Have You Crafted Your Agile Philosophy Yet? Learn Why You Should
In the early days of software development, the traditional method was linear and sequential. Developers thoroughly planned the process out from beginning to end. They broke it down into phases with clear goals for each stage. Once they completed a phase, developers moved on to the next phase. Like a waterfall, once developers hit a certain point, they proceeded downward. There was no turning back — only going back to the top and starting over. This methodology led to countless software fails over the years.
Why? The waterfall method was time-consuming due to the length of each phase, which required analysis, design, implementation, validation testing, integration, and maintenance. By the time developers finished these projects, they often no longer met changing customer demands. Then, in 2001, a group of 17 software developers created the agile manifesto, spawning a radical change to software engineering and project management processes.
When applied to software development, “agile” means fast and adaptable. The agile manifesto method emphasizes a flexible philosophy that encourages constant feedback at all levels from all project stakeholders — from CEOs to developers and end users. It is based on several key principles that show a deviation from traditional development practices.
Focus on the customer and build strong client relations.
Welcome changes — in any phase of development.
Produce working software on a frequent basis.
Continuously reflect on how you can improve to maximize efficiency.
Agile teams can adjust processes and requirements according to feedback throughout the project life cycle. The agile method can allow for quick and easy project changes as developers progress — as opposed to the waterfall method in which they likely wouldn’t find out the project doesn’t meet the changing requirements until they’ve completed it.
Ready or not
As more and more company leaders and developers move to agile software development approaches, you are likely wondering if you should bring your organization into the tide. Although agile methodologies can provide certain advantages, not every organization is ready for this change and not every project is best-suited for an agile approach.
An agile-ready organization should have a fairly flat organizational structure, including departments that work well with one another. Upper management leaders need to be willing to give up high-level control and join the development team as hands-on members. Management’s primary function is to communicate the overall vision and scope of the project to all departments and teams. Tight collaboration is necessary among those in all departments as well as customers and end users. Development teams should have members with various levels of expertise — from engineers to marketers and testers — who must work together throughout all product stages.
Agile teams must be empowered to make and own their own decisions, which management leaders need to trust. An agile organization must be adaptable and flexible so everyone involved can quickly change direction and keep abreast of technology advances as well as changing customer needs and requirements.
Benefits (and pitfalls) of an agile strategy
With the speed of technological advances today, it’s impractical to assume that by the end of a typical two-year project development phase, customers’ requirements, needs, and desires will remain the same. Agile development company experts continually monitor these changes and adapt so, at the end of the project, they’re much less likely to deliver an inadequate or outdated product.
An agile strategy can allow development company professionals to provide functional pieces earlier in the project; therefore, providing a faster return on investment. After each stage, you can re-evaluate which features and requirements you need your developers to build next according to customer priorities; thus, delivering what your customers need as they need it — no matter how late in the development process. An agile methodology can also reduce the risk of project failure because you can see what doesn’t work early in the development process. And because your customers are involved alongside the development team throughout the project, you can stay tuned into your organization’s business objectives. Continual research and testing deliverables can highlight problems and help identify where you and your teammates can make improvements. Overall, an agile development methodology can reduce risks and costs plus deliver products that match customers’ needs and expectations.
Outweigh the risks
Those in agile organizations can, however, run into a few potential issues to contend with. Because they tackle projects in short-term sprints and adapt to a changing technological environment rather than having a fixed goal with set milestones, they’re not always able to provide an overall vision for the project. This can be frustrating for those on sales teams who want to be able to convey long-term plans to customers.
Also, agile company professionals may be so focused on researching user needs that they lose sight of how customers make their purchasing decisions. They should consider end users’ needs, but should focus more on market forces, including what their own competition is planning and currently doing as well as pending regulations, technology trends, and their most important customers’ ambitions.
To overcome agile development pitfalls, it’s important to understand that agile is a philosophy — not a playbook. It is not a set of steps for developers to follow to reach a single specific goal. You need to take the parts of the agile manifesto appropriate for your business and adapt them to your unique situation. The manifesto is not a one-size-fits-all development approach. You must be agile enough to adapt quickly to changing technologies, requirements, and market forces — but also be able to provide a well-defined overall strategy, scope, and vision at the outset of your project.
Don’t know where to start your custom software development journey? Contact the experts at The Intellection Group (TIG) at 678-283-4283 today to get started on your unique solution.