Agile Methodology: Everything you need to know

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Agile Methodology

An agile methodology is an approach to software development with short cycles of work, where the team members have the freedom to change and adapt their plans as they go.

Agile methods encourage adaptive planning, evolutionary design, early delivery and continuous improvement. Agile has gained a lot of attention in recent years because it provides a more efficient process for delivering products at scale.

At the end of this article, you will know exactly what Agile methodology is and how to use it.

What is Agile Methodology?

Agile Methodology is a set of principles, practices and techniques for software development. It is an iterative and incremental approach to the process that has its roots in the early 1990s.  

Agile’s success can be attributed to two main factors: it fosters collaboration between team members by encouraging face-to-face communication, and it reduces risk by ensuring that teams are never too far from deploying their code.

Most importantly, the agile methodology provides a framework for organizing work so as not to overwhelm developers with long term commitments or deadlines.

Agile works because everyone’s roles are clearly defined; there’s no need for them to micromanage one another tasks. It’s their job to get things done, and the agile methodology explains how they can do that.

The agile approach was developed in response to problems with traditional software engineering methodologies, which fail because they are too rigid and not prone to changes as businesses accelerate into the future. Agile provides an environment where developers can work independently and collaboratively in pursuit of a common goal.

Agile methodology is the antithesis of traditional methods, which involve long planning periods and software code that is not ready for production until months after it was first drafted.

Agile Teams are cross-functional groups whose members must try out several roles on their way, depending on their availability and skill set.

Every agile team member is involved in every stage of the development process.  

All agile teams have the same aim: to deliver working software that solves a real business problem and performs its tasks effectively as soon as possible, regardless of whether or not any time was spent testing it.

It’s important to note that agile methods are just as suitable for developing predominantly software-based products as they are for manufacturing processes that produce hardware.

What is the Agile Manifesto?

“Agile Manifesto” is a declaration of values and principles behind Agile methodology. With four foundational values, 12-key principles, and goals to provide better ways of developing software through iterative development structures, team collaboration, and change recognition, it aims to help organizations develop software faster using the project plan created by short-term milestones.

What are the four core values in the Agile Manifesto?

1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

According to the Agile Manifesto, the first value is to value individuals and interactions over processes and tools. When you let each person contribute unique value to your software project team, the result can be powerful.

Of course, processes and tools are important to develop a product, but the process will not be successful if they don’t work for people.

In agile, people are more important than following a process.

This emphasis on individuals and teams puts the focus on manpower, in particular their energy, innovation, and ability to solve problems.

You can use tools and processes when using Agile project management, but they’re streamlined to support the creation of products better. The more robust a process or tool, the more you need to use it and the more you need to take care of it. But if people are in charge, then there is an increase in productivity.

2. Working software over comprehensive documentation

As per the Agile Manifesto, the best way of writing the document is by creating an architectural document and focusing on test cases. The best architectural documents help team members understand how projects have developed.

 Often, the only documentation needs are

  • Requirements documentation: Projects have requirements, which include details about what the product needs to do and how it needs to work. Teams of developers need this information to create a useful product.
  • Product technical specifications: Documenting a product’s creative process can help implement changes down the road.

3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Agile methodologies put the customer at the heart of all decisions. Negative feedback is part of Agile’s natural creative process, with lots of “post-it note” prototyping and other lightweight design techniques designed to allow fast changes in response to input.

4. Responding to change over following a plan

The last core value of Agile project management is to respond to change. Making changes part of your plans can help you develop products that people want.

Agile projects thrive on the ability to not only respond but also to welcome change.

What are the twelve principles of Agile Software?

The twelve principles as defined in the Principles behind the Agile Manifesto are:

  1. The highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.

How Agile methodology is different from the waterfall model

Waterfall Model is a sequential development process that has five phases:

  1. Initiation
  2. Elaboration
  3. Construction
  4. Transition and
  5. Operations

Agile methodology implements iterative or agile processes which have three main steps for each of its projects:

  1. Planning
  2. Execution
  3. Control

The old waterfall model of software development is outdated; even if it works well in other industries, it does not work well for developing software systems.

The main differences between agile methodology and the waterfall model are listed below:

  • Agile methodology focuses on the end result of a project, while Waterfall Model focuses more on the process.
  • In agile methodology, users can view and review completed work at any stage during development.
  • Agile methodologies follow the agile life cycle, while the waterfall model follows the traditional life cycle.
  • Agile methodologies are agile development processes designed to improve software development.

What are the benefits of Agile Software Development?

Agile software development has several advantages, even if it’s not for everyone.

Some of the benefits are:

  • The agile approach offers opportunities to get customer feedback in a timely manner.
  • Agile software development allows developers and businesses to adapt product ideas as they go, so there is less risk associated with creating new products.
  • Enterprises can save money by reducing project management and testing when working on agile projects.
  • Agile is a more efficient software development process than waterfall because agile works faster and with fewer resources.
  • The agile software development methodology is ideal for businesses that require a fast, agile process to enable better decision-making and quicker market response.

Disadvantages of Agile Software Development

Agile development is not a guarantee to produce the quality and functionality desired by customers.  If agile developers do not follow all agile principles, any software created could be insecure or have other flaws.

Many companies will license agile processes but implement them in a way that does not adopt agile processes.

There are agile frameworks that can impede communication and collaboration if not properly used.

Many agile development teams have trouble communicating changes to stakeholders, which increases the risk of project failures.

Agile teams sometimes fail to reach a consensus because agile projects have short periods of time to come up with solutions rather than long periods of time.

Agile software development may be inappropriate for certain business projects as agile methodologies require additional resources to implement, such as agile coaches, scrum masters, product owners, agile assessment experts and agile transition leaders.

What are the roles in Agile Methodology?

Product Owner

A product owner is a person with the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that there is a valuable, usable and viable set of products to be delivered.

The product owner represents the voice of the customer, which can include any stakeholders inside and out. The product owner thinks of the actual work to be completed, distilling all insights collected by creating a vision for the team.

They work closely with the development team throughout the project life cycle. Together they create a Product Backlog, which consists of all features that will go into a product release and are prioritized based on what’s most important to deliver first. 

The role requires someone who can represent both business interests and customer desires and customer desires to produce successful outcomes for everyone involved.

Software Development Team

The role of the software development team in Agile methodology is to work as a collaborative group to build products and services based on customer requirements. There are many benefits to using this type of process, including reduced costs, increased efficiency, and improved quality. 

In agile, the development team has responsibilities that differ from those of traditional software development.

Software development teams are composed of diverse professionals with the skills to complete any software-related task. Teams must be able to deliver end-to-end programs that work.

The Development team includes members from various fields, including developers, QA Engineers, designers, database experts and other software specialists.

Agile Frameworks

Agile frameworks are agile methodologies with various approaches to the agile process.

An agile framework is a set of practices that are designed to help teams deliver better products on time.

The agile framework defines the role of a team, how to optimize work and what is its working environment can look like.

There are multiple agile frameworks with the SCRUM as the most popular.

SCRUM

SCRUM is an agile framework that agile developers have used for over 20 years. SCRUM was created in 1993 when Jeff Sutherland, John Scumniotales and Jeff McKenna implemented Scrum at the Easel Corporation.

SCRUM is an agile framework and a set of best practices that are designed to improve team processes for software development projects. It focuses on building products quickly by completing all the work in each Sprint.

A “sprint” is a time-boxed effort in which the team progressively builds software through a series of ongoing, planned events.

The agile framework includes roles that are necessary for agile development to work, such as the Product Owner and the Development Team.

There are three primary roles within SCRUM agile methodology:

  1. The Product Owner owns the vision and the final product and represents the voice of the customer
  2. The Development Team builds the software
  3. The Scrum Master guides the team and the process used to build the product

In SCRUM, there are several ceremonies. Ceremonies are agile practices that employ the Scrum framework to help teams refine their product vision, plan their development work and manage their progress. 

Below is a list of ceremonies in agile methodology which are described as events:

Sprint Planning

The sprint planning in SCRUM agile methodology is when the team can review what they accomplished during the last sprint and plan their work for the next one.

Daily Scrum (Standup meeting)

The daily scrum agile practice is a short meeting that lasts 15 minutes. Every development team member answer three questions:

  1. What did you finish yesterday?
  2. What are you working on today?
  3. Do you have any trouble blocking your progress?

The daily scrum helps agile teams deliver better products on time.

Sprint Review

The sprint review agile practice is a meeting to ensure that the team meets the Sprint Goals by providing timely feedback and ensuring that they are satisfied with what was developed during the last sprint.

Sprint Retrospective

The agile practise of Sprint retrospective agile methodology is a meeting to define what worked and didn’t work in the last sprint.  A common agile approach is for the teams to conduct an after-action review at the end of each iteration (or sprint).

The agile practice of the Sprint retrospective agile methodology is a meeting to define what worked and didn’t work in the last sprint. The agile approach to after-action reviews in agile development is: “look forward, not backward.”

Backlog grooming (product backlog refinement)

The agile practice of backlog grooming is a meeting where the product owner and the team go over the Product Backlog to refine it. Teams will add an estimate for everything that they can complete in a single Sprint and remove items that are no longer relevant.  This ceremony focuses on the future.

KANBAN

Kanban agile framework is an agile approach for Lean software development that helps teams deliver high-value products to their customers quickly and effectively.  David J. Anderson developed it in close collaboration with Taiichi Ohno of the Toyota Production System – also known as TPS or Lean Manufacturing.

The agile practise of the Kanban agile framework is to visualize your workflow, manage your work in progress (WIP) limits and optimize your process. 

The agile practise of Kanban agile framework is a strategy used to manage, prioritize, and deliver work (called “work items” in Kanban agile framework) using visual boards.

These visual boards help visualize your workflow, manage your work in progress limits, optimize your workflow and enforce standards. If you are familiar with SCRUM agile methodology, then you will find that the colour-coded cards on the Kanban agile framework board are similar to the tasks on the SCRUM agile methodology task board.

Kanban agile framework also makes heavy use of metrics for continuous process improvement.

It could be argued that Kanban agile framework is more concerned with the flow than it is about features themselves, although there isn’t a strict separation between these topics in the Kanban agile framework, either.

The strategy of limiting work-in-progress (WIP), without regard for how much work remains in tasks, has some similarities to lean manufacturing and lean software development approaches like Scrum agile methodology.

Kanban agile framework uses a WIP limit, which can vary over time based on the team’s capacity or velocity at any given time.  This limits the work that can be done in progress at any one time, helping keep the team focused and preventing them from being overwhelmed by too much work.

Kanban Ceremonies

Unlike SCRUM agile methodology, Kanban agile framework has no sprints.  However, it does have several agile practices for running your project effectively.

The Daily Standup

Just like SCRUM, Kanban agile framework has a daily agile meeting called the Daily Standup. In agile development, this agile practice is between 15 and 30 minutes in length, and it brings everyone on the team up to date with progress towards goals for that day.

The Prioritization Meeting

Kanban agile framework has a meeting called the Prioritization agile practice. As its name suggests, it is where the team discusses and decides what to work on next.

The Sprint Retrospective

Like SCRUM agile methodology, Kanban agile framework also has an agile practice at the end of each agile sprint.  A Sprint Retrospective agile practice is used to review goals that have been completed and provide time to plan for upcoming work.

Conclusion

As Agile methodologies have gained popularity, more companies are adopting the strategy to help them do more with less. This is especially important for organizations that need to be nimble and agile in today’s fast-paced world.

While there are many different forms of Agile methodology such as SCRUM or Kanban, they all share common values, including collaboration, flexibility, responsiveness, transparency, and team empowerment!

Agile is an important agile methodology used by agile software development companies and agile project management teams everywhere globally.

It has its strengths and its drawbacks.

I hope you now know more about it.

Write in the comments below if you or your company is using Agile methodologies and, if yes, what do you think is the benefit or drawback of using them.

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