Agile is a highly flexible approach to software development, tailored to the needs of modern teams. It facilitates an iterative method, highlighting continuous improvement to meet high-quality client deliverables collaboratively. In this article, learn how Agile development enables teams to deliver new products, features, and functionality more nimbly, and why it's an effective option for many development teams in fast-paced fields.
What is Agile development?
Agile development was born out of frustration with unreasonable delays seen with more traditional development practices, such as Waterfall. This revolutionary approach to software development emphasizes continuous, incremental improvement and responsiveness to user needs, rather than highly planned, staggered product launches or updates. And although not limited to software, Agile has been particularly effective in this field, leading to more industries adopting this methodology to improve quality due to continuous collaboration with clients.
From a practical perspective, Agile development allows teams to respond to client needs, implement constant feedback, and deliver higher-quality work.
To illustrate the benefits of Agile methodology more fully, here is how it compares to the Waterfall method:
- Flexible planning vs. rigid approach: Agile’s flexible planning approach accounts for constant client changes. Waterfall’s planning is comprehensive but not adaptive to change. Agile planning leads to rapid results, whereas Waterfall’s planning delays outcomes.
- Constant testing vs. final product testing: Agile development teams constantly test the product to make sure its characteristics meet client demands. Waterfall development teams only test the product once finalized, making changes close to impossible.
- Continuous delivery vs. end-of-project deliverables: Frequent delivery by Agile development teams enables enhancements as the project progresses. On the other hand, Waterfall development teams only deliver once the project is complete, leaving no room for product improvements.
Learn more about the differences between Agile and Waterfall.
Agile development: Essential concepts.
The Agile Manifesto comprises 12 overarching software development principles. Many of these principles focus on exceeding customer expectations through collaboration and enhancing quality via continuous communication and deliverables. Below are essential Agile development concepts.
Accommodating changing requirements.
Agile development highlights the value of meeting changing client needs as these take place. Should the client want an app addition or software improvement not discussed in the original plans, the Agile development team would embrace change after thorough discussion. Agile software development methods adapt to project dynamics as opposed to traditional methodologies that remain static.
Delivering working software.
Software development teams using the Agile methodology tend to deliver working software by the time the project comes to an end. In contrast, the Waterfall method delivers software at the end of the project deadline, which may still require changes to operate as intended due to high concentrations of documentation.
This difference means that keeping a constant eye on incremental changes and improvements in the Agile methodology is typically superior to Waterfall because of intense collaboration between cross-functional teams and clients. Although the Agile method may produce greater value than the Waterfall approach, some development teams may prefer to combine them to adapt to organizational needs.
Continuously integrating user feedback and needs.
Agile development teams actively place client needs before contract requirements. The consequence of this people-first approach is that teams listen and hear what their clients are saying. Feedback is taken seriously and integrated into projects to produce superior outcomes instead of strict adherence to original plans, which are not as responsive to change.
Making an MVP.
Building a minimum viable product (MVP) is a core concept of Agile development. Produce the product within certain parameters—such as its requirements, design, development, testing, and delivery—and learn from the real-time experience of how customers interact with the outcome. Following an iterative process of feedback and improvements requires ongoing learning that consequently leads to improved quality. Agile can formulate the MVP because the risks of introducing the market to new products are better managed.
Assessing opportunities for improvement.
Agile development teams are notable for their drive to search for ways to make improvements. Instead of waiting for opportunities to come to them, software development teams actively look for ways to improve their products. Meetings, scope management, communication, benchmarking, and feedback are just some methods to assess opportunities for improvement on the path to delivering high-quality products.
Agile development approaches: Methodologies and practices.
The Agile philosophy has continued to evolve since its inception in the early 2000s. In fact, it has blossomed into several distinct approaches and techniques that draw on Agile’s basic principles.
Four of these methodologies include:
- Scrum: Scrum embraces the concept of sprints, which refer to tasks that teams need to complete in realistic time frames. Daily meetings guide the completion of each task in which teams share feedback on progress, obstacles experienced, and the plan to overcome those obstacles. A retrospective meeting ends each sprint to discuss progress and productivity.
- Kanban: Kanban highlights workflow optimization compared to other methodologies that concentrate on the cyclical nature of project processes. A Kanban visualization board helps team members imagine how their workflow can be improved within achievable work parameters for a stated period rather than taking on large workloads that are unachievable. During the visualization process, team members evaluate the workflow to determine where and how they can implement ongoing improvements.
- Extreme programming (XP): Team members produce software deliverables often with this methodology based on the concept that brief work cycles enhance productivity. This approach relies on frequent feedback to make improvements based on change requests rather than restricting work to the original scope definition.
- Agile/Waterfall hybrid: Traditional approaches like Waterfall still have their place in modern software development and project management. The difference is that software can facilitate a hybrid of frameworks to extract the best from each while limiting their respective shortfalls.
Adopting Agile: Beginning a new development approach.
Agile software development is an effective way to manage projects that exhibit quality processes and performance. Flexible planning, testing, and team/client collaboration ensure that any enterprise can unlock its potential and produce successful outcomes. Organizations can benefit from using the Agile methodology to take software project development beyond what they previously envisioned.