Competitive Advantages of Agile Development
Agility refers to the ability to make changes midstream, and agile development (or agile management) refers to approaching a software development project with the assumption that changes will be made along the way. 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 to 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 our clients:
- 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 customer receives a part of the end product that is ready to 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 focus 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 end product delivery. This is a crucial factor for businesses, which rely on swift introductions to the market in order to carve out niches for themselves ahead of their competitors.
Another useful feature of agile development is the way 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 This mitigates one of the biggest development risks: producing a product that is obsolete upon delivery.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, even if we would be better off moving quickly, testing, obtaining feedback, and then continuing to work. Agile methodology, which supports the latter method, is arguably more effective for many software development initiatives.
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, or iteration to iteration, making it possible to introduce changes, adjust the product, and work with feedback at every step.
One of the distinctive features of agile development is that the team does not carry out lengthy research, make vast plans, or strive to develop a perfect version of the product from the very start. Instead, the team might create a prototype of a minimum viable product that would provide value to the client quickly. Then, working together with the client, they’ll think through the product and necessary improvements. As a result, the timeline to launch might be shortened significantly, while the product keeps evolving even as it’s in use.
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, a method by which team members use colored cards to signal the status of each 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 in the project keeps track of the process, voices their suggestions, and asks questions continuously, which means any issues are dealt with almost immediately. This streamlines the process and creates a comfortable working environment built on trust and rapport, ultimately leading to a stronger end product. After all, if the project manager, team members, and the 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 a respected leader who sets the direction of the project and establishes the rules of cooperation among its members.
Agile development usually starts by dividing the scope into smaller components doled out to 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 each sprint ends with quality control. Working in sprints lays the groundwork for transparency and accountability, allowing each team member to demonstrate exactly what they accomplish during at each milestone.
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 collaboration between the client and the development team.
As a result, the agile development method yields high-quality products and, arguably the most important advantage, it gives clients usable versions of their products 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.