Agile methods or Agile processes promote a disciplined project management process that encourages frequent inspection and adaptation, a leadership philosophy that encourages teamwork, self-organization, and accountability, a set of engineering best practises that allow for rapid delivery of high-quality software, and a business approach that aligns development with customer needs and company goals. Any development approach that adheres to the Agile Manifesto’s principles is referred to as agile development.
What exactly is Agile?
The ability to produce and respond to change is known as agility. It’s a strategy for coping with, and ultimately excelling in, a volatile and uncertain environment.
The Agile Manifesto’s writers chose the word “Agile” as the moniker for this entire concept because it reflected the adaptability and reactivity to change that was so vital to their methodology.
It’s all about figuring out how to comprehend what’s going on in the environment you’re in right now, identify the uncertainty you’re dealing with, and figure out how to adjust to it as you go.
What is Agile Software Development, and how does it differ from traditional software development?
Scrum, Extreme Programming, and Feature-Driven Development are examples of agile software development frameworks (FDD).
Pair programming, test-driven development, stand-ups, planning meetings, and sprints are all examples of agile software development approaches.
The Manifesto for Agile Software Development and its 12 Ideas are an umbrella title for a set of concepts and activities based on the ideals and principles articulated in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.
When approaching software development in a certain way, it’s generally a good idea to live by these values and principles and use them to help you figure out what to do in your specific situation.
Agile differs from traditional software development methodologies in that it focuses on the people doing the job and how they collaborate. Collaboration between self-organizing cross-functional teams using the best methods for their context leads to solutions.
The Agile software development community places a strong emphasis on cooperation and the self-organizing team.
That isn’t to say there aren’t any managers. It suggests that groups are capable of figuring out how to handle problems on their own.
Those teams are cross-functional, in other words. Those teams don’t need to have distinct jobs; instead, when they get together, they should make sure they have all of the necessary skill sets.
Managers have a place in the world. Managers ensure that team members possess or acquire the necessary skill sets. Managers create an environment in which the team may succeed.
Managers typically take a step back and let their teams figure out how to provide things, but they step in when the teams attempt but fail to fix challenges.
When most teams and companies begin using Agile development, they concentrate on methods that aid in collaboration and task organisation, which is wonderful.
Specific technical practises that directly deal with designing software in a way that helps your team deal with uncertainty are another important set of practises that are not widely followed but should be. Those technical procedures are critical and should not be overlooked.
Agile is a state of mind.
Finally, Agile is a mindset based on the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto. These beliefs and principles show how to produce and respond to change, as well as how to deal with uncertainty.
The Agile Manifesto’s opening statement encapsulates the entire concept: “By doing it and helping others do it, we are revealing new ways of producing software.”
When faced with ambiguity, try something you believe could work, receive feedback, and make adjustments as needed.
When you’re doing this, keep the values and principles in mind. Allow your context to inform the frameworks, processes, and strategies you employ to interact with your team and provide value to your customers.
What are Agile Methodologies and How Do They Work?
What does it mean if Agile is a mindset? What does it mean if Agile methodologies are a mindset? It may be helpful to have a clear definition of methodology to address this question.
A methodology, according to Alistair Cockburn, is a collection of conventions that a group agrees to follow. That means that each team will have its own methodology, which will differ from the methodologies of the other teams in tiny or big ways.
As a result, Agile techniques are the conventions that a team decides to follow while adhering to Agile values and principles.
“Wait, I thought Scrum and XP were Agile approaches,” you’re presumably thinking. Alistair coined the term “framework” to describe those ideas. They surely were formed from a single team’s technique, but they became frameworks when they were generalised to be adopted by other teams.
Those frameworks can assist a team decide where to begin with their methodology, but they should not be the methodology itself. To fit well in its context, the team will need to change its use of a framework on a regular basis.
What about Agile Business Analysis or Agile Project Management?
As Agile Software Development became increasingly prominent, those who were involved in software development but didn’t produce software looked for a method to understand how these Agile concepts applied to their field of work.
A group of software engineers (and a tester) wrote the Agile Manifesto and the 12 Principles to solve challenges that software developers encountered. When you conceive of Agile as a mentality, you can apply it to a variety of activities.
Agile becomes an adjective when you do this. It describes how you go about doing something. For the reasons stated above, it does not create a new approach.
“How may we execute project management in a way that allows us to create and respond to change and cope with uncertainty?” is a good question to address if you want to understand Agile project management.
The Agile Alliance and the Project Management Institute (PMI) collaborated on the Agile Practice Guide to answer this topic (Available to Agile Alliance Members).
“How might we undertake business analysis in a way that allows us to create and respond to change and deal with uncertainty?” is a good question to ponder if you want to grasp Agile business analysis.
The Agile Alliance and the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) collaborated on the Agile Extension to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge to investigate this subject (Available to Agile Alliance Members).
What about the concept of business agility?
The two notions mentioned above are examples of Agile being taken “outside of software.” The Business Agility movement has recently emerged as a result of these initiatives.
People seeking Business Agility ask themselves, “How might we structure and operate our organisation in a way that allows us to create and respond to change and deal with uncertainty?” If Agile is viewed as a mindset, then people seeking Business Agility ask themselves, “How might we structure and operate our organisation in a way that allows us to create and respond to change and deal with uncertainty?”
Business agility might be defined as the realisation that in order for employees in a company to operate with an Agile mentality, the entire organisation must support it.
Agile software development was never truly Agile until the organization’s structure and procedures were adjusted to accommodate working in an uncertain environment.
Important Agile Concepts
A few major Agile ideas are listed below. More information can be found in our glossary section.
- User Stories: The team breaks the work to be done into functional chunks called “user stories” in cooperation with the client or product owner. Each user narrative is meant to add to the overall product’s value.
- Daily Meeting: The team meets every day at the same time to keep everyone up to speed on critical information for coordination: each team member briefly explains any “finished” contributions and any roadblocks they face.
- Personas: When the project requires it – for example, when user experience is a critical aspect in project success – the team creates complete, synthetic biographies of fake users of the future product, known as “personas.”
- Team: in the Agile definition is a small group of people who are all allocated to the same project or effort and are nearly all full-time. A small percentage of team members may work part-time or have competing responsibilities.
- In an Agile setting, incremental development means that each subsequent version of the product is useful, and each improves on the preceding version by adding user-visible features.
- Iterative Development: Agile projects are iterative in the sense that they allow for the “repetition” of software development activities as well as the possibility of “revisiting” the same work outputs.
- Milestone Retrospective: After a project has been running for a while, or at the end of the project, all permanent members of the team (not just the developers) devote one to three days to a detailed study of the project’s major events.
The Agile 12 Principles
In addition, the Agile Manifesto outlined 12 essential development principles.
They are as follows:
- Customers must be satisfied by timely and consistent delivery of valuable work.
- Break down large projects into smaller, more manageable jobs.
- Recognize that self-organized teams produce the best results.
- Provide the environment and support that motivated individuals require, and trust them to complete the task.
- Create mechanisms that encourage long-term efforts.
- Keep a steady pace for completing job.
- Changes in requirements are welcome, even late in the project.
- Throughout the project, bring together the project team and the business owners on a daily basis.
- Have the team think on how to become more effective at regular intervals, then tune and adjust behaviour accordingly.
- The amount of completed work is a good way to gauge progress.
- Pursue greatness on a regular basis.
- Take advantage of change to gain a competitive advantage.
The software development cycle in Agile
Concept, inception, iteration/construction, release, production, and retirement are the six steps in the Agile software development cycle.
The first step, idea, entails identifying commercial opportunities in each proposed project as well as estimating the amount of time and effort required to complete it. This data can then be used to rank projects and determine which ones are worth pursuing based on their technical and financial viability.
The team members are identified, finance is provided, and the initial needs are addressed with the customer during the second step, inception.
A timeline that explains the various roles of teams and clearly states when work is anticipated to be finished for each sprint should also be prepared. A sprint is a fixed amount of time during which certain tasks must be accomplished and prepared for evaluation.
Iteration/construction is the third step, in which teams begin developing working software based on requirements and ongoing input. Iterations — or single development cycles — are used in the Agile software development cycle to build on one another and lead to the next phase in the overall development process until the project is finished.
Each iteration is typically two to four weeks long and has a predetermined end date. At the end of each iteration, the goal is to have a working product to launch.
Throughout the development process, there are multiple iterations, each with its unique workflow.
The following is a typical iteration flow:
- creating requirements using the product backlog, sprint backlog, and feedback from customers and stakeholders
- building software in accordance with the specifications;
- testing for quality assurance, internal and external training, and documentation
- delivering the working product and integrating it into production; and
- gathering feedback from customers and stakeholders on the iteration in order to establish new sprint needs
- Final quality assurance testing, resolution of any lingering issues, finalisation of the system and user documentation, and, finally, delivery of the final iteration into production are all part of the fourth stage, release.
- After the software is released, the fifth step, production, focuses on the continuing support required to keep it running. The software development teams must keep it functioning smoothly while also training users how to utilise it properly.
- The manufacturing phase lasts until the support contract expires or the product is scheduled for retirement.
The final step, retirement, encompasses all end-of-life actions such as customer notification and migration. The system release has to be taken out of production.
This is typically done when a system needs to be replaced by a new version, or when the system becomes obsolete, useless, or begins to go against the business strategy.
Different items can be added to the product backlog throughout the Agile cycle, but the overall process should consist of repeating each phase until every item on the backlog has been satisfied. As a result, the Agile cycle resembles a loop rather than a linear process.
An organisation can have many projects running at the same time, with iterations tracked on different product lines and a range of internal and external clients offering various business demands.
Agile’s pros and downsides
Agile vs. Waterfall techniques have been compared a lot over the years.
Before transferring the software to testers and ultimately to production in the Waterfall era of software development, coders worked alone with little to no input.
Bugs, complexities, and feature modifications were either poorly managed or dealt with so late in the development process that projects were severely delayed or even abandoned.
The Agile model’s concept of keeping everyone involved and informed in the development process, including the business side, signified a significant shift in both organisational culture and the capacity to get better software to market faster.
Agile has been changed and adjusted to accommodate businesses of various sizes and types, and because the Agile Manifesto is subject to interpretation, collaboration and communication have become as crucial as technology.
The Agile cultural shift also helped to prepare the way for DevOps, the most recent software development evolution.
On the other side, many people believe that Agile’s major flaw is that it has been altered — some could even say diluted — by numerous businesses.
This phenomena is so pervasive that those who practise “Agile my way” are dubbed “ScrumButs,” as in, “We do Scrum in our organisation, but…”
Although Agile facilitates communication between developers and business leaders, it has had less success incorporating testing and operations into the mix — an oversight that may have aided the rise of DevOps.
Another possible difficulty with Agile is its lack of focus on technology, which can make it difficult to sell the concept to upper-level executives who are unaware of the importance of culture in software development.
Furthermore, the pressure to complete sprints on time might make software developers operate in a stressful setting.
Iterative software development is the foundation of agile methods. After each iteration, an independent functional module is created. It should take no more than two weeks to complete a code iteration. Rather than having a distinct quality assurance staff, agile techniques encourage engineers to participate in testing.
Agile techniques are well-suited to changing settings because they incorporate new practises and principles that allow a team to build a product in a short period of time.
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