Managing Projects The Agile Way: What is Agile Methodology?

Being agile is being able to move quickly and easily. That’s what the dictionary meaning says. However, we live in an information era where technology is as important as food. With time, technology has also encroached upon the space enjoyed by the English language. Hence, many English words have found similar spelling cousins serving the IT vocabulary.

Therefore, “Agile” is not only an adjective to describe rapid movement but Agile also denotes a disciplined project management process used in the field of Information Technology. With the main purpose of responding to changes quickly, Agile Software Development bases its key aspects on the meaning of the English word “Agile.”

What is Agile Methodology?

Agile Software Development or Agile Methodology is an umbrella term that describes a set of principles and practices for software development. Under Agile Software Development approach, solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organizing cross-functional teams.

Agile Methodology emanates from a leadership philosophy that encourages accountability, self-organization, and teamwork. It is based on a set of engineering best practices that allow rapid delivery of high-quality software and a business approach that aligns development with customer satisfaction and company goals.

Agile methods promote a disciplined project management process that supports frequent inspection and adaptation. Agile Software Development approach is based on the values and principles expressed in the Agile Manifesto.

 

What is Agile Manifesto?

The Agile Manifesto, also known as the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, is a formal proclamation containing 4 key values and 12 principles to guide the iterative and collaborative Agile software development approach.

It was February 2001, when seventeen independent-minded software engineers gathered in Snowbird, Utah to discuss their shared ideas and approaches to software development and formulated the Agile Manifesto.

The 4 principles of Agile Manifesto are:

1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
4. Responding to change over following a plan

Now, let’s have a look at the 12 guiding practices that support teams in implementing Agile methodology:

1. Satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

2. Harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.

3. Business people and developers should work together daily throughout the project.

4. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.

5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Support them and trust them to get the job done.

6. Convey information within a development team via face-to-face conversation.

7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.

8. Promote sustainable development. Maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

9. Enhance agility through continuous attention to technical excellence and good design.

10. The best architectures, design, and requirements emerge from self-organizing teams.

11. Simplicity, the art of maximizing the amount of work not done, is essential.

12. The team should reflect on how to become more effective at regular intervals, and then tune its behavior accordingly.

Characteristics of Agile Methodology

Agile methodology is known to be a collaborative process that promotes teamwork and adaptability throughout the product development life-cycle.

Some of the basic characteristics of Agile Software Development methodology are:

  • Iterative/Incremental Development

One of the primary characteristics of Agile development methods is to break down a problem into small incremental tasks (called iterations), minimizing the requirement for direct long-term planning and design.

Iterations are usually short time frames that vary between 1 and 4 weeks. A cross-functional team works for each iteration that encompasses all the functions of software development, including requirements analysis, planning, design, coding, unit testing, and acceptance testing.

  • Face-to-Face Communication

Agile methodology is characterized by the presence of a customer representative in every team. The representative acts on behalf of the stakeholders and answers the questions of the developers throughout the iteration.

At the end of each iteration, the customer representative along with the stakeholders review the progress and re-evaluate priorities of the development process to align customer needs with company goals while optimizing the return on investment (ROI).

  • Feedback Loop and Adaptation Cycle

Daily stand-up (also known as daily scrum) is a common characteristic of an Agile development methodology. It is basically a brief session where each team member exchange information regarding the status of their work.

For example, they inform each other about what they have done, what to do next, and discuss issues or roadblocks that they are facing to realize the goal.

Benefits of Agile Methodology

It is clear by now, that Agile methodology is perhaps the most adaptive software development method. The Agile software development framework lets you move quickly and pivot easily when needed. Most importantly, this methodology prioritizes the customer needs and at the same time emphasizes the realization of the company goals.

Since we have talked so much about it, let’s also glance at the benefits of Agile methodology.

  • Flexibility or Agility

In agile development, change is accepted and the product development life-cycle is molded accordingly. In this method, the requirements emerge and evolve as the product is developed within a fixed time-frame.

  • Stakeholder Engagement

Agile promotes collaboration and offers multiple opportunities to engage the stakeholders as well as the team. Agile methodology involves the client in every step of the project, inculcating a sense of partnership between the client and project team, which in turn helps the team to genuinely understand the client’s vision.

  • Transparency

As we have mentioned above, Agile approach enables the clients to be involved throughout the product development process. Right from prioritizing features to iteration planning to review sessions, clients can have their say. This also allows clients to understand the development process, thereby engendering transparency.

  • Speedy Delivery

Agile methods use time-boxed, fixed schedule Sprints of 1-4 weeks, which ensures fast and frequent delivery of new features. These scheduled iterations also help with an early release or beta test of the software.

  • Development of the Right Product

Agile methodology empowers teams to optimize the product release during its development. In an Agile development environment, the requirements of the product emerge and evolve continuously. Also, the ability of the Agile method to welcome changes enables the team to build the right product that is as competitive as possible within the marketplace.

Difference between Agile Model and Non-Agile Models

Parameters Agile Model Non-Agile Model
Fundamentals High-quality, adaptive, can be developed by small teams using the principles of continuous design improvement and testing based on rapid feedback and change. Fully specifiable and predictable development system; can be built through meticulous and extensive planning.
Control People-centric Process-centric
Management Approach Leadership-and-collaboration Command-and-control
Knowledge Management Tacit Explicit
Role Assignment Self-organizing teams; encourages role interchangeability Individual; prefers specialization
Development Model Evolutionary-delivery model Life cycle model (Waterfall, Spiral, or some variation)
Technology Prefers object-oriented technology No restriction
Project Cycle Guided by product features Guided by tasks or activities
Customer’s Role Critical Important

Different Types of Agile Methods

Agile development is not just a methodology, but it is a philosophy supporting a wide range of software development methods. There are various Agile methodologies.Some of them focus on the practices (like XP, pragmatic programming, agile modeling), while many emphasize on managing the flow of work (e.g., Scrum, Kanban).

Below is the list of the most widely used Agile methodologies:

  • Scrum – Focuses on agile management and facilitates better organization of development teams.
  • Extreme Programming (XP) – Emphasizes technical practices. It is more of an agile engineering methodology.
  • Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) – One of the earliest iterative development methods and seeks to cover the full product development lifecycle.
  • Lean Software Development – Focuses on cutting out as much overhead as possible.

However, there are several other Agile methodologies that are equally useful.

  • Adaptive Software Development (ASD)
  • Agile Modeling
  • Agile Unified Process (AUP)
  • Crystal Clear Methods
  • Disciplined Agile Delivery
  • Feature-Driven Development (FDD)
  • Kanban
  • Scrumban
  • Rapid application development

In an era, where needs are dynamic and requirements are ever changing, Agile methodology seems to be the best suit for any product development process. It equally caters to the needs of all the stakeholders and at the same time aligns business goals with customer satisfaction.

However, there is no magic bullet for software development. In a product development process, there may still be circumstances in which the non-Agile methods can be more suitable. Also, if your organization or the teams involved in the project are not mature enough for Agile it may be wise to use traditional project management methods.

To lay your hands on Agile methodologies and to become a project management expert, upskill yourself with Agile software development certification and training.

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