Key Features of Agile Software Development

“Agile is the ability to create and respond to change. It is a way of dealing with, and ultimately succeeding in, an uncertain and turbulent environment. The authors of the Agile Manifesto chose “Agile” as the label for this whole idea because that word represented the adaptiveness and response to change which was so important to their approach.” Source: Agile Alliance. In short, Agile is an iterative, incremental approach to project management based on the twelve principles of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. Of these, we mention customer satisfaction, simplicity, and delivery of working software at each iteration. Keep reading to find out what else you would gain by choosing an agile methodology for your software development project.

Delivering Working Software at Each Iteration

Agile software development allows the team to deliver at least a demo at each iteration. Thus, the product stakeholders will see the progress in a simple, easy-to-understand format. It often takes months with traditional development models until they see the first demo version. In the meantime, the stakeholders can rely only on technical, difficult-to-understand presentations of the results. The ability to deliver working software at each iteration leads to stakeholder buy-in. Seeing what the software does gives them the confidence to keep investing. As for the development team, the quicker they get feedback, the easier it is for them to make the necessary changes. Furthermore, early feedback keeps the costs of implementing changes low.

Continuous Improvement

The term continuous improvement derives from the Japanese concept of kaizen, which means changing for the better. Manufacturing companies applied the concept to simplify the work and reduce waste. In software development, kaizen found its place in the Agile methodologies. The iterative nature of Agile allows the project team to improve with each passing sprint. Thus, the team learns from mistakes and acquires valuable know-how, which it can use in the following sprints. Furthermore, the culture of openness and direct exchange of ideas and collaboration encourages team members to share experiences and grow together. Continuous improvement represents a key goal for agile teams. At the end of each sprint, the team discusses how they worked together and what they can improve.

Short Feedback Cycle

Learning that your software development partner has not delivered what the stakeholders expected is quite common. The moment when this happens can have a significant impact. Thus, in an Agile project, the project team presents in each sprint review the functional product completed in the sprint. Given that a sprint typically lasts between one and four weeks, clients do not have to wait long for the results. In contrast, traditional development models may produce results several months after the start of the project. The losses may prove insurmountable when those results are far from what the client wanted. With the iterative methods, clients will avoid such mishaps by providing feedback often and thus steering the project in the right direction.

Identifying Problems Early

The highly interactive nature of the Agile models and close involvement of the client helps identify any potential problems early. Thus, the team can use the daily scrum meetings to share the problems they face. As the team addresses the issues quickly, critical problems are less likely to occur than with traditional development models. This approach saves time for the team in the long run and avoids critical bugs in the software. Of course, identifying problems may require testing, which is an ongoing activity in Agile projects. Furthermore, testing often starts before development, and testers must build tests for new features. The entire team should work on the new user stories during sprint planning to relieve some pressure from the testers. Thus, testers will be familiar with the stories when writing acceptance criteria.

Adaptability & Flexibility

The project teams can flexibly prioritize software product features using the Scrum methodology. Thus, whenever the client changes their mind, or the team realizes they focused on the wrong features, backlog feature reprioritization comes to the rescue. Of course, business value should lie at the heart of any reprioritization. Furthermore, the product manager should consider the effort that a new feature requires and the threats and opportunities it brings. Product managers rely on a project prioritization framework to prioritize the features. Such a framework provides consistent quantitative criteria for feature prioritization. There are dozens of popular frameworks from which the project team may choose. In short, effective prioritization helps teams make good progress towards the final product milestone. Source: Forbes.

Happy Customers

In Agile development, the project teams involve the customers in the development process, keeping them up to date and asking their opinions. Thus, there is a constant exchange of ideas between the development team and the stakeholders, which both sides value. Of course, the software product itself can only win from this approach. Keeping the stakeholders in the loop throughout the entire project ensures the final product meets their needs. When those needs result from deep and up-to-date market knowledge, they will contribute to winning products.

Conclusion

We briefly touched on several key features of the agile development models. First, agile focuses on delivering working software at each iteration. Thus, the product stakeholders will gain confidence in the project and support it. Next, we turned to how the iterative nature of agile contributes to continuous improvement with each passing sprint. We also explained how the close involvement of the client helps identify potential problems early and thus save time and money. Furthermore, we emphasized the role of agility and flexibility in the iterative approaches to software development. All these features contribute to high product quality and thus make clients happy.

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