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In recent years, the Agile software development life cycle, or SDLC for short, has become the primary approach to building digital products owing to its multiple benefits for both businesses and development teams. These are flexibility, predictability, and better control over the project, to name a few.
What else makes Agile methodology so popular is the ability it gives entrepreneurs to quickly adapt to evolving market demands and customers’ needs.
At OpenGeeksLab, we widely use the Agile approach for our projects. So we have something to say about its major benefits and pitfalls, the principal difference from other project management approaches, and the most common Agile frameworks.
Also, we are eager to share our best practices regarding each Agile development life cycle stage.
It does not matter whether you are a complete rookie or a seasoned practitioner; this guide will provide food for thought regarding the potential value of Agile software development for your business.
For a start, before concepts of Agile software development were introduced, the Waterfall model was the dominant methodology for building software. Invented in 1970, it was designed to ensure the final products satisfied all predefined criteria.
At that time, computer systems and applications were complex with slowly changing requirements. They needed straightforward outcomes and discipline. That is why the Waterfall methodology suited such projects just fine.
However, with the invention of Internet technologies, when flexibility, adaptability, and speed became crucial, the rigidity of the Waterfall model has turned out to be its major downside.
Emerging Internet applications and startups wanting to launch their digital products much faster made software developers search for other, more efficient approaches.
The solution was found in 2001 when 17 seasoned software developers published a document that reflected their shared opinions regarding how modern software should operate. This document is currently known as the Agile Manifesto.
The Manifesto was created to introduce its fundamental values and the main principles behind this philosophy to a broad audience. Check the description of each Manifesto point below to improve the efficiency of Agile software development.
A solid understanding of the principles discussed above, will help you implement Agile successfully and achieve better results.
The Agile methodology comprises many different strategies and frameworks with distinct characteristics and implementation areas.
Check the list of the most popular Agile methods below to choose the best Agile software development techniques for planning, managing, and delivering your digital project.
The term “Kanban” came to us from the Japanese language, where it means a visual board. In project management, a Kanban board helps visualize the tasks for the Agile team.
A Kanban board is divided into several columns to depict the Agile software development process flow. Traditionally, it showcases three types of workflows associated with Agile lifecycle: To Do, Completed, and In Progress. However, you can easily change the number of columns and their names according to your specific Agile SDLC.
Another essential element of a Kanban board is a card, representing a particular task.
A good example of a basic Kanban board is provided by Forbes.
To establish and maintain an efficient Agile software development workflow, don’t forget to move the card to the appropriate column once the task it represents changes its status.
Scrum is probably one of the most commonly used Agile frameworks. Its basic idea lies in splitting the entire Agile life cycle into multiple small parts called “Sprints”. Here we should note that only one sprint can be planned, managed, and completed at a time.
Scrum implementation requires specific professionals to perform unique roles. Let’s find out what professionals you will need and discuss their responsibilities:
A product Owner creates a Product Backlog,or a prioritized list of tasks for the development team.
Developers take a few tasks from the top of the Product Backlog to form a Sprint Backlog and work on these tasks.
A Scrum Master leads the team through the entire Agile software development process.
At first glance, Lean and Agile seem very similar, so they often get confused. For example, both of these Agile methodologies in the software development field promote continuous improvement and fast delivery.
Furthermore, they both make customer satisfaction their top priority and focus on building software that brings actual value to them.
However, in reality, these approaches are perry different:
Thus, Agile teams speed up the delivery process with the help of small iterations. Lean teams, in turn, tend to create high value with less resources and waste. To reach this goal, they eliminate everything that hinders the project’s progress: unnecessary meetings, useless documentation, or time-consuming tasks.
Dynamic System Development Method (DSDM) is an Agile framework that prioritizes customers’ business needs, timely delivery, and clear communication.
The DSMP defines a successful Agile project as the one that fully meets all predefined strategic objectives and concentrates on providing business with real benefits as soon as possible.
The philosophy of Dynamic System Development is based on eight major principles that are perfectly illustrated by project management experts Knowledge Train:
Source: Knowledge Train
Violating these principles reduces the efficiency of the Dynamic System Development Model and threatens future project success. On the other hand, compliance with them allows both development teams and businesses to make the most of this approach.
Extreme programming is another powerful Agile method aimed at creating high-quality software products and offering a better quality of life for the development team. What makes it different from other Agile methodologies is greater concretization regarding specific practices that should be applied for Agile software development.
According to Don Wells, extreme programming works best for software projects with dynamically changing requirements and fixed-time projects where implementing new technologies puts them at risk.
As its name implies, the feature Driven Programming Method revolves around building the functionality that covers customers’ business needs. Features here are similar to user stories in Scrum and other Agile tools.
Agile teams using Feature Driven Programming Approach deliver small functionality frequently to simplify the performance tracking and bug fixing processes and to minimize risks.
The crystal method prioritizes individuals and their collaboration over tools and processes. Its belief that the development team is capable of finding the most efficient ways of improving and optimizing their performance originates from the Agile Manifesto.
Besides, since each Agile project is unique and is rapidly evolving, the team working on it is best suited to define how to improve the efficiency of the Agile life cycle.
The Agile tools discussed above are miles ahead of traditional project management methodologies that are too slow to respond to a rapidly evolving market environment. In this regard, Agile transformation has become a saving grace for businesses wanting to shorten time-to-market and launch magnificent products fast.
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Currently we can see a great number of project management techniques, approaches, and tools that help businesses efficiently plan, manage, and execute their software development projects.
So let’s discuss the most popular project management methodologies and explore their principal differences from the Agile mindset.
The Waterfall project management methodology suggests following a well-structured linear process. It means that you should be ensured that the previous phase of Waterfall SDLC is completed and approved before proceeding to the next stage. Here we highlight the importance of the final approval since revising of the previous stage can be too costly and challenging.
In contrast to the Waterfall methodology, the iterative nature of the Agile project management approach allows focusing on continuous software releases. With each of the consequent Agile iterations, the project velocity and adaptability are significantly increased.
As a result, organizations are offered the flexibility to adjust to changing business needs and requirements at different stages of the Agile software development life cycle.
V-shape also known as the Validation and Verification Model is an extension of the Waterfall methodology.
Here testing occurs as soon as the software development process is fully completed. In this regard, V-shape differs from the Agile approach, where development and testing are concurrent processes. Consequently, the active collaboration between development and testing teams and end-users makes it more reliable compared to the V-shape model.
Another difference between these approaches is that the V-shape model focuses on the design stage, whereas Agile prioritizes programming and testing Agile SDLC phases rather than design.
The main stages of the V-shape software development life cycle are illustrated by the computer science portal GeeksforGeeks.
This V shape is used to demonstrate the relationships between different development/design phases and the corresponding testing stage.
The Spiral model can be seen as a combination of the iterative software development life cycle and the Waterfall model. At the core is the spiral concept, where each iteration of the spiral represents the entire software development life cycle, from requirements collecting and business analysis to UX/UI design, development, testing, and after-launch maintenance.
The primary principle of the spiral software development life cycle lies in the identification and evaluation of different kinds of risks associated with the development process. In this respect, the spiral model is different from Agile, which focuses on achieving agility by eliminating unnecessary activities that take too much time and effort.
Check the illustration of the Spiral model provided by GeeksforGeeks to define the different stages of spiral SDLC.
Each project is unique. Industries, business objectives, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), production methods – everything is different. Therefore, the one-size-fits-all approach does not apply there. Hence, a great variety of project management methodologies are created.
All you have to do is to choose the approach that will work best for your organization, project type, and business goals.
Just like a coin that has two sides, the Agile mindset has both benefits and downsides you should consider before implementing it within your organization.
To begin with, let’s dwell on the key advantages of the Agile approach and explore the main reasons that make 71% of businesses active Agile practitioners.
Schematically, the most evident benefits of adopting Agile business model look as follows:
Now let’s discuss each advantage of adopting the Agile mindset in more detail:
First, splitting a whole Agile software development project into smaller manageable units helps achieve a better quality of a completed solution.
Besides, testing is an integral part of the Agile development life cycle, meaning that as soon as the sprint is finished and a new set of features is developed, this functionality is carefully tested. As a result, any bugs and system glitches can be identified and fixed much earlier.
Finally, the Agile mindset implies close collaboration between businesses and remote Agile development teams. Thus, customers are always aware of the current state of their project. Moreover, they can always give feedback regarding the completed functionality and request changes to tailor their product to evolving market conditions and consumer demands.
Active customer involvement in the decision-making process is a strong advantage of Agile compared to traditional frameworks.
When it comes to traditional project management methodologies, customers are involved in the planning stage solely and cannot influence project execution. As a result, its flexibility and adaptability are greatly affected.
Agile development teams keep customers constantly involved. They introduce changes based on their feedback to ensure the final product fully complies with all customer requirements and business goals.
Additionally, transparent communication and open collaborative Agile culture that positively impacts project progress and helps businesses achieve their goals much faster consequently leads to improved customer satisfaction.
Apart from its great flexibility and quick adaptation to constantly evolving requirements, the methodology is renowned for its ability to reduce risks businesses may face at different stages of the Agile development lifecycle.
Thus, the regular meetings between the Agile team and customers help to ensure there is no miscommunication and all involved parties know the current status of the project and its further direction. Additionally, all changes to the backlog and task prioritization are openly discussed to prevent the project from going wrong.
Besides, since the Agile development life cycle is divided into short iterations, there is little chance of a complete failure. This way, companies can either build a fully-functioning software solution from the very beginning or fail fast and pivot their business ideas.
Continuous improvement lies at the core of the Agile software development process. At the end of each iteration, a remote Agile team holds a retrospective to reflect on what was going on during the sprint and discuss all mistakes that have been made to avoid them in the future. This careful consideration ensures that the following iterations will be even more successful than previous ones.
Additionally, the Agile mindset promotes an open culture of exchanging views and ideas. Active collaboration with the customer team allows the development teams to grow by learning from the shared experiences of other specialists and taking over their best Agile practices.
The methodology introduces different people-centric metrics to help businesses evaluate the efficiency and performance of the Agile team members. The most common of them include:
Use these Agile metrics to evaluate the workload the development team can manage, assess the project’s progress, and determine how far you are from achieving your business objectives.
As you can see, Agile is a powerful tool that brings multiple benefits in terms of improved product quality, increased customer satisfaction, and faster time-to-market. So now is the perfect time to prepare your business for Agile transformation to speed up product development and achieve greater results.
Regardless of the multiple benefits of the Agile life cycle, you should know its certain downsides and be able to recognize and handle them before they negatively affect your Agile software development.
The term “project creep” is used to refer to a situation when project’s requirements are constantly increasing over the Agile life cycle. Customers’ demands are changing regularly, the project scope is widened since more and more new features are added to the workload. As a result, the dedicated remote agile development team quickly becomes overwhelmed and experiences issues with prioritizing this new functionality.
The development teams have to find time for daily standup meetings in their busy schedule, which can disrupt their Agile software development workflow. Besides, they need to keep close communication with customers, quality assurance engineers, project managers, and other people involved in the Agile lifecycle product management process, which also puts serious strain on them and their time management capabilities.
The earlier you will identify Agile weaknesses, the faster you will be able to tackle them and make your Agile lifecycle management efficient to the max.
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Now that you get a better understanding of Agile software development, its pros and cons, the difference from other project management approaches, and the main frameworks, the time has come to take a closer look at each stage of Agile software development life cycle.
Thus, we will show you how different phases of the Agile life cycle are implemented at OpenGeeksLab and what the Agile SDLC process looks like in our company.
To start with, there are two categories of projects our development team works on. The plan-driven projects imply building a software solution from scratch. At the same time, a change-driven approach suggests making changes to the existing product.
So let’s discuss our Agile software development life cycle on the example of a change-driven project.
As soon as the contract with a customer is signed, we start working on a project in small iterations that lasts two weeks. Each two weeks, our business analyst gathers customer requirements and prepares documentation in the form of user stories or diagrams when necessary.
In parallel with the business analyst, our design team is working on wireframes or two-dimensional illustrations that help our design and development team understand how the structure of a future application or a website will look like, and prototypes.
Additionally, our designers work on the UX part. As soon as it is completed, they proceed to the UI part. They build clickable prototypes showing how end-users will interact with the features that will be implemented.
The next specialist that joins the Agile project is a System Architect. This technical expert is responsible for devising and configuring the system’s architecture and the server structure. Additionally, the System Architect plans workload and notes down all technical specifics.
Apart from business analysts, designers, and a system architect, a DevOps Engineer and a Quality Assurance Engineer can also participate in the Agile lifecycle. The DevOps Engineer deals with the server part, while the QA Engineer decides how the product should be tested, what types of tests should be performed and describes the testing strategy.
The main deliverables after each iteration are complete documentation, design, system architecture, testing plan, and the DevOps strategy. Finally, each two weeks, we get the project scope approved by the customer. Based on this scope, we can provide the customer with exact estimates.
At the end of each iteration, testing takes place. Then we present the customer with the demo version of the solution to show what has been done in these two weeks.
We work in accordance with the iterative SDLC until the project is completed. At the end of the project, we perform multiple testing and show the increment to the client. As soon as we get a fully-developed and tested solution, we prepare the product release.
During the first month after the product release, we provide support and maintenance services for free. However, If the customer finds some bugs after that time, we fix them at the additional cost.
When it comes to making some serious changes, for example, implementing new functionality, everything depends on the payment models. If the customer chooses a fixed price model, we do not make any changes for free. In this case, the customer should create a change request.
If we are talking about the time and material model, we can make unlimited changes provided they will not break the system’s architecture.
This established workflow for the Agile lifecycle allows our development team to deliver powerful software solutions that bring actual value to businesses and end-users on time and within budget.
We hope that our comprehensive guide on Agile software development provided you with some fresh perspective on this approach and its benefits for your business. Now you are ready to embrace the power of Agile tools to stay ahead of the curve.
If you need to hire a dedicated remote Agile development team, feel free to contact us. We have vast experience in delivering superb digital products with this approach and will eagerly help you with Agile transformation of your business.
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