Tackling a project with the help of Agile methodologies has gotten increasingly popular in the last few years – especially in the field of software development. What does Agile methodology mean? These are essentially principles used in results-oriented project management and are based on adaptability, flexibility and speed.
Read on to find out what this means and how agile methodologies can be used.
- What are Agile methodologies?
- What is the Agile Manifesto?
- Benefits of the Agile methodology
- Examples of some of the most used Agile Methodologies
- Agile project management tools
What are Agile Methodologies?
An agile methodology is a form of project management, which has been used primarily in software development. It proposes that the solutions offered are defined as a team and in collaboration with clients.
As mentioned above, the agile approach is based on principles such as adaptability and flexibility. The ultimate goal here is to be able to respond quickly to market needs, which change especially fast in IT.
Agile revolves around quickly delivering small chunks of the product in the form of finished software. This is, in Agile methods, the best way to measure progress. Ideally, you provide something actually usable every couple of weeks.
Another characteristic of Agile is that it’s a very team-based approach. It focuses on collaboration and autonomy within small groups rather than hierarchical structures.
How Agile was born
The agile process arose from the understanding that traditional software development methodologies, such as “waterfall development”, did not work when creating software today.
The linear approach of “Plan, Design, Build, Test, Deliver” works well in other industries such as automotive, but not so well in a sector where demand and competition change so rapidly (software development).
When should you use Agile?
Now that we know a fair bit about what Agile is, let’s look at what kind of projects actually fit and which ones don’t. It’s important to understand that the methods which use Agile are often not the best choice.
#1 When you have a team
First of all, you need a team. Its members have to be at least two things:
- Relatively experienced at the things they do and;
- Open to flat hierarchies and Agile as a way of work
Self-managing teams only work if the people in them know their stuff. Furthermore, Agile can’t do without very frequent meetings, which are, ideally, face-to-face. If your team doesn’t meet these requirements, Agile should probably not be your first choice.
#2 Consider your clients
A vital part of a well-done Agile project are your clients themselves. Clients who are excited about their projects and want to influence their development are perfect candidates.
Proactive clients are the ones you’re looking for. Ones who don’t have the time or the willingness to be part of the project just aren’t the people who can provide good feedback week after week as your usable chunks of software get done and delivered.
#3 Consider the project type
Finally, consider the project type. Repetitive tasks that require little to no feedback or teamwork aren’t suitable for the Agile methodology. You want projects that are innovative, maybe even a little crazy and clearly in need of some experimenting with different changes.
These are the essential requirements to have a functioning project while leaning on the basic Agile principles. They can be very helpful and do wonders for specific tasks. But don’t fall into the current hype and attempt to apply Agile to every single project – often that’s like trying to fit a ball into a square-shaped hole.
Jobs related to Agile Methodologies
Currently, many companies require developers to have experience working in agile environments.
But as agile methodologies are being adopted by companies more and more, jobs related to agile frameworks have evolved and specialised.
Thus, new positions have emerged with greater authority and greater responsibility from the organisational point of view.
For example, there is now a role dedicated to Agile Coaches. These professionals are in charge of training companies in terms of agile principles and practices (from strategy to business processes).
They help bring focus to the work team and make it easier for their work to be agile.
The Agile Coach is one level above the well-known Scrum Master.
What is the Agile Manifesto?
The Agile Manifesto gathers and details the values and principles applied in the agile methodology.
It has 4 founding values and 12 key principles that define a better way to develop software through a simple and clear structure that promotes collaboration and iterative development.
Values of the Agile Manifesto for software development:
- People and interactions above processes and tools
- Working software above exhaustive documentation
- Collaboration with the client above the negotiation of contracts
- Respond to change rather than follow a plan
What are the principles of the agile methodology?
The key principles involved in the Agile manifesto are:
- Customer satisfaction through early and continuous software delivery
- Adapt to changing requirements throughout the development process, even at late stages
- Frequent functional software delivery, as soon as possible
- Collaboration between business managers and developers throughout the project
- Support, trust and motivate the people involved, offering the environment they need
- Enable face-to-face interactions to communicate information efficiently
- Working software is the main measure of progress
- Agile processes to support a consistent and sustainable pace of development
- Attention to technical detail and design enhances agility
- Simplicity is key
- Self-organising teams foster great architectures, requirements, and designs
- Regular reflections on how to be more effective
Any company or team that works with agile methodologies adheres to these values and principles. The manifesto provides an overview of what to expect when working with these practices.
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Benefits of the Agile Methodology
The main advantage of the agile methodology is speed – being able to offer the customer what they want, when they want it.
Shown below is a slightly longer list of advantages of agile methods:
- Speed: A faster software development life cycle translates into a more profitable business since less time passes between payment and collection.
- Happier customers: No need to wait months for something that is needed due to the changing environment.
- Valued employees: The development team decides the process for itself and thus improves productivity. The agile methodology trusts that they will decide the best path to reach the objective.
- Constant feedback: Thanks to constant communication with the client, many unnecessary revisions are often avoided afterwards.
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Examples of some of the most used Agile Methodologies
The most popular and used agile methodologies are:
- Extreme Programming (XP)
- Lean Software Development (LSD)
- Feature Driven Development (FDD)
- Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)
- Adaptive Software Development (ASD)
Teams typically choose one or two agile models to work with. For example, Scrum and Extreme Programming (XP) are one of the most commonly used combinations.
#1 Scrum method example
Scrum is the most widely used agile framework among companies for software development. It was created by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber (who were also part of the 13 people who defined the Agile Manifesto) and calls for a team made up of:
- Product Manager: Representing the customer and their needs
- Scrum Team: These are the developers, programmers, and designers who deliver the product
- Scrum master: These are the ones in charge of ensuring that scrum practices are followed and that the team is focused on the objective
How does the Scrum methodology work?
- The product manager draws up a wish list with different priorities (Product backlog)
- The scrum team takes a small part of the wish list (Sprint backlog) and plans its implementation
- The team completes its sprint backlog tasks in a Sprint (which is typically a 2-4 week period). Progress is evaluated in a daily meeting (Daily scrum)
- When the Sprint ends, the completed work is sent or reviewed and after its review, this sprint is closed, to start the next one
#2 Extreme programming (XP) methodology example
The methodology based on “eXtreme Programming” is highly focused on customer satisfaction. It seeks to deliver what the customer needs are right now, without thinking about everything they might need in the more distant future.
The XP methodology focuses on frequent releases and short development cycles while relying on frequent customer communication.
Due to the characteristics of the XP methodology, it is widely used together with Scrum, because they complement each other well.
How does the agile methodology “Extreme programming XP” work?
- The product manager draws up a list of customer requirements through the customers’ “User Stories”
- They develop a software release plan
- They deliver the software in short iterations, for example, in every two weeks
- The development team works together and holds meetings if problems arise
- Active customer participation with direct feedback with user stories
- This is repeated until the result is as required and the software is delivered
#3 Kanban example
Kanban is a very visual method widely used in agile project management. It shows an image of the work process, which allows us to see possible bottlenecks in the development, which in turn allows us to deliver a quality product on time.
The simplest Kanban structure has a panel with 3 columns in which the tasks will move: Pending / Doing / Completed
Kanban features and benefits:
- Visualisation – All tasks are together on the same board
- You can limit the work in progress (depending on its resolution or deliverability)
- Allows continuous deliveries
- Use feedback
- flow management
- very easy to understand
Due to its simplicity, this framework is widely used not just for software development projects, but also in other departments such as marketing or human resources.
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Agile project management tools
There are different software tools that allow you to manage projects under agile methodologies. Some of the most popular tools include:
Do you have experience working with agile methodologies? Tell us all about it in the comments below!