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Agile software development is a project management methodology that focuses on collaboration and iteration. Developed in the 1990s, it is an alternative to traditional project management methods, such as waterfall.
Agile is based on iterative and incremental approaches to designing, developing, and releasing products that deliver valuable features quickly, rather than spending time perfecting each stage of development before moving on to the next one.
These approaches help organizations by providing a set of guidelines for how they should work together through product discovery, solution delivery, and continual improvement cycles. According to a Gartner survey, 46% of IT/business professionals who responded agree with using an agile framework for most or all of their application development.
In this article, you'll learn about the different types of agile software development and how they enable rapid product delivery.
What is Agile Software Development?
Before agile, the waterfall model was the go-to methodology for software development. This meant that exhaustive research and documentation were necessary before any coding could even begin. It starts with preliminary research in the form of a business requirement document that provides a detailed specification of how the planned application should function. The long front-loaded preparation phase and lack of flexibility results in slower time to market, lengthier development times, and poor maintainability.
In 2001, 17 software technologists proposed a solution to the documentation and process overhead that most development teams were experiencing. They described their proposal in detail in an Agile Manifesto whose goal was to facilitate faster development and better product quality. As outlined in the manifesto:
- Individuals and interactions should take precedence over processes and tools
- Prioritizing working software in place of comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration instead of contract negotiation
- Prioritizing responsiveness to change over following a plan
Gartner defines agile as, “a development approach that delivers software in increments by following the Agile Manifesto principles.”
By implementing agile development, organizations can speed up the production process and create better quality products with greater flexibility to respond to changing requirements or market conditions.
The Benefits of Agile Software Development
Agile methodologies offer several potential benefits for both startups and established businesses. Let’s take a look:
- Better product quality: By organizing projects into small manageable units, teams can focus on testing and developing products of high quality. Through iterations, frequent builds, testing, and customer acceptance procedures, developers can find and fix issues quickly and identify mistakes earlier in the development process.
- Increase customer satisfaction: With agile, customers are part of the decision-making process, providing regular feedback that helps improve the focus and efficiency of subsequent iterations. Because of this, you’ll deliver better value to your customers while remaining true to their requirements.
- Faster application development and better predictability: Unlike the waterfall approach with its long monolithic development phases, agile development promotes a rapid development cycle. Thanks to short iterations, called sprints, you can get a minimum viable product (MVP) out the door quickly then refine it over subsequent iterations.
- Flexibility: One of the biggest advantages of agile is the remarkable flexibility it offers. With agile development, you are constantly refining and improving the product over the course of every iteration. With waterfall and similar methodologies, you often need to backtrack and redo work performed during previous long development phases.
- Higher business value: By letting the client determine the priorities of features, the team can deliver functionality that has the biggest impact on the business.
8 Types of Agile Software Development
Basecamp, a vendor of popular online software solutions, developed Shape Up as a way to balance the need for strategic planning with the urgency of day-to-day implementation. The company first used it internally, then later introduced it to external audiences in the book, Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters.
Project leaders help the team get moving in the right direction by carefully describing the goals of each project phase. This information should be enough for the development team to remain focused while avoiding distractions throughout each project iteration
Shape Up best practices include:
- Six-week cycles: Teams have a six-week window to deliver a fully functional product. Shape Up doesn't allow teams to extend this deadline, so they must stay on schedule and deliver within the allotted time frame. Obviously the scope of the product is constrained by this tight timeline, but it can be extended and refined over future project cycles.
- Shaping: Before you hand a project over to the development team, a small group of senior product and engineering staff explores and defines it with the right level of detail and abstraction.
- Betting: With some of the team leaders present, shaped projects are presented to management for approval.
- Autonomy: It provides greater flexibility for the team to work without distractions over the course of each project phase.
With the Shape Up method, product teams can focus more on the tasks necessary for rapid application delivery.
The term “Scrum” was borrowed from rugby, where it refers to a group of players in a specific tight formation.
Scrum is a lightweight framework that helps organizations provide value through innovative approaches to managing complex projects. It emphasizes continuous learning and flexibility to change and fluctuating requirements. A scrum team’s workflow consists of:
- Product planning and prioritization: This is the planning stage. Here, you provide a comprehensive list of all features of the product, in order of priority. As product requirements change, this list will continue to evolve and grow.
- Refine the requirements: A team needs to refine requirements if they are unclear. You should break down tasks into smaller chunks, if necessary, to achieve this purpose.
- Sprint: Tasks are organized into fixed-length iterations called sprints. All of these tasks should be shippable upon completion of the sprint. Scrum encourages daily conversations (in the form of team standups) to communicate progress and discuss any issues faced during development.
- Burndown chart: Continually updated progress visualizations called burndown charts help the team detect issues early.
- Sprint review: After the sprint is complete, gather everyone to review the sprint. Review each item completed within the sprint during the meeting and present it to the client for acceptance.
- Retrospectives: The team holds regular meetings to discuss how the development process can be improved, with the agreed-upon measures being applied in future sprints.
Extreme Programming, or XP, is the brainchild of Kent Beck, who devised it while working on a large software project for Chrysler corporation. He designed it in an attempt to reduce the time to market for software development projects.
Extreme Programming is a lightweight methodology that enables businesses to develop applications under ambiguous or rapidly changing conditions. Essentially, it's about doing more of what works and less of what doesn't. The main objective of this agile method is to produce high-quality executable, maintainable production code. Any activity contrary to this goal is discouraged.
The 12 core practices of XP are:
- The Planning Game
- Small Releases
- Simple Design
- Pair Programming
- Collective Ownership
- Continuous Integration
- 40-hour week
- On-site Customer
- Coding Standard
Extreme Programming allows software developers to focus solely on coding without worrying about unproductive tasks. In this way, XP prevents the wastage of time, money, and resources that might have been useful for completing the project. This reduces the chance of project failure and helps ensure that customers receive the product they desire.
Kanban—meaning visual board or sign in Japanese—was first applied in the manufacturing industry where Toyota instituted it as a scheduling system in the 1950s.
Like others on this list, Kanban is an example of an agile software development methodology. With Kanban, a software development team can manage, improve, and define workflows. You can visualize your work, maximize efficiency, and stay motivated enough to keep driving for improvement.
Kanban practices include:
- Visualize the workflow with a board containing cards and columns such as "To Do", "Done", "In Testing", etc.
- Provide a limit to the number of works in progress (i.e. cards in each column)
- Manage the entire flow of cards from development to production
- Ensure process policies are understandable
- Implement feedback loops into the process for continuous learning and improvement
Kanban ensures a clear and concise visualization of project workflow, faster application delivery, better predictability, and improved customer satisfaction.
In the 1990s, Alistair Cockburn worked at IBM, where he created a framework for software development. As an alternative to step-by-step development methods, he focused on fostering collaboration and communication among the team. The effort led to the creation of the Crystal method.
The core principles of the Crystal method include:
- Frequent and regular delivery
- Regular review of workflow and product development to improve future iterations
- A co-working space with the team of developers working on short-term projects from a single workspace
Although its seeming lack of structure can slow things down, Crystal gives the team the autonomy need to deliver the best possible product. It also helps to reduce management overhead by enabling the team to communicate directly with one another.
Dynamic Systems Development
In 1994, Dynamic Systems Development (DSDM) was created to provide more governance and discipline to project managers using Rapid Application Development. The success of DSDM is attributed to the business philosophy of tailoring projects to clearly defined strategic objectives and focusing on delivering early benefits to the company.
Team members can maintain focus and meet project objectives by following the eight principles of DSDM.
- Put business needs first
- Get things done on time
- Embrace collaborative efforts
- Never compromise on quality
- Start with a strong foundation and build incrementally
- Build iteratively
- Communication should be continuous and clear
- Be in control
DSDM is vendor-independent, covers the entire project lifecycle, and offers best practices for timely, on-budget project delivery. With its proven scalability, it can handle projects of any complexity and in any industry.
Feature--Driven Development (FDD) is an agile development approach that organizes software projects by features. The term "feature" here does not refer to a product feature or a requirement. But they are very similar to user stories in Scrum. Here, a feature refers to a small piece of the whole project. For instance, an FDD feature could be a login process. It is an incremental and repetitive process. Using this methodology, teams can develop, code, and design software without the need for an excessive amount of paperwork or documentation.
The FDD methodology was first applied in 1997 by Jeff De Luca during a fifteen-month software development project for a Singaporean financial institution. Specifically, it enabled the development team to respond to and adapt to customers' needs. There are five primary stages of Feature-Driven Development:
- Developing a comprehensive model
- Building and listing out the features that you want
- Planning according to features
- Creating the design for each feature
- Developing and testing each feature
Lean Software Development Methodology
Lean Software Development (LSD) is an approach that maximizes value for the customer by eliminating waste and enabling faster, more efficient delivery of value –-- without compromising product quality or the team's wellbeing. In addition, it optimizes development cycles while providing value in a sustainable manner that does not result in delivery delays or negatively affect the group's morale.
The seven principles that guide the implementation of LSD include:
- Eliminate activities that do not add value to customers
- Build quality into development by reducing errors and thus the need for subsequent debugging and bug-fixing
- Enable continuous learning
- Facilitate fast application delivery
- Delay decisions until enough data and information is available to make the best-informed decisions
- Empower the team
- Optimize and improve the application
5 Tips for Implementing Agile Processes within Your Company
Before selecting an agile development framework for your application, you should be sure to put some agile development best practices in place. The following are five tips you can follow:
Define Your Vision First
The business and development teams should collaborate to develop a clear vision and plan for the application that produces the maximum value to customers. Here, the business team should list out all the necessary features of the application and rank them according to priority and relevance.
Build a Product Roadmap
The team should understand the project requirements and have sufficient information to complete the task. After this, the development team should provide a reasonable and achievable timeline for completing each task or feature. The business team decides which initiatives, user stories, or features to prioritize and in which order to tackle them.
Focus on Flow Efficiency
An important principle to keep in mind here is to focus on completing each task by building collaboration and communication. In every project, there are potential risks and complexities. It’s necessary to prepare the team for such eventualities by making provisions for review and assessment of the implementation.
If something is not going according to plan, you need to adapt the process accordingly. A general rule is to keep your tasks flowing to completion rather than letting them pile up.
Lead by Example
An agile project team leads by example. Each team understands their role and contributions. Similarly, there must be a clear understanding of what customers want and a method to break requirements down into smaller pieces for the development team. Therefore, the focus must be on the planned solution and expected business value of the application.
To facilitate a flexible growth mentality, an agile leader should make plans for continuous learning and enhanced collaboration while reviewing and testing smaller projects.
Plan Your Sprints
An agile methodology is not complete without sprints. It takes discipline to run an effective sprint. To set the stage for an effective sprint, you must incorporate what was learned from the previous sprint review, as well as feedback from stakeholders.
Agile methodologies can require weekly sprints, depending on the project and agile framework. To maintain transparency, be sure to keep an up-to-date product backlog that is clear and accurate. During each sprint, don’t forget to get a clear understanding of the progress of each team member, what they intend to do next, where they have encountered challenges, and if they’re on track to their complete tasks within the set deadline.
Go Agile with Salsita Software
Agile software development remains a crucial component of any business that plans to deliver quality products while staying ahead of the competition. It’s applicable to large businesses and to startups seeking to compete and move forward in the market.
Businesses striving to be efficient, flexible, and productive often adopt the principles and practices of agile software development. They can achieve this by choosing the appropriate agile framework.
Salsita Software development services help you build a quality application using an agile software development approach to get your product to market as quickly as possible.
If you want to learn more about Salsita’s development services, read more about our process here.