There’s a common riddle: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, of course! Agile software development takes that wisdom to heart and breaks apart complex projects into bite-sized chunks, ensuring each step is complete before moving on to the next.
Here’s your ultimate guide to agile software development so you can learn exactly what agile development is and how it works.
What Is Agile Development?
Agile software development is when a team uses the Agile framework to develop a software program or application. The Agile framework is a project management framework that can be applied to any project, including software development.
The main focus of Agile is not just how people work and the tasks they are responsible for, but how the team works together to accomplish their goals. The first key component of the Agile framework is a community of developers that utilize and leverage collaboration. Without a strong sense of teamwork and strong communications skills, it’s impossible for Agile to work.
This collaboration is necessary because teams are self-organized and cross-functional in Agile development. This is because Agile development is meant to be highly flexible and able to react to and tackle any issue that arises in the development process.
Agile development is different from traditional software development because it is based on providing early and continuous delivery. It is an iterative approach that breaks down large software projects into smaller, more manageable tasks, which are then delivered to the client throughout the project’s lifespan for review, revisions, and feedback.
This allows the team and the client to frequently and continuously assess development, which creates a direct feedback loop to improve the quality of the entire project.
Agile software development provides:
- Improved customer satisfaction through continual communication and transparency
- Faster development time with fewer debugging and over-budget expenses
- Earlier ROI
- Better project quality
- Predictable delivery with clear deadlines for each sprint
- More flexibility and adaptability
What Are Agile Methodologies?
While there are only six steps in the Agile methodology, these steps can (and should) be repeated multiple times for each project to ensure the best final results.
1. Project Planning
It’s impossible to develop anything without a clear picture of the finished product. This step of Agile development helps the team understand the size and scope of the end goal, as well as its purpose and function.
During this step, it’s necessary to create a list of all of the features or deliverables involved in the final product. This is essential because future steps will pull from this list, which is called the product backlog. While it’s always possible to modify this list of features as development progresses, it’s a best practice to try to create a comprehensive list to avoid potential complications or oversights.
In an Agile team, the entire team handles project planning. While there is a director who facilitates the planning process, each team member brings their knowledge and expertise to make sure nothing is overlooked in creating the plan and backlog.
2. Product Roadmap Creation
Once everyone in the team fully understands the final product, they create a roadmap. It breaks down the features required, pulling heavily from the product backlog in the first step.
The roadmap creates a hierarchy within the backlog. In a simple example of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a jumbled backlog might look something like this:
- Putting the sandwich together
- Getting the bread
- Eating the sandwich
- Spreading the peanut butter and jelly
- Opening the peanut butter and jelly containers
The roadmap organizes those steps and lays out the logical progression of the development process.
3. Release Planning
Agile is not limited to one major final release or deadline. Instead, Agile uses shorter development cycles (called sprints) that each culminates in completing one task from the roadmap.
Before the project begins, the team develops its release schedule. This changes the project’s focus from completing one large task to focusing on small, manageable portions of the final product, one at a time.
4. Sprint Planning
With the release dates and schedule created, it’s time to focus on the next sprint.
Sprints should target short, achievable goals. A sprint may be as short as a day for some functions in the backlog, while others may require a week or even a month.
The sprint should reflect the complexity of the function. However, whenever possible, Agile development will focus on breaking down complex functions into simpler tasks that are easier to digest. It is always better to have multiple shorter sprints that develop fractions of a product than to jump straight to a larger sprint with too many layers to it.
5. Daily Stand-Ups
Daily stand-ups are the last check-in to make sure everyone on an Agile team understands what they need to do before beginning work on any given sprint.
Stand-ups should be short and to the point. They shouldn’t take any longer than 10 or 15 minutes because everyone on the team should already understand what they are doing, how it relates to the sprint, and how that sprint relates to the larger project.
6. Sprint Review and Retrospective
At the end of a sprint, your team will have a finished function in the backlog. But just because it’s finished does not mean it is finalized.
First, the team will meet with the client or project stakeholders to show them what you have completed within the sprint. This happens at the end of every sprint to ensure an open line of communication with stakeholders at every step in the process. This way, if changes need to be made, the team can make them right away instead of waiting until the end of the development period.
If the stakeholders accept the results of the sprint, that function is deployed, and the process continues. If the stakeholders have revisions, those take priority and become the focus of the next sprint before moving on to the next function in the backlog.
The second meeting after the end of each sprint is with your stakeholders and team members. This meeting addresses the process, not the product. You discuss what went well, what could be improved, who felt overwhelmed, what you can do to help them, and any other managerial topics that could help improve the next sprint.
How Do You Build an Agile Team?
Building a team that uses Agile methodology starts at the foundational level. Agile development is only successful where failure is an option and communication is valued above everything else. If your organization punishes developers for not producing a perfect final product and isolates team members to focus on individual tasks, then Agile development will never work.
If you want a successful Agile team, you have to make sure they have the foundational support they need to try, fail, and improve while working together as a team. Break down barriers within the team as much as possible. Support team members in their choices by empowering them to work when and how they determine is best for them.
And most importantly, actively celebrate failures. Failures are not a time to reprimand and punish, but instead, they are chances to learn and grow.
The only way an Agile team can ever work together is if there is continual, clear communication. There is no such thing as an Agile team that talks too much. If your team is struggling to work together, that means they aren’t talking enough.
Some teams struggle to get into the habit of continually communicating, especially when dealing with a team of software developers who aren’t famous for their people skills. In these situations, constant training and team activities that build trust and communication skills are essential.
How Does an Agile Team Manage Requirements?
Before starting a project, the first step an Agile team takes is to understand the full scope and requirements of the project. They need to fully understand what is expected from them before moving forward.
It’s not uncommon for a project to change requirements while in development. Agile teams are built to deal with these changes and can quickly adapt because of the flexible structure of the Agile framework. When the requirements change, the team adjusts the outstanding backlog, including resubmitting previously finished sprints into the backlog to meet the new requirements.
Excel SoftSources Is an Agile Team
Are you still struggling to understand what is meant by Agile software development? Check out Excel SoftSources. We provide Agile software development and can show you how the Agile framework can help your projects get done on time and on budget while keeping you in the loop at every step in the process. Contact us today to find out more about nearshore software development.