really means, you’ll not only be able to implement Agile practices at your organisation but also acknowledge situations which can be improved with the help of Agile.
Read along to know what it really means at its root.
Agile is not a methodology, neither is it a specific way of working on software development, nor a framework or process. Agile in actual, is a set of values and principles, as defined by the Agile Manifesto.
It is a term which describes the different approaches to software development, highlighting team collaboration, incremental delivery, recurrent planning, and recurrent learning. It is an iterative approach that builds software incrementally, instead of delivering it all at once.
Agile doesn’t make any decision for you but provides you with a platform that teams can make use of to make decisions that result in better software development.
Agile breaks down a project into small scales of user functionality, known as user stories. These can be compared to a to-do list that you make for the tasks that you have to complete. Developers work on these user stories, prioritise these user stories and group them into iterations, assigning deadlines to each iteration.
Once the iteration is over, developers might have a possible product that users can test. Hence, Agile projects help in creating user stories on which they can work iteratively, depending on the user’s feedback. This way, the software becomes better suited for users according to their needs while at the same time, it minimises complexity. Instead of a pre-set of requirements, developers work according to adapt their software as per the requirements by users’ feedback.
Let’s take a step back and have a look at how Agile was discovered and where it came from.
In today’s world, project managers can make a choice out of multiple methodologies addressing the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) for a particular project. The top choice is Agile, which helps teams to work according to the changing requirements through incremental, iterative project work.
Before Agile was born, the process that SDLC followed was very inflexible. The process it followed was:
Without any alteration, the phases were completed in the above-mentioned order. Each phase was first completed and validated before starting the next process. Any changes in the previous phase meant starting the project from the square one until each phase was redone and approved.
Though it's unbelievable, such inflexibility of this process didn’t cause any kind of hindrance in the process of software development. This was because technological innovation was very slow at that period of time. There was no problem in spending several months gathering information and requirements, while at the same time design a software program.
In the early 2000s, seventeen software developers met in Snowbird, Utah to discuss the methodologies that were being used at that time. These seventeen software developers included Kent Beck, Ward Cunningham, Dave Thomas, Jeff Sutherland, Ken Schwaber, Jim Highsmith, Alistair Cockburn, and Bob Martin. They all published the ‘Manifesto to Agile Software Development’ together, which marks the start of the agile movement.
According to the Agile Manifesto:
The 4 core values as stated by the Agile Manifesto are:
The four values outlined in the Agile manifesto promotes focusing more on the quality of the software by creating products that meet the consumer’s needs and expectations.
People and individuals respond to the business needs in order to drive the development process, hence people should be valued more than tools or processes.
Agile takes user stories as requirements, which a developer uses to begin building new functions. The Agile Manifesto values working software more than it values documentation.
According to the Agile Manifesto, a customer can be engaged and can collaborate throughout the process of development. This makes it easier for the team to meet the needs of the customer.
With Agile, priorities can be changed from one iteration to another iteration while new features can be added as well. Agile believes that changes improve a project and provides additional value.
The Twelve Principles are the guiding principles for the methodologies which are included in the Agile Manifesto. It describes the way by which changes are welcomed and customers are focused during the process.
The focus is to deliver what the customer wants, not what one has planned. Customers are more happy with receiving working software at regular intervals, rather than waiting for a long period for new releases.
Embrace changes, even if it is requested by the customer late in the project. One can try and avoid delays when a new change has been requested.
Create short periods of time to run tasks and make changes. It ensures a regular delivery of the working software.
It is important to build a bridge between developers and the business side of the project so that they can make use of the same tools and work together to make better decisions.
Motivate and support your team so that they work in a more dedicated manner. Motivated teams deliver the best of the results that they can.
Communication is a key factor for teams in order to deliver information. Communication is possible in multiple ways, like documenting conversations, creating email streams, using collaboration software, keeping the development teams co-located, etc.
Progress is measured by the success of the software (or the product), not by completing the tasks and moving along the timeline.
Sprints in activities help teams stay motivated and less burnout, which doesn’t affect the quality of the project.
To maintain the right pace and in order to constantly improve the product, the right skill, as well as good design, is very important.
Cut down the unnecessary complexities and keep things as simple as possible in order to streamline your development process.
Team members take ownership, communicate more regularly and share ideas in order to deliver quality products.
The process of self-improvement, process improvement, working on their skills and techniques helps a team to work in a more effective manner.
Agile involves the process of continuous planning and feedback in order to deliver business value since the beginning of the project. The whole process encourages user involvement as well as provides visibility and transparency so that the actual progress of the project is visible. Read along to know the key benefits of agile management.
Due to regularised sprint meetings, features are delivered in more flexible manners with more transparency. If the demands are met before the planned or predicted date, the software can be Beta-tested or released beforehand.
The process involves allowing the client to determine the priority list of the features. This way, the team can understand what is more important to the client and his business, and work accordingly. The client is involved in every sprint review. Moreover, the process helps in delivering the products quicker or by the predicted date, making the clients get early access to the product.
Since the exercise involves breaking down the project into small units, high-quality development, testing and collaboration come into focus. Moreover, the quality is improved due to frequent builds and testing after each iteration as defects can be identified and fixed during the process.
The value of a project is calculated on the basis of cost and ROI. If the ROI outweighs the cost, then the company might carry the project further. But predicting the results of the projects where ROI is not known becomes strenuous. Hence, predictability is very crucial in projects. By using Agile techniques during the planning phase of the project, the cost of a project can be predicted and it can also be concluded if they should continue with the project.
The chances of project failure are nearly eliminated by the use of Agile methodologies as a functioning product is available from the very first sprint. Since the product is developed in sprints, it is easier to know if the product or the approach will work or not.
For an Agile project, analysing, designing, coding and testing are never done with. As long as there are features to work on and deliveries to make, these activities are a continuous process.
Not all developers advocate agile. Some of the developers follow the traditional methodology known as ‘waterfall’, which is also used widely in businesses. Let's have a look at what this traditional methodology is and how it is different from Agile.
Waterfall methodology is a linear approach to software development. The Waterfall model follows the sequential order, meaning that the project development team moves to the next phase of testing or developing only if the previous step has been completed successfully.
This method is also known as the Linear Sequential Life Cycle Model.
Agile follows the process of continuous development and testing in the software development process itself. Unlike the Waterfall Model, the development and testing activities are concurrent in this model. Communication between the customers, developers, managers, and testers are possible in this methodology.
|Agile||Project Trait or Facto||Waterfall|
|Has an incremental approach.||Approach||The process is divided into distinct phases.|
|Customers are preferred throughout the project.||Customer Availability||Customers are involved only after the product has been developed.|
|Small teams with good coordination and synchronization.||Team||Team coordination and synchronization are limited.|
|It has a flexible methodology.||Methodology||It has a structured process, so most of the times it can be quite rigid.|
|Can be considered as a collection of many projects.||Final Product||One single project is completed after the software development.|
|It is a flexible method which allows changes to be made as per requirements, even after the completion of the initial planning.||Process||The requirements cannot be changed once the process of project development starts.|
|Works well when the scope is not known in advance as changes can be made in the process.||Scope||Works well when the scope is known in advance or when there are limitations to changes in the process.|
|Test Plan is reviewed after every sprint.||Test Plan||Test Plan is not discussed during the test phase.|
|Follows an iterative approach. Planning, development, prototyping and other phases may occur more than once.||Software Development Phases||The project development phases like designing, development, testing, etc take place once, only after the process is done with.|
|During the project, requirements are prepared every day by the Product Owner along with the team.||Requirements||Requirements are prepared at the beginning of the project by the business analysts.|
|Testing is performed simultaneously with the software development process.||Testing of the product||The testing phase comes only after the Build has been prepared.|
The following is an outline of the flow of the process from creating a product to the completion of a sprint in the Agile Development application.
A product is a set of features that are offered to users. It can either focus on a few user stories or many users, which can contain many tasks.
A group of Agile team can be formed, defining the number of tasks that a member can complete in a sprint to define the capacity of the group.
Create a release which has a start date and an end date, in which the development iterations will be completed.
It can be created by defining the filter criteria. It can be a combination of stories, incidents, defects, etc.
It is the time frame within which a development team delivers one or more stories. A release can have multiple sprints. A team is expected to complete all the assigned stories within a sprint.
Before starting a sprint, decide on the stories from the backlog that can be committed to complete within a sprint. Stories to be worked on in a sprint should be selected on the basis of priorities.,
Team members should update their tasks and story records on a daily basis to communicate regarding their progress.
This is done to make sure that the team is completing stories and is on track to achieve the goal.
The process of Agile Software Development involves cross-functional teams working concurrently on various phases like planning, designing, requirement analysis, etc. A working model becomes available at the end of each iteration. The following are the salient characteristics of Agile:
For a team working together, communicating in person is more sought after than being distributed over multiple locations. It is recommended to co-locate your team, but many times teams are unable to do so for critical business reasons. There’s more to the challenges faced by the distributed software team:
Under such situations, teams need to learn to follow Agile principles and practices in a distributed environment. This section discusses this in detail.
Each team member needs to put in extra effort when working with remote team members and communicating with them, emphasizing more on the importance of being available and open.
All team members should be committed and dedicated to making Agile work in a distributed environment. The management must support the processes and tools required to do so.
All team members should have a good understanding of their roles and responsibilities, along with an equal distribution of work. If there is an imbalance in the workload and it is being ignored, then it might risk the schedule of the project delivery.
In pair programming, two members of the team sit side by side and work on the same code. It is a challenging task for distributed teams. This can be replaced by a virtual experience, like having a video-conferencing as a solution.
Teams face a lot of communication problems if their team members work in different time zones. You can help your team across the world by making them aware of the different time zones in which the team members are working. Using a physical map with pushpins depicting how the team is distributed, is an example for the same.
Identify the tools that will help your team. Get consents from your team members and see if the tool will be helpful for the team or not for that project. Most importantly, train your team on the tools. Don’t expect the team members to know about the new tools and how to use them without any practice. Train them for the same.
With many organizations going global, distributed teams are becoming a common culture to work in. Agile, along with additional efforts by the team, will work well with the distributed teams.
There are various methods and frameworks that are used by businesses and organizations in the world of development and manufacturing. To name a few:
Scrum is a framework which is used by teams to help them manage their work. It implements Agile principles as a set of artifacts, roles, and practices.
Scrum has specified three important roles, namely Product Owner, Scrum Master, Scrum Team.
A Product Owner holds the responsibility for the product that the team is building and why they are building it. Moreover, he is responsible for keeping the backlog up-to-date and in the order of the priority.
He holds the responsibility to ensure that the team is following the scrum process. They are in the continuous look out for the team’s improvement, while at the same time work on resolving the backlog issues that arise during the sprint.
The individuals who comprise the team with the responsibility of building the product. They are the engineer of the product and its quality.
Scrum events are used in order to create regularity. All the events are time-boxed, that is it cannot exceed the fixed maximum duration. The elements of Scrum Events are Sprint, Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum Meetings, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective.
A product incremental is developed in a Sprint. It is usually of a duration of one month or less. The main motive is to provide a pattern to work for the team and the business.
The work to be performed in a Sprint is discussed and planned in a Sprint Planning meeting.
It is a 15-minute meeting held for the team which is conducted on a daily basis. The main motive is to understand the work done since the previously held scrum meeting and to create a plan for the day. It is often referred to as the Daily Stand-up Meeting.
A Sprint Review is held at the end of every Sprint. The team sits along with the stakeholders to discuss what was done in the Sprint. The main objective of this meeting is to obtain feedback for further progress.
It occurs after a Sprint Review and prior to the next sprint planning. The main goal is to introspect and improve in order to make the next Sprint even more effective.
It is like a logbook which provides the Scrum team and the stakeholders with the information that they need to be aware of, like the understanding of the project under development, the activities done and being planned in the project. The Scrum Artifacts are Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, Product Increment.
It is a prioritized list of values that a team can deliver made available by the Product Owner to the Scrum Team. The Product Owner adds, changes and re-prioritizes the product backlog as needed.
It is the list of items that a team plans to deliver in the sprint. The sprint starts when all the members of the team agree that the Sprint Backlog is achievable.
This is the most important Scrum Artifact. The product of a Sprint can be known as an Incremental if the produces product is potentially shippable. It should meet all of the quality criteria that are set by the Product Owner and the team.
Scaled Agile Framework provides a simple, lightweight experience for the software developing team, where they can apply lean-agile practices at the enterprise level. It can handle the needs of large value streams and complex system developments, despite being simple and light in weight. Its framework is divided into three segments: Team, Program, and Portfolio.
SAFe® allow teams to do the following:
Using Agile and DevOps are considered to be the best approach for bringing change within a team or an organisation. One of the most common questions that come across people’s mind is how are Agile and DevOps related to each other. In this regard, it must be noted that DevOps did not emerge as a response to Agile; rather these two are discrete approaches. DevOps slowly grew as a means to plug the communication gap in Agile development.
Let's have a look at what this actually means and how Agile and DevOps are related.
DevOps is a culture which promotes collaboration between the Development and Operation Team. It helps in deploying code to production in a faster and automated way., increasing the organization’s speed to deliver applications and services.
|Agile||Project Trait or Facto||DevOps|
|It is an iterative approach that focuses on the collaboration, customer feedback and small releases of the product.||Definition||It is an approach that brings together the practice of development and operations team.|
|It focuses on constant changes.||Task||Focuses on constant testing and delivery.|
|Manages complex projects.||Purpose||Manages end-to-end engineering processes.|
|Provided by the customers.||Feedback||Provided by the internal team.|
|Agile doesn’t emphasize on automation.||Automation||DevOps primary goal is Automation.|
|Can be implemented with a range of frameworks like sprint, safe and scrum.||Implementation||Doesn’t have any commonly accepted framework. Its primary goal is focusing on collaboration.|
|Smaller the team, even a few people will work on the project, meaning they can move faster.||Team Size||They have a relatively larger team size as it involves stack-holders.|
|Emphasizes on getting all of its members trained so that they can be familiar with the skills.||Skill Set||Development and operation teams divide and spread the skill sets between themselves.|
|Agile targets Software Development||Scope||DevOps targets end-to-end business solution and faster delivery|
|Software Developing||Importance||Developing, testing and implementation all are important.|
The end result after an agile application is a product or a project that will meet best with the customer needs, while at the same time deliver it with minimal cost and time, enabling organisations to attain results earlier as compared to the results obtained via the traditional approaches.
The roots of Agile Software Developments are lean, agile manufacturing and organizational learning. Looking at these roots, one can realise that they did not originate in the world of software. Many practices of Agile like Stand-up meetings, prioritization, and visual management originated outside software.
These techniques are applied in the development sector of non-software products as well, such as computers, medical devices, computers, food, clothing, etc. Principles of Agile Software Development have found applications in general management platforms, like finance, governance, risk, etc.
Myths and misunderstandings are common to spread over any method or framework. With time, it becomes a belief and people start to accept it as common knowledge. Read along to know some of the most common myths that have been growing around Agile.
Teams should not just learn the best practices of Agile, but should also be able to judge if the selected project is the right fit for agile. They should evaluate if the organization can adopt the values and principles of agile. It is very important for the organisation to invest the time, effort and resources to institute and establish the expectations, culture, and infrastructure to hold up the implementation of Agile methodology. Practice and commitment are very much required as well.
Agile has been in practice since the greater part of the last century. The frameworks which are now collectively known as Agile mostly evolved during the late 1980s and 1990s. Hence, many people are familiar with Agile.
Reading a book to understand Agile is not enough. It is a good idea to read a book to get a good understanding, but it cannot replace practical experience, which is very important to enable an agile mindset and to transform an organisation to become agile.
Planning is very vital with any approach, that is if not carried out properly, it will diminish the effectiveness of performance. Although, Agile plans the activities more evenly throughout the project life cycle. Planning starts right from the beginning of an agile project and is continuously iterated throughout the project as new information is gained. Working in this manner makes the project team more effective and help them adapt to changes in an easier way.
Managers feel that self-organisation is identical to anarchy and hence, fear losing control over their agile team. Dues to Agile, the role of management may change but managers play an integral role in their company. They have the responsibility to define visions and goals, as well as help the team to gain full potential.
Agile transformations always go through a learning curve, but they mostly deliver huge benefits. The delivered results might go downwards before it changes to going upwards in the process before it begins to enhance its delivery capabilities.
Agile development is composed of small groups, who are cross-functional and collaborative throughout the process of development. This motion is equally effective for larger projects as multiple teams can be formed where they can focus on separate components.
The Agile manifesto describes agile in the context of software delivery. But Agile can be used in businesses which are not software-related as Agile is suitable for any dynamic business which experiences variability.
A strong majority of organizations are already defaulting to Agile. But there is one common barrier. The lack of understanding of the differences between Agile transformation and Agile adoption. A clear perception of these differences is necessary to realize which is the best fit for your team or organization ー Agile Adoption or Agile Transformation.
The word Adoption is used to describe the action of taking up or putting something into action or effect. Similarly, Agile Adoption can be referred to as the act of “doing Agile”.
Agile adoption makes the process of software development simpler, faster and better.
Agile Transformation refers to the process of converting a business or an organisation from its previously followed methods to ‘Agile’ methods, which will help them in continuous delivery of software in a fluid manner. The process involves a change in the mindset of all the people working in the organisation, which might not be acceptable by all.
An effective Agile transformation is usually seen to happen in three stages-
|Agile Adoption||Factor||Agile Transformation|
|Agile adoptions are fast. Can be measured in days or weeks.||Speed of Change||Agile Transformations take a long time. Can be measured in years.|
|Short Term||Planning Timeframe||Long Term|
|Agile Adoption has a very rare impact.||Impact on the Structure of the organization.||Directly impacts the power and controls in an organisation.|
|The team and the stakeholders might feel that has changed to become more self-organized.||Change in Culture.||It has a widespread impact as the whole culture is being transformed.|
The future is ripe with endless possibilities for Agile, and companies across the globe are already realizing it.
Various organizations around the globe are now adopting different approaches to software development according to their needs and demands.
Agile has got a promising future in particular for the teams making the best use of it.
In the long haul, the same teams will help their organisations by delivering products at less cost. With AI and big data becoming a core part of decision making, data-driven Agile will soon become a major focus.
On a closing note, Agile and its practice do not commit to resolving each and every problem faced by an organization. But they do guarantee to establish an environment which will help them solve problems through learning, continual planning, and collaboration.
The motto remains the same: to deliver a high-quality product in a shorter period of time.
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