What Is All The Fuss About Agile Software Development?
Agility for any organization is the ability to stay alert and be prepared to act on any decision almost instantly. Agile software development is a collaborative process between and within project teams with an ingrained set of values and principles for software development. The end goal is to streamline software development and increase the ability of the organization to respond to change and deliver working software quickly. This is usually done in a variety of ways. Something we’ll go over later in the article
Agile project development became a trending topic during the pandemic as a faster time-to-market became a unique competitive advantage for many organizations. Disruptive measures to help fight different types of disruption that was being witnessed for the first time. Fast-forward to now, agile development is everywhere, in every industry. Companies have made heavy investments to adopt agile development methodologies. By adopting agile development methodologies and practices, organizations can improve their ability to respond to changing business needs and deliver value to customers faster.
Agile development reinforced the culture of customer-centricity to a whole different level. The core values of agile development revolve around human touch over complex processes, tools and documentation. Agile teams often apply lean principles, such as eliminating waste and maximizing value, to optimize their development processes and improve efficiency.
Types of Agile Development Methodologies
There are different ways agile development can be executed within an organization. Agile development methodologies are frameworks for managing projects such as the development of software and other products in an iterative and incremental manner. Agile methodologies emphasize flexibility, efficiency, collaboration, and rapid delivery of value to customers. Some of the most popular agile development methodologies include Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming, Lean Software Development, Crystal and Feature-Driven Development.
Scrum is well-suited to projects where the requirements are not completely understood at the getgo and emphasis is placed on the ability to respond quickly to changing requirements. It is based on a set of meetings that help the team to plan, track progress, and review and reflect on its work. These meetings include the sprint planning meeting, the daily stand-up, the sprint review, and the sprint retrospective.
The key roles in a Scrum team are the Scrum Master, the Product Owner, and the development team. The Scrum teams work in short iterations, called sprints, which typically last between one and four weeks. The Scrum Master is responsible for facilitating the process and removing any obstacles that may prevent the team from delivering value. The Product Owner is responsible for defining the features and priorities of the product, and for ensuring that the team is working on the most valuable items. The development team is responsible for delivering working software at the end of each sprint.
Read more about scrum here.
Kanban is based on the principles of just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing, and aims at allowing work to flow through the development process in a controlled and transparent manner. It is a visual system for managing work that involves the use of cards or other visual elements to represent work items, and a set of rules for how those work items should be moved through the development process.
The key elements of a Kanban system are the Kanban board, which is used to visualize the work items and their status, and the Kanban rules, which define how work items should be moved through the process. It can be used to manage any type of work, including software development, manufacturing, and service delivery.
Read more about Kanban here.
Lean Software Development
Lean Software Development is applying the principles of increasing productivity in manufacturing plants such as reducing movement/development time within the production system (of people and machinery) as well as response times from suppliers in the manufacturing segment. It emphasizes the importance of streamlining activities and prioritizing only the essential functions and processes to utilize time as efficiently as possible and minimize waste (such as unnecessary code, features or processes).
Under lean software development, the project teams undertake multiple experiments to understand what works and what doesn’t, allowing them to make rapid adjustments and improve their processes with time. And just like for manufacturing, the software teams build the process keeping quality in mind from start to finish. Quality development process and delivery of quality features are the outcomes of such a system.
Read more about Lean Software Development here.
Extreme Programming (XP)
Extreme Programming (XP) is an agile methodology that emphasizes simplicity, communication, and feedback. It is based on a set of values and practices that are designed to help teams deliver high-quality software in a rapid and responsive manner.
XP stresses the importance of the appropriate kind of communication and feedback because that is the most essential sauce for developing high quality software.
The most interesting aspect that differentiates XP from the rest is ‘pair-programming’.
An extended development team is deployed on a project and developers work in pairs of 2 or more to develop code together ensuring quality and fast delivery at the same time.
Read more about XP here.
Feature-Driven Development (FDD)
Feature-Driven Development (FDD), also called iterative and incremental software development, is a framework that prioritizes delivering business value to the customer as quickly as possible by delivering value or functionalities to customers in the form of small, incremental releases otherwise known as ‘features’. Each feature is planned in detail, including design, development, and testing. The project team identifies the features that need to be developed and prioritizes them based on business value which is then deployed to the customer for feedback and acceptance.
Delivering the features in small increments significantly reduces all kinds of risks associated with projects that usually have a high degree of complexity and uncertainty. It allows for more accurate planning.as the focus is on delivering tangible business value to the customer early and often, which helps to ensure that the project stays aligned with the customer’s needs and priorities.
Read more about FDD here.
Choosing an Agile Development Framework
There are a few key factors to consider when choosing which agile development methodology is best fit for an organization. Each of these frameworks comes with its own set of values and principles, pros and cons. Adopting the wrong agile methodology would prove to be a great counterexample of what an organization was meaning to achieve with it in the first place.
Business Needs and Goals
It is important to choose an agile methodology that aligns with the organization’s business needs, goals and the core work that the business is involved with. The business needs or goals of a electronic devices manufacturing company might need a specific type of agile development framework compared to that of a pharma or a SaaS company. If the organization is focused on minimizing waste and maximizing efficiency, a methodology such as Lean Software Development or Kanban may be a great fit, whereas if the organization is looking to deliver value to customers as quickly as possible, a methodology such as Scrum or XP may be a better fit.
Team Size and Structure
The size and structure of the development team impacts which agile methodology is a better fit. Agile development becomes difficult to implement based on varying team sizes and hence, a lot of effort goes into deciding the framework to be adopted as well as team sizes and structure. Frameworks like XP cannot be implemented if the team size is small.
It is also important to consider the organization’s culture, and readiness to adopt agile practices. Some agile methodologies, such as Scrum, are more prescriptive and may be easier for organizations to adopt, while others, such as XP may require a greater degree of effort and organizational buy-in. It is also critical to account for a team’s experience with agile methodologies while making a decision.
Each agile framework has its own set of pros and cons. The complexity of the project can also impact which agile methodology is best fit. For example, a simple project with well-defined requirements may be well-suited to a methodology such as Scrum, while a more complex project with rapidly changing requirements may be better suited to a methodology such as XP or Crystal. For example, with Kanban, the teams are required to handle a steady stream of requests with varying priorities. The level of customer involvement with the brand is another factor to be considered while finalizing an approach.
Is DevOps part of Agile Methodologies?
Not Quite. While Agile and DevOps share some similarities, they are not the same thing. Agile focuses on the development process, and DevOps encompasses the entire software development lifecycle, from development and testing to deployment and operation. As a result, DevOps is believed to be the successor of Agile.
DevOps is a set of practices that combines software development and information-technology operations (Ops) by improving the collaboration and communication between software developers and IT operations professionals. The aim of DevOps is to minimize the time taken to develop and release software by establishing a culture and environment where building, testing, and releasing software can happen rapidly, frequently, and more reliably. This is typically achieved through the use of automation and tools that enable continuous integration and delivery.
In practice, many organizations adopt both Agile and DevOps practices, as they can complement each other and help to improve the speed, quality, and reliability of software development and delivery.