More teams are applying Agile because it helps them adapt effectively to the changing requirements, while still ensuring fast software delivery. Agile also promotes collaboration, which requires every team member to work closely together and understand clearly their role in the team. Most importantly, companies using Agile always rest assured that they are building high-quality products since testing is performed at every phase of the process.
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What is Agile
Agile is an iterative software development methodology. Iterative means that Agile involves multiple iterations. The goal of each is to create a working product. Unlike the Waterfall model which focuses on planning at the outset, Agile methodologies welcome changes in requirements and feedback from the end-users.
Any process that follows the Agile Manifesto’s concepts can be called Agile. In 2007 there were 17 software developers meeting up to invent a method for lightweight software development. They then published the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.
Today, Agile has become more popular as the alternative to the traditional Waterfall model.
The Agile Manifesto offers 12 principles to guide teams to become more agile and deliver better software:
- The highest priority is to satisfy customers with software that is delivered early and on a continuous basis
- Open to changes in requirements, even though at the later in development. Agile processes turn changes into competitive advantages.
- Deliver working software frequently, ranging from weeks to a few months, preferably on shorter timeframes.
- Business owners and the project team must work closely together at every stage.
- Motivate individuals, and give them the environment, support, and trust to do their job
- Face-to-face is the most effective way to deliver information
- Progresses is measured by working software
- Agile encourages sustainable efforts, which requires sponsors, developers, and users to constantly deliver quality work.
- Technical excellence and good design must be prioritized to enhance agility.
- Simplicity, where the amount of work not done is optimized, is critical
- Teams must be able to self-organize themselves. This is the condition for quality architectures, requirements, and designs.
- The team must regularly reflect on how to become more effective, and then adjust its behavior accordingly.
Core Values of Agile
The four values of Agile, as outlined in the Agile Manifesto are:
People are more important than processes and tools. In Agile, people define the development process and business needs. People are the most important part, and thus should be valued above processes and tools. If people let processes or tools define development, they will be less likely to adapt to change and, therefore, less likely to meet customer needs.
Working software is prioritized more than meticulous documentation. Waterfall - Agile’s counterpart - requires lots of time for documenting the product. Waterfall’s requirement list is typically lengthy, which can cause delays. While Agile also requires documentation, it is streamlined to help developers focus only on the information needed to do their job – user stories, for example.
Collaboration rather than negotiations. When it comes to details of the development, Agile values collaboration between the customer and project manager, instead of contract negotiations between the two. Collaborating means that customers are included throughout the entire process, not just its beginning and end. This makes it easier for teams to meet the needs of their customers. For example, in an Agile project, customers may be involved at different intervals of the product’s demos. Nevertheless, customers are encouraged to interact with the teams and join project meetings regularly.
Changing requirements are welcomed. Conventional software processes avoid changes since as undesirable expenses. Agile is quite the opposite of this idea. Agile’s short iterations make it possible to input changes so that the project can be modified to meet new needs - rather than changing needs to fit the current project. This is because Agile deems change is to make the product better.
There are typically 6 steps to Agile software development cycle: concept, inception, iteration/construction, release, production, and retirement.
Concept - the first step - is when business opportunities are identified and the time & effort to complete the project is estimated. This information is used to prioritize project items based on technical and economic feasibility.
In inception - the second step, project funding is granted, team members are picked, and some of the first requirements are defined. A timeline should also be established, in which responsibilities of team members are clearly defined, plus when work is expected to be completed for each iteration.
Iteration/construction - the third step - is when team members get down to developing the software based on requirements and user feedback. The Agile processes are divided into iterations. Iterations build that build on each other and lead to the next iteration until the project is completed. An iteration can last from two to four weeks, with a completion date. At the end of each iteration is working software.
During the Agile development cycle, there are multiple iterations, each is a different workflow. A typical interaction includes:
- Requirements analysis: requirements are defined based on the product backlog, sprint backlog, and stakeholder feedback;
- Development: the software is developed based on the set requirements;
- Testing: appropriate software testing methodologies are performed;
- Implementation: working software is delivered and integrated into production environment
- Requirement analysis: feedback from this iteration is gathered to define new requirements for the next iteration.
Release - the fourth step - consists of final quality testing, fixing remaining bugs, finalizing the system and user documentation, and finally implementing the final iteration to production.
Once releasing, production - the fifth step - is about providing continuous support to ensure the software quality. An agile team must continuously maintain the software and educate users on how to use it. The team keeps the production phase on and on until there’s no more support needed or the software is ready for retirement.
Retirement - the final step - includes all end-of-life activities, for example, final migration or informing customers. In this step, the system release is removed from production. Retirement happens when the software needs to be replaced or it is outdated, unable to fit the current business model.
Features can be added to the product backlog throughout the Agile process. However, the entire cycle must repeat each step again and again until every backlog item is resolved. This is why Agile is modeled as a loop, rather than a linear process/ makes the Agile cycle more of a loop than a linear process.
Evolved in the 1990s from many software approaches, Agile is intended as the alternative to the rigid, linear Waterfall. Agile prioritizes flexibility, continuous improvement, and speed of delivery.
Some of the most popular benefits of Agile are
- Change is welcomed: shorter planning cycles make it possible for backlogs to be adjusted and reprioritized to account for changing requirements throughout the project.
- End-goal can be unknown: Projects unable to have a clear vision of end-goal suit Agile. Agile is designed for teams to figure out their project’s goals over the long run.
- Faster, high-quality delivery: Team members can focus on better quality development and testing since Agile projects are broken down into iterations. Since testing occurs through every iteration, bugs can be identified early and solved quickly.
- Strong team bonding: Agile encourages close collaboration and direct conversation.
- Users have the say: In Agile projects, users are closely involved to observe how jobs are being done, to provide continuous feedback, and to decide every iteration’s outcome.
Flexibility in Agile is not always helpful. Too many unpredictable changes can be troubling. For example, Agile makes it difficult to plan for delivery dates. Moreover, documentation is sometimes neglected. And as the project progresses, the final software can be different from what it initially is intended to be.
Some of Agile’s shortcomings are:
- Planning can be less concrete: since tasks are often organized, it’s likely that some items would be done in time as planned. This can require additional iterations to be added, which in turn delay delivery.
- Team members must be experienced: Agile teams are usually small. Team members are required to have experience in Agile and expertise in multiple areas.
- Team members must have higher commitment: Agile requires active involvement throughout the process, which takes more time and effort than conventional approaches.
- Documentation can be neglected: Agile focuses on working deliverables instead of careful documentation. It’s true that documentation alone cannot lead to success. There still need to be a right balance between documentation and conversation.
At KMS Solutions, we provide Agile Software Development Services that help enterprises build better software, faster. Learn more about our Agile services via the link below.