In software development, the needs are often the same: efficiency, speed, and improved customer satisfaction. When you consider those needs in light of the limitations of the traditional Waterfall model, the evolving market, and the rapidly changing internet technologies, you’ll see why most leaders and development teams in technology companies have adopted Agile methodologies in software development.
What is Agile methodology?
Agile software development methodology (or simply “Agile”) is a development approach that anticipates, as well as prioritizes, the need for flexibility and responsiveness to change. These qualities help improve efficiency throughout an organization. Development teams using Agile are also able to efficiently adapt to changes in rapidly evolving environments.
Agile is so named because the creators of this software development methodology understood that “adaptiveness and quick response to change” is central to the model. Agile focuses on efficient delivery of business value, while it also enhances a faster delivery of high-quality products that meet the needs of customers and users.
Before Agile came on the software development scene, developers were using the Waterfall approach. But the Waterfall methodology for software development was not only complex, but it was also inflexible. It generally lacked a development process that can efficiently respond to customer needs and adapt to change more rapidly.
Yet, at that time, there were serious competitive pressures to bring applications and new technologies to the market faster. The need to be more efficient in software development methodology, brought a group of developers together to create the Agile Manifesto: A document that highlights how a modern software development process should operate.
Created in 2001, the philosophy of the Agile Manifesto centers on 12 principles and 4 values.
The 4 values of Agile are:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
Agile is a more iterative and collaborative process than Waterfall methodology. Also, all Agile methodologies comply with the Agile Manifesto for software development.
To reduce delivery time and maximize the delivery of valuable products to the customer, Agile breaks the usually long delivery cycle of the Waterfall approach into shorter periods. These periods—called iterations or sprints—facilitate a pattern for delivering working software to the market, getting feedback, and making necessary changes based on the feedback.
A vital element that distinguishes Agile from other methodologies is the focus on the people doing the work and how they work together. With Agile, there’s an emphasis on collaborative measures between self-organizing cross-functional teams using the appropriate practices for their context. This collaboration encourages teamwork, self-organization, accountability, and best practices are intended to allow for rapid delivery of high-quality software.
Two of the most widely used Agile methodologies are Scrum and Kanban.
Although it also finds application in other project management teams, Scrum is a framework in Agile used primarily for software development. It emphasizes cross-functional teamwork, accountability, and iteration in developing, delivering, and supporting innovative and complex product projects.
Scrum teams use specialized tools that help them organize tasks. This provides an effective way for team members to monitor the status and progress of projects.
As an effective framework of the Agile approach, Scrum is very flexible and adaptable. Perhaps this is why it is the most widely accepted framework of the Agile methodology. The Scrum model is an incremental and iterative process that enhances transparent communication and collective responsibility.
The Scrum process is a step-by-step approach to the desired product, involving a continuous repetition of a sequence of operations. Every change to the software is tested at every stage, so that necessary changes are made when an error or failure is identified. As a result, it helps to create high-value products that meet customers’ needs.
Kanban is an Agile framework designed to help teams work together more efficiently. The Kanban framework does not prescribe roles or sprints but emphasizes shorter cycles for faster delivery and transparency during software development. This ensures efficiency and effectiveness, by making team members track progress, contribute ideas, and make changes when necessary.
The three Kanban guiding principles are:
- Visualize the workflow
- Limit the amount of work in progress
- Organize the workflow based on priority
Kanban is an Agile framework that is incremental but not iterative. Since it has no iterations, a Kanban project does not have defined start or finish points for individual work items. That is, each work item has no pre-determined duration and can start and end independently of one another. Kanban requires that the software be developed in one large development cycle.
Additionally, Kanban does not impose any role definition. Expectedly, it’s usually attractive to developers who have been used to the Waterfall methodology. The Kanban model makes it easier for those developers to transition from the Waterfall model without massive disruptions that usually occur when the transition is to Scrum.
Kanban helps to identify and fix potential congestion in the development of software. This enables work to efficiently flow through it quickly in a cost-effective way.
Differences between Scrum and Kanban
Scrum and Kanban are Agile frameworks that help in building better software with fewer hassles. The main differences between the two frameworks are highlighted in the table below:
|Ideology is based on learning through experience, self-organizing and prioritizing. It also includes analyzing wins and losses to make improvements.
|Uses visuals to improve work in progress
|Deliverables are determined by regular, fixed-length sprints in which work must be completed and ready for review
|Products and processes are delivered continuously as needed
|Sprint planning, sprint, daily scrum, sprint review, sprint retrospective
|Visualize the flow of work, limit work-in-progress, manage flow, incorporate feedback loops
|Roles & Responsibilities
|Requires a pre-defined role for each team member: product owner, scrum master, the development team
|Requires no pre-defined roles for a team.
|Ideal for projects with stable priorities
|Ideal for projects with varying priorities
|Modification & Changes
|Changes can be made to a project mid-stream
|Not suitable for making changes during the sprint
How Agile helps in software development
Because of the many benefits that come with it, Agile has become the most widely used software development methodology.
Some of the ways the Agile approach helps in software development include:
Lowering risks and enhancing quick ROI
The possibility of failure is significantly lowered because Agile methodology ensures that the software is tested at every stage by interested users. Development teams are then able to make necessary changes at each step of iteration and deliver quality products.
Furthermore, since the methodology ensures the delivery of valuable products in a reduced time-to-market, there’s a quicker and higher return on investment.
Agile methodology helps development teams adapt to changes—such as client needs, shifts in market demands, and evolving product requirements—quickly and efficiently. This provides development teams the flexibility needed to continue delivering relevant and high-quality software on time and without going beyond the budget.
Higher quality products
With Agile methodology, products are regularly tested during the development process. This ensures that errors and other issues are identified and corrected early, helping to deliver well-tested and higher quality products.
Improving collaboration and engagement
The Agile approach creates the platform for efficient collaboration between stakeholders—the client and the development team. Such engagement makes for transparency in the process and brings developers up to speed with the client’s needs.
Providing predictable costs and scheduling
With Agile, it’s possible to divide the development process into iterative sprints. This makes the development of quality and efficient software easier. Dividing development into sprints also makes it easier to predict costs, as well as set clear and predictable timelines.
Agile methodology in software development enhances efficiency and continues to help the software development landscape. However, this does not mean Agile does not have its drawbacks too.
Agile methodology can be difficult to apply to embedded systems. Concerns have also been raised on the ability of the model to adapt to larger, enterprise, or distributed developments where teams cannot all meet face-to-face. However, Agile remains the most widely accepted methodology in software development.
No matter the Agile framework you choose to use, ensure you choose one that addresses the needs of your team and customers. There are instances where two Agile frameworks are used together. Kanban, for instance, works well when combined with Scrum or any other Agile framework.