What is Agile Development

The market today is volatile and if organisations want to make a mark in such an environment, they must come up with a framework to deliver their projects effectively and efficiently. This is when Agile comes to their rescue. Agile is way too smoother than the traditional Waterfall model and opting for Agile enables companies to always stay on top of their project. In this article on Agile Development, you shall be learning everything that there is to know about Agile Development and The Agile Software Development Cycle.

What is Agile?

First, Agile can be defined as the potential to respond to change. It is an iterative approach of Project Management used to build Software Projects in an environment that can change as you move forward, which means developing software in a volatile and uncertain environment. 

Today, teams opt for Agile so they can make changes suggested by the clients or customers, whenever required without delaying the project. The Agile approach enables the team to collate feedback on every change and make it in the future at the minimum cost. 

Several Agile frameworks are used by the teams today like Kanban, Scrum, Lean, and Extreme Programming (XP). The Agile practices that are taken up by the team could be a mixture of different frameworks or teams may choose a new agile practice adhering to the Agile Marketing Manifesto.

Once you know what is meant by “Agile”, you can understand what is “Agile Development”.

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What is Agile Development?

Most of the parts of Agile Development can be understood from the basics of Agile in the topic above. To simplify it, Agile Development is a Software Development methodology that is iterative. When we say “iterative in nature”, we mean there are continuous iterations of developing and testing a segment of a project. 

Here, in Agile Development, every iteration or sprint has a set of deliverables that are to be completed in a time frame. Each sprint begins with a meeting and in this meeting, the duration of the sprint is decided which is generally two weeks.

So, Agile Development is a flexible way to respond to all the changes that come, without hampering the overall project. The teams work closely and more collaboratively to make sure they are ready with all the deliverables before the deadline. There are daily scrum meetings, in which the previous day’s progress is checked, how are we performing concerning the timeline, and if there are any roadblocks in the iteration.

Now, when you know all about Agile Development, let’s have a look at the process in which Agile Software Development takes place.

The Agile Software Development Life Cycle

Before you move forward with the Agile Software Development Life Cycle, you must understand what does Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) mean. The Software Development Life Cycle is a process of producing high-quality software in the required time. The life cycle refers to all the steps from beginning to the end, which involves, planning and analysis, designing the software or product architecture, developing and coding, testing the software, and maintaining the upgradation of the software.

The Agile Software Development Life Cycle is the SDLC that is iterative and incremental. At the centre of the Agile Life Cycle are continuous development over sprints, collaborative decision-making, and customer satisfaction.

The Agile Software Development Life Cycle consists of six phases:

Agile Software Development Life Cycle

1. Concept

The first phase in the Agile Software Development Life Cycle is Concept. As the name suggests, in this step the scope of the project is determined. The project owner discusses the requirements of the client and makes documentation of them in which the features of the end product are outlined. Also, the time needed to complete the project and the cost required are estimated. 

2. Inception 

Now once the concept of the project is outlined, the product owner starts looking for the best resources. He looks around for the most eligible people in his company and checks for their availability along with other tools. In this step, the product designing begins and all the involved stakeholders give their inputs so that the product functionality can be completely defined. 

3. Iteration 

The third and the longest phase of the entire Agile Life Cycle is the Iteration or Construction phase. In this phase, the developers collaborate with the designers to work on all the requirements and feedback coming from various stakeholders. Here, when the code is being implemented, the task is to make sure that the basic functionalities are built by the end of the first iteration. The remaining functionalities or any amends can be made in the forthcoming iterations, as the developers continue to work. 

4. Release

Once the iteration is complete, the product comes to the release phase. In this step, before the release, the test team checks the project if all the functionalities are properly implemented. The test team checks for bugs or defects, which are addressed by the developers if any. Once all of this is done, the final iteration is released into production.

5. Maintenance

The Maintenance phase kicks in as the product is deployed and made available to customers. In this phase, the development team keeps an eye for any bugs or lags and tries to resolve them to ensure the smooth working of the software. While in this phase, there could be new iterations that come up to improve the product with upgrades and other relevant information.

6. Retirement

The software will enter the Retirement only under two circumstances: first, if the system is no longer in use, i.e. it has become obsolete or the company is no longer using it. Second, if it is being replaced by some other software. In this case, if the product is being retired, then the development team notifies the customers about the retirement, and if there is any replacement then the team will guide the customers to migrate the replacement.

Every phase discussed above has multiple iterations so that the best output could be provided. To understand the entire working of Agile Development, better let’s have a look at the next topic. 

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How does Agile Development Work?

As you know by now, Agile Software Development works in several iterations to ensure great product quality and customer satisfaction. The teams following the Agile methodology are more flexible as they have small product cycles and produce deliverables more frequently.

Agile Development works on an iterative approach, which means that the project is broken down into iterations or phases or sprints, where each sprint has a final product of its own. The team breaks down the huge set of work into smaller segments which lets them focus on what’s needed and produce frequent outputs. 

So, when the team works on an iterative approach, the product keeps on moving forward and never lags. No matter how many amends come in the way or innovations take place, the team can always implement the changes and come up with a new production.

The entire Agile Development works on a simple ground rule. It is the product features and the customer satisfaction that comes first not the documentation or a firm flow of steps. This is why, every time a sprint ends it is reviewed by the team, the customers, and other stakeholders and changes that come forth are taken up in the next phase. 

So, the end customer keeps on getting frequent updates, and frequent products and gives frequent amends which not only improves the project with every review but also keeps the customer satisfied and makes him/ her feel valued.

Now, once you know the working of Agile Development, let’s have a look at the Characteristics of Agile Development Success.

Characteristics of Agile Development Success 

Agile Development Releases and Fixed-length iterations

There are two huge components of Agile delivery releases and iterations. There are several iterations in each release which in itself is a mini project. All things like features, attributes, defects, enhancements, etc are assigned to a release. Then these work items are assigned to iterations in accordance with their priority. 

Agile Development delivers Working, Tested Software

The Agile Development process is known to deliver working and tested features that serve as a basis to improve customer satisfaction, team collaboration and the overall roadmap of the project. These working features play a vital role in showcasing that the project is on track.

Value-driven Development 

All the working and tested features that are delivered to the client are definitely value-driven. Agile teams deliver features with every iteration and make sure that the feedback is implemented as they go forth. Also, just to make sure that the entire development stays value-driven, the features are prioritised and delivered accordingly. 

Continuous (Adaptive) Planning  

No matter how much requirement gathering is done or how much data is collected beforehand, continuous or adaptive planning plays an integral role in the success of the Agile Development process. As the planning continues, it takes the project towards more accuracy and refinement. As the iterations continue, the process of continuous planning continues. 

Multi-level planning in Agile Development

Continuous planning occurs at two levels in the Agile Development process. The first is at the release level where the features evaluated and prioritised must be there in the product. The second is at the iteration level where the planning is done with reference to the upcoming iterations and their priority order. 

Relative Estimation 

Relative Estimation is one of those estimation processes that the team goes through to accelerate the overall planning process. In this estimation, the tasks are not estimated concerning time but by comparing them with tasks with equal difficulty.

Emergent Feature Discovery

Agile teams do not spend much time in requirement gathering before the actual development begins. The Agile process focuses on prioritising and estimating features and refining the same whenever needed. The greater details of the features for each iteration are provided by customers, the Agile team, and all involved stakeholders.

Continuous Testing 

Continuous Testing is an integral process that improves progress and prevents defects. Mostly the testing in Agile Development is automated unless there are some specific cases which require manual testing. This enables a more swift process and motivates continuous improvement. 

Continuous Improvement 

Continuous Improvement is the most important practice in Agile Development, which refers to the process of continuously integrating codes with each iteration. So, if there are any changes in the code or functionality of the software, they are continuously implemented which simultaneously improves the process as a whole.

Small, cross-functional team 

Agile teams are generally small in size, which include five to ten people. The process is comparatively smoother if the team is small and maintaining transparency is easier. Also, it has been seen that with small teams comes greater efficiency, huge motivation among team members, less development time, and easy adaptation to changes. Now, when we say “cross-functional” it means, the Agile team must have people with a diverse skill set which involves analysis, designing, development, testing, and managing.

Now, when you know all about Agile Development and its characteristics it is important to implement them. And, talking about the implementation of the Agile Methodology, we need Agile tools for Development. 

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Agile Tools for Development

Agile Methodology can be well implemented and utilised to the maximum through various Agile Tools. Once the Agile tools are deployed, the entire process can be tracked along with keeping an eye on the team's progress. Here, tools do not complicate the process but help the team members to know where they are lagging and what could be done to make the process better. 

The Agile tools help teams to plan properly with respect to the product requirements. These tools not only identify the requirements but also enable the division of those requirements into iterations. Once that’s done, tools help in managing the team effectively and keeping a track of the project development. Also, the tools make it easy for the team to adapt to changes and focus on what is necessary.

These tools prove their worth when you have to deal with Highly-Regulated products and there’s Complex Planning at scale. No matter how many regulations are there in the industry and the product needs amends due to some policies, it is always easy to implement those with Agile tools. Similarly, when it comes to complex planning, the product and the iterations can be planned in an effective and resourceful way. 

Agile tools definitely have a dashboard where everything is managed and tracked. It shows how the team is performing, where they are lagging, and what iterations need to be taken up next. The tools also make the overall communication between different stakeholders easy and make sure that everyone is on the same page. 

Several popular tools that are opted by industries to enable Agile Software Development include Continuous Integration tools like Git, Mercurial, Subversion, etc. Some team management tools include Agile Manager, Active Collab, Agile Bench, VersionOne and Jira.  

Moving forth, let’s have a look at the advantages of Agile Development.

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Advantages of Agile Development

Some of the biggest advantages that Agile Development brings to the table include:

Superior Product Quality

Agile Development focuses a lot on Continuous Testing and Continuous Integration, which improves the product quality with every step. Also, the client is involved all through the process and the changes asked by them are implemented too. So, this continuous process in which the team goes from one iteration to another and continuously improves, the final product is of the best possible quality.

Continuous Improvement

You know it by now that one of the important characteristics of Agile Development include Continuous Improvement, which means that the product improves after every sprint or iteration as the changes are being continuously implemented.

Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is one of the guiding principles of Agile Software Development. The customer is involved all through the process, especially at the time of decision making so they don’t feel left out. Their feedback is thoroughly accepted and implemented which makes them very satisfied with the overall process.

Reduced Risks

Since the Agile projects run in small sprints and have regular continuous testing going on the chances of risk are extremely less.

Increased Flexibility

As you know the Agile Project goes on in iterations that are not only manageable but flexible too, which means that the changes and feedback are accepted all through the process. This flexibility is one of those reasons why organisations choose Agile as their Software Development process.

Project Visibility

Since all the stakeholders are involved in the Agile process from the beginning, the project visibility is outstanding. Everyone is aware of the timeline of the project and if everything is going as planned. To make sure that this happens in the best manner, there are weekly meetups with all the stakeholders to take their feedback and provide them with an overall report.

If there are advantages, there would be disadvantages too. So, lastly, let’s have a look at the disadvantages of Agile Development. 

Disadvantages of Agile Development

Some of the disadvantages that come with Agile Development are:

Lack of Documentation

The Agile Development process is not much about writing long texts and making documentation like the traditional Waterfall model. Here, the big tasks are broken into smaller sections which do not have a lot of detail. So, it is at times difficult for the development team to understand the crux of the project. Also, at times the Agile team is puzzled when there is no set of rules or anything on paper.

Unsuitable for long-term projects

Agile Methodology cannot be implemented on all types of products, not all the products can be delivered in a fragmented way, especially for long-term projects. Agile Development is suitable for software projects which can be delivered in small iterations and not for projects that do not make any sense when delivered into small sections like building or constructing a house.

Bad Resource Planning 

Since in Agile Development the teams are not fully aware of what the final product will be or what all they will need in the process, resource planning becomes challenging. The teams cannot predict time or software requirements or any other resources accurately in such a setting. 

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By now, you would be well versed with everything you need to know about Agile Development. After learning about the basics of Agile, in the beginning, you went on to check what it really means with Agile Development. To understand the entire process of Agile Software Development, you went on to learn the different phases in the Agile Software Development Cycle.

Followed by that, you understood the working of Agile where you learnt about sprints, iterations, continuous testing, and continuous improvement. Then to have a firmer grip over the entire working part, you went on to check the characteristics of Agile Development Success. 

Furthermore, you also had a look at the Agile Tools for Development, where you learnt how tools make it possible for the entire Agile process to run smoothly. Finally, when you knew all about Agile and Agile Development you went on to check the advantages and disadvantages of Agile Development.

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As a Senior Writer for HKR Trainings, Sai Manikanth has a great understanding of today’s data-driven environment, which includes key aspects such as Business Intelligence and data management. He manages the task of creating great content in the areas of Digital Marketing, Content Management, Project Management & Methodologies, Product Lifecycle Management Tools. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Agile is one of the most prevalent Software Development methodologies today because of the flexibility it provides to the organisations. With Agile Development teams can adapt to the ever-changing environment with utmost ease and efficiency. Also, the team can implement feedback and changes as they move from one iteration to another, which keeps the customers satisfied and improves the product quality.

Agile is not a software, it is a methodology or an iterative approach that is used for Software Development and Project Management. The overall agile process makes sure that the software delivered towards the end of the iterations is of the best build and quality.

Agile is not a programming language, it is a continuous iterative approach to building a software working on the lines of resource planning, continuous testing and continuous improvement.

The five steps in Agile Development include the following:
1. Requirement Planning

2. Product Development

3. Software Testing

4. Iteration Delivery

5. Feedback Incorporation