What is Agile software development? Everything you need to know to deliver better code, faster


What is Agile software development?

Agile software development is a set of collaborative methods and practices for producing software code faster and more efficiently. In particular, Agile development uses an iterative approach, in which teams continually revisit, inspect and adapt their development techniques to deliver applications that meet business requirements in a flexible and rapid manner.

What are the origins of Agile software development?

A group of software developers created a series of lighter techniques in response to what they perceived to be the cumbersome methods associated with cascade development, where projects are broken down into a series of linear sequential steps.

These 17 developers met in Utah in 2001 to discuss these lightweight development methods. They then released the Manifesto for agile software development, which describes a set of values ​​for software development in a flexible and iterative way.

SEE: Guide to becoming a champion of digital transformation (TechRepublic Premium)

These values ​​center on empowerment, collaboration, responsiveness, and creating functional software solutions – rather than end products – that can be refined over time. The Agile Manifesto has 12 principles, ranging from continuous software delivery, to trusting individual contributions and reflective team processes.

Is Agile Better Than Waterfall Software Development?

Just about every conference includes a session with technology leaders – be they CIOs, CIOs, or IT managers – who discuss the benefits of the Agile methodology. The sessions on the virtues of traditional waterfall techniques are finer on the ground nowadays.

One explanation for this change is that waterfall development requires a tighter focus on stages: testing is done after the build phase is complete. In Agile, testing is an iterative process, where software is developed, used and updated. Many CIOs believe this approach is a great fit for digital transformation, which we’ll come back to below.

However, the rise of the Agile methodology does not mean that the waterfall is dead. Some projects still have clearly defined milestones and deliverables. If you know exactly what you need and when, then a waterfall methodological approach might be better. The best question to ask yourself may not be which methodology is best, but rather which one is best suited to the task at hand.

Why is Agile development so popular for digital transformation projects?

Digital transformation has moved from the edge to the core of all organizations, as technology leaders have sought to change their business models in response to rapidly changing conditions.

Think, for example, of incumbent companies challenged to respond to disruptive startups. Then think about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the rapid shift to remote working, e-commerce and e-learning. Experts suggest that the Agile methodology is ideal for companies that want to quickly test and develop new business models and products.

How are companies using Agile software development?

Technical analyst Forrester says agile delivery is critical to successful digital transformations, but the best companies take it one step further. The researcher claims that only 47% of worst-performing companies have 75% or more of their development teams using Agile software development practices, compared to 93% of high-performing companies.

Here are some examples of digital leaders who have embraced Agile development as a way to help their organizations transform:

What are the main characteristics of Agile software development?

An agile team is defined by its collaborative approach and some of the key frameworks associated with the methodology include, but are not limited to:

  • Lean – Empowered teams that work quickly to eliminate waste. Lean itself was born out of lean manufacturing processes, which were pioneered by Toyota and the “just-in-time” production cycles of the twentieth century.
  • Kanban – A lean method of managing work where items, such as features, user stories, and deliverables, are visualized on a board.
  • Scrum – Agile framework for small teams of 10 or less, which divide work into time-bound chunks, called sprints, where progress is reviewed in Scrum sessions.

Notable Agile development practices include: the backlog, which is a breakdown of work that needs to be completed; standup, which is a daily meeting to communicate issues; and retrospective, which takes place at the end of each iteration to review lessons learned.

What is the difference between DevOps and Agile software development?

DevOps is a combination of software development and IT operations. Using continuous delivery and constant iterations, DevOps aims to create better quality software. There are many key DevOps practices that can be attributed to Agile software development.

While the Agile method focuses on sprints that can last weeks or months, DevOps is all about super-fast releases that take days or even hours. DevOps and Agile can be used in tandem because they complement each other.

What about the rise of Agile leadership techniques?

The coronavirus pandemic has in many ways been a beta test for the large-scale deployment of Agile development. Self-employed workers simply had to work in a socially distanced manner to complete projects and develop products as quickly as possible.

Many CIOs report that Agile has adapted perfectly to the new normal of work – and they have adopted leadership approaches to support this change. This flexible form of leadership – known as agile project management or agile leadership – involves the application of Agile software development principles to management tasks, based on decentralized decision making.

Agile management delivers benefits in two key ways: it gives workers the autonomy that research suggests they are looking for, and it allows leaders to focus on higher-level tasks, such as fine-tuning the job. strategy and the development of new business models.

What are the disadvantages of Agile development?

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos believes every internal team should be small enough that they can be fed two pizzas. Various other experts suggest that Agile works best in small groups, but there is a risk that as Agile moves from IT to the enterprise at large, it will be applied too widely and its benefits will be mitigated.

Executives, fed up with the process lethargy that plagues many large companies, often love the sound of empowered teams. But what they can get – if they don’t apply Agile carefully – is chaos. Analyst Gartner refers to the danger of corruption, where the core values ​​of agility are degraded by misunderstanding.

Even in the IT department, all is not well. The collaborative nature of the methodology means that face-to-face interaction is often essential, which has recently been impossible. In many ways, we’re not seeing real Agile in full effect.

“What I miss the most is creativity; being able to stand in a room with a piece of brown paper and a bunch of sticky notes and argue and debate until you have the solution to a problem, ”says Boots IT director Richard Corbridge . , who is a great defender of Agile techniques.

What are the long-term prospects for Agile development?

As businesses enter the post-COVID era, it will be interesting to see what business leaders think about the products created by the Agile software development team.

Will they reflect on the rapid digital transformation process of 2020 and conclude that Agile has simply helped the company work efficiently at a very complex time? Or will the shift to Agile, both within IT and across the enterprise, become a lifelong transition?

Evidence so far suggests that CIOs and their teams have gained a lot from the move to Agile and that the technique will be well suited to the hybrid mix of office and home work that is likely to define the post-COVID era. .

Johnson Matthey CIO Paul Coby says CIOs have been talking about the importance of Agile methodologies for almost 15 years. But in a competitive post-COVID era, he says agility will be crucial to supporting the almost continuous transformation of the business: “They need agile IT, in the best sense of the word, to support that.


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