The agile methodology is fascinating especially with the involvement in Software Development Life Cycles (SDLCs) such as the waterfall model, iterative model, and V-model.
Although Agile methodology possesses transparency and discipline in software development, it is not a great suit for a one man project. Just like any software development project, there are processes, sub-process, and roles to consider. And though we can not fully explain this intricate methodology with just a few simple words, here we are to share some knowledge on how it works.
With fierce competition among businesses and software companies, time is very important. Gone were the days wherein software providers took a long time to develop software and without customer interaction, feedback or validation.
In fact, Agile is a revolutionary process that helps to develop better software applications and reduces all types of risks associated with it. So, let’s discuss its core concepts and its great impact on the businesses and software development communities.
What is Agile Methodology?
Agile methodology stands for agility. This means it has the ability to move quickly and easily in software development. Wherein core concepts such as teamwork, collaboration, communication, adaptability, process iteration is always present.
Agile project management is greatly affected by how the development initiative is broken into smaller tasks. Unlike other models, change is part of the efforts that is essential on a daily basis. Besides, the best part is, all stakeholders agree to it.
Successful implementation of the agile methodology requires an organization to embrace its concepts and philosophies at all levels. Hence, it is easy to say that agile development provides greater impact among organizations. But it is also important that all stakeholders are in consonance with the implementation of this methodology.
Agile software development creates a collaborative process with one goal — fast and reliable delivery of working software. It is an environment wherein all stakeholders are aware and create decisive results amidst the constant change in technical and functional assets. So, all of these are essential to provide true business value to every business customer.
But the question lies in how do we know that agile software products meet the business needs?
A section of this article will discuss the business perspective and impact of the agile process. However, the involvement of stakeholders in every short and iterative process manifests the quality verification of the product. This is the core concept of agile wherein deviations from the expected results are identified and are quickly fixed.
The Agile Manifesto
The chronic problems of delayed software delivery and completion led a group of software developers to introduce agile management. The agile definition was first manifested in a document called the Agile Manifesto back in February 2001.
Its main principle focused on lightweight software development and a result-oriented approach. Hence, you’ll notice a distinctive difference with the lesser documentation. Almost two decades later, agile methodology has grown and become the widely adopted software development method among communities and businesses worldwide.
To have a complete grasp of the process, there are 4 key points inside the Agile Manifesto that needs to be considered:
1. Constant Communication
The daily collaborations and interactions among stakeholders is the primary asset of agile methodology. All members of the development team work directly with the customers and subject matter experts (SMEs). Ultimately, the goal is to satisfy the customer with on-time and continuous delivery of working software product.
2. Change is constant
The long delays in software delivery mean poor business model. In agile, change is apparent and is always welcome. Hence, change in requirements is inevitable even in the late part of the development process. This is because, whether it is a slight or major change, it is essential. While the primary measurement of success in agile is functioning software.
3. Less documentation
The enormous and tedious software development documentation in the past led to the delay and even cancellation of software products. In agile, simple working software is more favorable over comprehensive documentation. After all, simplicity is essential.
4. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Face-to-face communication is one of the critical points of agile methodology. It promotes great collaboration because issues are resolved right there and then. Besides, it also encourages a sustainable development pace since it involves continuous attention to details.
Agile software development promotes camaraderie as management instill capabilities among motivated and capable members. Hence, every member of the team is given an environment that allows them to succeed. And most of all, the team always reflects on previous performance and seeks ways for continuous improvement.
Different Agile Methodologies
Experienced developers always talked about the candor of agile methodologies. Known methodologies such as SCRUM, Kanban, Lean Software Development, Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM), Extreme Programming (XP), and many others share the same philosophy.
There are two types of agile process: Higher and lower ceremony.
The higher ceremony includes numerous steps, activities and work products. Of course, the opposite is a lower ceremony. This is one of the best attributes of the agile process since all software developers have the authority to customize or design its ceremony. They can pick tasks, steps and expected results for every project.
A complete list of agile methodologies deserves another article. Thus, let’s focus on the one hugely used agile method — the SCRUM method.
Oftentimes, people are confused with the difference that led to the battle of scrum vs agile. SCRUM has a specific set of rules where it gets its guiding principles from agile. Agile is the umbrella while scrum is part of the umbrella.
The fundamentals behind SCRUM is known as Sprint. The iteration runs for thirty days and programmers have the flexibility to create shorter sprints. Most shorter sprints end after every 14 days or it varies accordingly.
It follows the ultimate agile practice of constant communication yet functions as an autonomous team. While the daily meetings would tackle those tasks comprising the Sprint for the next day. Most of the time, the team includes four to nine members comprising the roles of Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Team Member.
Now, let’s expound the scope of these roles:
- Product Owner
The product owner oversees all the business conditions of the project to ensure the products are built on the right track. While good product owner balances the competing priorities and is always available to the team for inquiries and makes definite decisions about the project.
- Scrum Master
The Scrum Master is the team’s leader, as it helps the team decides on how to resolve issues causing ‘blockers’ that hinder timely progress. It facilitates meetings and discussion groups, track progress, and perform other agile management duties.
- Team Members
The team collaborates and uses the best approach and tools to achieve the goals as required by the product owner and the items agreed by stakeholders.
The 5 Benefits of Agile Methodologies
After its introduction in 2001, the popularity of agile software programming has grown exponentially. This is primarily because of its result-oriented approach that businesses and software providers favorably adapted. Both businesses and providers became a champion of this approach.
Thus, here are five common benefits of an agile approach to software development.
1. Excellent communication among peers and stakeholders
Nobody is left behind as agile encourages clearer and more frequent communication among stakeholders. Even with huge projects, the organized process of daily communication promotes responsibility and promotes greater project clarity.
2. Increase in productivity
The logical concept of smaller chunks of deliverables that are completed and submitted in shorter iterations is one of the primary benefits of agile. This decreases the possibility of developers in getting out of phase with the process. Plus, problems are easily and quickly corrected as it arises.
3. Boost morale and increase confidence among developers
The shorter time of module delivery promotes greater confidence among developers especially if they complete and pushed fewer buggy deliverables every day. Every day is an achievement and can boost the individual morale which positively affects the entire performance of the team.
4. Costs predictability
The daily meetings and the iterative nature of the agile project management work cycle promote easy and transparent cost estimates. Thus, costs predictability also promotes decisiveness in terms of product changes and features.
5. Higher quality results
The nature of the agile process led to high-quality results and in return, to an excellent software product. The daily goal of achieving smaller chunks of the project led to easy testing and validation. This resulted in prompt troubleshooting that promotes higher quality products.
The Business Perspective of Agile Method
Businesses are lured to boost revenues and create true business value using agile methodology to develop software. However, despite its immense popularity; How do these methods and frameworks help business organizations achieve their goals?
Over the years, there are quantified research and studies about the business benefits of agile. One of which is the study by John Rudd entitled “The Business Value of Agile Transformation.” The summary of his paper is as follows:
Adoption of the Agile methodology has moved from what was largely grassroots initiatives to now mainstream approach to software development.
This accelerated transition from traditional practices to the Agile approach was in many ways born out of necessity. The emergence of the speed of technological change and quick customer adoption has been disruptive to many markets, leading to organizational imperatives to (1) reduce time-to-market and (2) make smaller market investments.
Often times, organizations are reeling from this market disruption to focus on the tangible value that can be obtained by an Agile approach. Instead, they simply push forward with an Agile initiative as a reaction to significant project failure or a loss of market share.
While reduced cycle time in itself can sufficiently justify the adoption of this methodology. It’s imperative to pause for a second to consider the other attributes of Agile software development that can potentially be as valuable if not more.
6 Benefits of Agile Transformation in Business
In this study, there are six major benefits of Agile transformation in terms of tangible business value:
1. To reduce failed project risk
2. Minimize over-budget and late projects
3. Reduce waste
4. Improving return through early and frequent releases
5. Reduce write-off risks
6. Higher-quality software with fewer defects
So, careful consideration of all of these benefits and incorporating them into your transformation roadmap can ensure your organization reaps the full value of an Agile change initiative.
Agile’s Daily Practices
Systems are planned, designed and built to serve businesses at the very start. The agile process is the most commonly adopted methodology. It is also the most prevalent agile practices to learn. These are used by many agile practitioners but are customized or patterned according to the project’s requirements.
1. Daily Standup (Stand-Up Meetings)
Daily Scrum meetings are short but it covers everything. Here, every member will report what was done yesterday, what will he do today and also discuss his blockers. The last topic will help him seek guidance from senior developers or team leads.
2. User Stories
These are brief descriptions of a function that serves as the link between the software developers and the customers. And the attributes of a good user story are: conciseness, conversational and involve a series of tests to confirm it.
3. Automated Testing
Is formal and thorough testing that finds and eliminates defects at an early stage of development. As it ensures that a working software package is pass-on successfully to a customer.
4. Automated Builds
This automated build is a process inside agile that have running software all the time. What it does is it ensures all software developments are regularly and automatically compiled, built, deployed and tested. Generally, this is a routine process every time a developer “push” its code and merge by the team lead as a part of the development branch.
5. Agile Planning: Release, Iteration, and Tasks
These are the three levels of Agile development planning:
Release planning is a customer-driven planning session is where customers and developers discuss and decide its series of product releases. It encompasses the different stories for every release including the estimated efforts by the developers, the needed features and task priorities.
Iteration planning involves establishing the timeline for every iteration. An iteration must only take weeks to complete. During the planning, customers define and prioritize the user stories. On the other side of the table, developers estimate how much effort will be sufficient to develop each user story.
Task planning primarily involves developers. While the team decides how the stories are broken down into a series of doable steps. Task lists and assignments are posted near the team’s area for easy accessibility. Each developer chooses a task and assign it to itself, then provides an estimate of the iteration and effort associated with it.
6. Pair Programming
It is a process wherein two developers work as a team on one task. One person is the driver who enters the code. The second person is the navigator who plans the next steps while integrating the code into the whole system. This setup is not a common practice but teams have the freedom to decide whether to pair or not.
7. Continuous Integration
Development teams continuously integrate their codes into the system throughout the day. As a rule, a series of tests are processed before any additional codes. This is to ensure that it won’t affect the pre-existing branches or functions in the system. So, all developers must test their codes first and fix any problem. The continuous integration with smaller chunks of codes results in quick merging and easy to spot errors.
These are meetings held at or near project completion to consider the past events that underwent during the development process. Hence, all parties can review and reflect upon their contributions. Once done, all stakeholders analyze what went well, what did not, where improvements can be made. Most of all, the problems that occur, its corresponding lessons and how to turn them into actionable change.
The agile process, if not done properly can be deleterious to both software providers and business organizations. Hence, this article provides a glimpse of the essence of Agile manifesto and personal insight into agile management.
Since its introduction in 2001, it never stops to offer an exciting and fascinating approach to software development. The constant collaboration of stakeholders, product developers, and customers in the planning and implementing processes provides an overwhelming success. Whereas, the success abounds for developers as they deliver the promised product and triumph for the business owners to compete and acquire true business value through the delivered product.
So, to achieve the desired results, agile programming must be in accordance with its core concepts. All the levels of organizations must be in consonance to implement every tiny detail of the agile process and management. At the backstage is an overwhelmingly chaotic implementation but if truly implemented, it provides more meaning.
Agile helps business organizations grow, establish their business value and creates a positive experience for customers. For software development teams whether in-house or outsourced, it provides a positive experience.
Thus, based on the recent market trend, using agile is a win-win situation for business organizations and all the software providers.