According to Cambridge Dictionary, the term “Agile (management)” is “used for describing ways of planning and doing work in which it is understood that making changes as they are needed is an important part of the job.” In the IT industry, this term appeared at the beginning of 2000s, when the “Manifesto for Agile Software Development” was published. Since then, the term “agile” has come to refer to a set of “flexible” approaches software development.
The essence of the agile approach is stated in the Manifesto, but we’ll break down its key tenets here in a way that might be helpful for the ordering client:
- Development is carried out using short cycles, also known as iterations, that usually last from one to four weeks.
- At the end of each iteration, the ordering customer receives a part of the end product that is valuable to and can be used in their business.
- The development team remains in close contact and cooperates with the client throughout the process.
- Changes are welcomed throughout the development cycle and easily adopted into the project scope.
Advantages of the Agile Approach
Nowadays, the principles of agile development are embraced by tens of thousands of development teams around the world. The main advantages are speed, adaptability, and continued focused on the main objective. The absence of bureaucracy and the periodic delivery of a working product, along with a gradual increase of its functional capacity, all reduce the overall timeline of delivery of the end product. This is a crucial factor for businesses, which rely on swift introductions to the market in order to quickly carve out niches for themselves.
Another useful feature of agile development is how this approach deals with uncertainty. The agile approach allows for enough flexibility to obtain feedback from the market, the team, or the ordering client throughout the development process and make adjustments as necessary. This mitigates one of the biggest development risks: producing a product that is obsolete upon delivery. After all, as humans, we often make a point of working on something until it’s perfect, delaying delivery while we tinker, instead of moving quickly, testing, obtaining feedback, and then continuing to work. Agile methodology is arguably one of the most effective ways to go because it supports the latter method.
Additionally, the agile method makes it easy to implement changes in response to evolving demands from the end users. This is because the whole picture is not “perfected” at the start of the project; instead, agile developers work from sprint to sprint, making it possible to introduce changes, adjust the product, and work with feedback at every step.
For example, if the developers discover an issue, they can work with the full team to decide how to move forward, ensuring all parties involved have a clear picture of priorities. Consequently, there is no need to insist on anything or argue about anything, because the clearly defined priorities allow the team to make decisions easily.
One of the distinctive features of agile development is that the team does not carry out lengthy research, make vast plans, or strive to make a perfect version of the product from the very start. Instead, the team might suggest to create a prototype of a minimum viable product that would provide value to the ordering client quickly. Then, working together with the client, they’ll think through the product its improvements. As a result, the timeline to launch might be shortened significantly.
Special Features of Agile Development
Agile development achieves these advantages through adherence to several processes and principles.
How does a team using the agile approach stay organized? One special feature of this method is visual control by which all team members use colored cards that signal the completion of a certain part of development. For example, blue could mean a certain element has been fully planned, and green could mean the component has been developed. Thanks to this visualization, every team member is informed on the exact stage of each element.
Another useful feature is that, according to the principles of agile development, the client and team are constantly interacting with one another. Every person involved keeps track of the process, voices their suggestions and asks questions, which means that any issues are dealt with almost immediately. This streamlines the processes and creates a comfortable working environment by providing a maximal level of trust and rapport that leads to a stronger end product. After all, if the project manager, the team members, and the ordering client are working together closely, any risk of misunderstanding goals or skewing information is largely mitigated.
In discussing this collaboration, special attention should be given to the project manager. This specialist does not simply hand out tasks to the subordinates but is more of a respected leader who sets the direction of the project and establishes the rules of cooperation among its members.
Agile development usually starts by splitting up the scope into smaller components divided among individual project groups. This simplifies the process and allows each group to focus on their individual tasks. Working in a project group, the team members obtain new knowledge and learn from mistakes. This continuous skill development allows the team to avoid repeating mistakes and to deliver a better end product.
Another integral element of agile development is working in sprints and holding daily meetings to update team members. The entire project timeline is divided into sprints — for example, there could be ten — and throughout the project duration, the team members meet every day to discuss past and future tasks associated with each sprint. Sprints are strictly set periods of time during which the team is supposed to complete a given set of tasks — and quality control is done upon completion of every sprint. Working in sprints lays the groundwork for transparency and accountability, allowing each team member to demonstrate exactly what they accomplish during every sprint.
Agile Development: The Key to Quality and Flexibility
Agile management allows for maximum flexibility. While traditional development calls for very specific stages of work, agile development easily adapts to the changing needs of the end user and ordering client. Projects developed using Agile methodology are easily launched and easily adapted based on feedback. Agile development also allows for close cooperation between the ordering client and the development team.
As a consequence, the agile development method allows clients to receive products of the highest quality. And, arguably the most important advantage of agile, development, it allows them to receive a usable version of that product as early as possible. Launching the early version — the minimum viable product —allows the client to evaluate the current and potential effects of the product on the market, estimate overall expenditure, and make decisions about whether to develop the product further or close out the project.