Agile is essentially a mix of values and principles that are described in the Agile Manifesto. In software development, agile practices are used to accelerate software delivery while staying flexible to changes and constant improvement. Agile software development methodologies involve discovering requirements and developing solutions through self-organizing and cross-functional teams in order to solve emerging difficulties during any IT project. According to GoodFirms’ research, the majority of companies (61,5%) follow Agile methodology because of its fast priority changing abilities. Regarding software development, there are several phases of the Agile life cycle that will be further discussed.
There are several software development methodologies that all have their own specific features and areas of use, with slightly different approaches to software development organization, however, unified with their principles aimed at meeting customer requirements and high-quality product delivery.
The underlying principles that all Agile frameworks are based on are the following:
- The focus is on the customer’s needs
- Everything is susceptible to change at any development stage
- Cooperation between developers and clients is necessary through the development
- Appropriate environment and all essential tools are needed to be provided
By providing these guidelines, Agile became one of the most in-demand software development methodologies, also inspiring the emergence of other frameworks, such as Scrum, Kanban, and Lean (will be further discussed later on).
There are different roles and responsibilities in an Agile team, depending on the framework, project size, and its particularities that are susceptible to change during the development process. Each team member can hold one or more roles and also switch between them anytime.
Some of the most commonly used main roles are going to be listed below, however, they can differ depending on the company:
The most important role of the team leader is to lead and manage the team, help them follow the time-tested product development process, provide necessary tools and environment as well as remove all obstacles along the way.
A group of people responsible for product building and release. Essentially, they all work together as a team on a project and consist of business analysts, software developers, QA engineers, UI/UX designers, DevOps, etc.
Project manager (PM)
The project manager is responsible for project implementation and delivery according to initial requirements. PM transfers the customers’ vision to the team along with Product Backlog managing. Project managers do not manage the team, they only keep track of the progress and help identify any problem areas.
Everyone involved in the product is considered to be a stakeholder- people involved in the product development process, customers, sponsors, future users, etc.
In case of a big project, several additional roles could be needed, such as:
A crucial role in a large project, responsible for the project’s architecture development.
The integrator is responsible for system integrations after each sprint. For instance, if new features are being implemented on separate components by different programmers, it is the integrator’s duty to keep track and check all the adjustments once the programmers claim their work is done.
THE BENEFITS OF AGILE
Using Agile methodology provides certain insurance for superior quality product delivery in a short time. As clients’ requirements may change quite often, product owners should keep the team updated on any requested changes.
Here are some advantages of using Agile:
High-Quality Product– By breaking down a complex product into smaller parts (Kanban tasks, sprints…) allows the development team to focus on quality and good collaboration. Regular testing and reviews after each completed stage are advised in order to find and fix bugs in time as well as to spot any possible mismatches between the customer’s expectations and the product.
Higher Customer Satisfaction– Increasing the customer’s involvement by them taking part in the decision-making process leads to a higher level of customer satisfaction. By following Agile and letting the customer take an active part in the development process the product’s flexibility and adaptability are being affected, making it possible for developers to make changes during the developing process itself, based on regular feedback and deliver a product that truly matches all the customer’s requirements.
Efficient Risk Management- Having Agile focus on delivery by iterations, makes it possible to fix certain bugs, problems or make any improvement at the end of each iteration and manage all potential risks on time.
Better control– Agile project transparency, focusing on key features and customers’ based feedback gives project managers more control over the development process, enabling them to ensure quality throughout the whole development lifecycle.
Accurate Metrics– Compared to traditional models, Agile software development methodology uses more relevant and precise metrics to estimate project performance, meaning that Agile focuses on getting good results and optimizing performance due to user requirements (while the metric in Waterfall methodology emphasizes time estimation).
By adopting critical metrics like lead time, cycle time, that help to measure the team’s productivity, and also identifying weak spots, Agile makes it possible to make the right decisions and strengthen them.
AGILE SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT METHODS
By using different iterative or incremental development techniques, Agile software development methodologies assist in software development as frameworks and practices.
The main difference between Agile methodology and its frameworks is that the latter have stricter rules and are more formal.
The following are the most commonly used Agile methodologies:
58% of companies use Scrum to manage their working process, according to the Annual State of Agile Report.
The main distinguishing characteristic of Scrum is that it works with fixed periods of time (sprints) during which a certain part of the product is implemented by the developers. Each sprint starts with a planning stage and ends with delivering a pre-established product. Scrum is based on careful planning and high client involvement during the development process. It is a great choice of methodology for MVP development because of the requirements of consistent improvement.
The elements of Scrum are:
SPRINT PLANNING MEETING: A meeting between the team and the client, before any work has started, with the purpose of discussing sprint features (usually a sprint lasts two weeks).
DAILY MEETING WITH THE SCRUM MASTER: An everyday report- meeting about the work done the day before, plans for the day ahead, and discussion of any problems or blockages along the way.
REVIEW: The project manager’s demonstration of new functionalities and features to the clients with the aim of feedback gathering.
RETROSPECTIVES: A team meeting was held in order to point out encountered difficulties in the past, how they have been managed and what could have been done differently, as well as to highlight all the positive aspects and progress made during the previous stage.
Kanban focuses on seamless task competition by dividing the workflow into three stages- to do, in progress, done- marking every task with a card on the Kanban board. As developers complete a task, they move the card to the next stage. When the team finishes a functional part, the Project Manager writes a new card with a task and places it on the board. By keeping track of the movement of the cards across the board, stakeholders get to estimate the time needed to build a feature, enabling them to predict project duration in the future.
The Lean methodology is based on delivering substantial value to customers with minimum expenses and effort, for less money and time. There is a clear process that is followed by the Lean development methodology with strict acceptance criteria.
There are 5 Lean principles:
- Map value stream
- Create flow
- Establish pull
- Pursuit perfection
- Identify value
Dynamic System Development
DSD provides proven techniques to help the project team satisfy customers’ needs while clarifying the role and responsibilities of every person involved in the project development process. DSD is recommended if consistency and predictability are preferred over flexibility. It is not exactly the recommended strategy for startups, due to the lack of creativity in the process.
There are four principles of DSD:
- Quality over functionality
- On time delivery
- Even if better solutions are available, the final product is to be completed exactly as defined
- Strict expense control
Extreme Programming methodology, named for taking traditional software engineering practices to extreme levels, is based on a specific planning approach, paired programming, sustained testing, continuous integration, and small releases.
Similar to other Agile software development models, the first step in the XP methodology is planning, having the team consider the requirements, and set up a time frame for each task ahead. Planning is followed by the developers proceeding with acceptance tests, rather than writing the code first, in order to define what exactly the code should do according to requirements. Following testing, each piece of code is being written by two separate developers simultaneously and run through the acceptance test. It is the developers’ task to integrate the system once a task is completed.
The basic principles of XP are the following:
- Test-driven development
- Code review
- Unit testing
- Pair programming
- Continuous integration
Feature-Driven Development is a development process for product building that is essentially feature-centric, meaning that features are being developed step by step, improved, and adjusted after each customer feedback. The major purpose of FDD is delivering working software regularly in short term while calculating the product’s readiness based on the completed tasks.
Steps of FDD:
Develop and overall model -> Create feature list -> Plan feature -> Design feature ->Build feature
Focusing primarily on the interaction between team members rather than tools and processes, the Crystal represents the simplest and most universal Agile software development method. Future strategy and team size are determined based on a project’s criticality and its business priorities.
Focuses of the Crystal:
- Early product delivery
- High client involvement
- Distraction reduction
Choosing the right framework for a project depends on the characteristics of the project itself. For instance, a complex long-term project would require the use of Scrum strategy, while Lean Development is more suitable for startups seeking to build an MVP, and Kanban is a good fit for small projects… One should be familiar with all, or at least most of the frameworks offered in order to find the best fitting one for their project.
AGILE SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT PROCESS
The base of Agile software engineering is iteration. When a certain iteration is complete, the team moves on to the next one and so on, until all the client’s requirements are met. Customers’ and stakeholders’ involvement in the project during each iteration is essential for proper feedback and assurance that the product is developing in the way that they envisioned it.
The following are the Agile software development life cycle phases:
- Set requirements
The customer is asked to put together a list of basic requirements before the start of the development process, such as desired features to be included, the increase of conversion or the reduction of operational expenses by a certain amount, and so on.
The main emphasis should be on the core features that customers will use, while the rarely used ones should be left for software engineers to return to later, after app deployment and initial features implementation.
The two known approaches for software design are the following: interface and architectural.
Software Design– It is the Project Manager’s task to gather an agile software development team and introduce them to the project and outline the main requirements, which is followed by the team’s evaluation and decision on how to handle these requirements and choosing the adequate tools for delivering a first-rate product.
UI/UX Design– A UI mockup is created by the designers for app prototype presentation purposes. Knowing that user interface and user experience are vital elements of any application, is a highly valuable step in app development. Also, the review and analysis of potential competitors for their strong and weak points can be useful as well.
Eventually, the Project Manager either accepts the initial design or asks developers for further customization to new features.
Being the heart of the project, this is the longest development phase. Designing and developing the software in accordance with previously approved requirements is the focus of this stage.
QA (Quality Assurance) testing is the first step during this stage, with the aim of further results reporting before delivery to enhance performance. Multiple manual and automated tests are conducted by the QA team, using various testing approaches in order to ensure bug-free software that is consistent with changes that have been implemented by the developers. More complicated testing follows that besides functionality also involves systems integration testing, user acceptance testing, and some more.
- Implementation and Deployment
After the testing is completed, the product is deployed on the servers and provided to customers for beta testing or actual use. Initial feedback is gathered by the support team, any appearing bugs are being fixed and new features are being introduced with one goal- to prepare the final version of the app.
Another meeting between the Project Manager and the Agile development team is held in order to determine whether the product is market-ready. If any problems were encountered during the previous iterations, the team’s solutions for fixing them are presented to the Project Manager for consideration.
Once all the previous development phases have been completed successfully, ready-made solutions should be delivered to customers and stakeholders.
Users’ feedback is collected and used for further improvements of the product in the next iterations.
Having an experienced development team that is able to transform the client’s ideas, vision, and requirements into a suitable and impeccable product is priceless. Using Agile software development methodology provides many benefits both for the development team itself and for the client as well, since it requires regular client involvement, in-time feedback, and demands, it makes it possible to change the work scope any time without affecting the development process itself.
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