Agile methods are an iterative approach in software development that facilitates continuous delivery of valuable software through collaborative and cross-functional efforts. They embrace changes in requirements and solutions at any phase of the software development cycle. The agile methodologies are based on the fundamental principles of the Agile Manifesto. These methodologies promote adaptive planning, early delivery, and continuous improvement.
The Agile Manifesto was written in February 2001 by 17 independent-minded software practitioners at The Lodge at Snowbird ski resort in Utah.
In the 1990s, industries faced a crisis of application development wherein business requirements changed quicker than development can keep up. A span of three years was required to develop an actual application from the time of gathering user requirements. As development time was too long, the finished application is no longer relevant to the user requirements that has changed over that time.
Extreme programming leaders such as Kent Back, Alistair Cockburn, and others held the snowbird meeting of the Agile Manifesto in a ski resort in Utah in 2001. They discussed about lightweight methods without mentioning the term ‘agile’, which are alternatives to waterfall and other software methods. A new approach to project management for software development was proposed to expedite software delivery. It is flexible to adapt to changing business and customer needs at any stage of software development. Even for unclear user requirements, the leaders suggest a way of designing two or more versions of the product or designing the product based on first approximation.
The Agile Manifesto constitutes four core values and 12 principles of Agile methodology leading to software development.
Agile methods value people over processes and tools. They do not require long documentation but user stories that are necessary for creating effective functioning software. They involve the customer throughout the development process. The project management with agile methods involve an elaborate planning with priorities and estimates during iterations. Thus, a bird’s eye view of the project workflow details are captured, bugs are fixed, and requirements are implemented in the particular iterations.
The twelve principles of the Agile Manifesto are as follows:
The benefits of agile methods are summarized as follows.
A sprint schedule is usually from one to three weeks only. Proposed design and feature changes may be incorporated as and when required with more predictability within that period.
As the project is divided into sub-units and testing is done throughout, bugs can be fixed easily. Viewing the past sprint records continuously enhances processes and methods. Work is completed at each sprint right from development to complete integration.
As customer is engaged throughout the project, he/she is informed of functionalities at each stage, new features are added, and delivery is fast.
Project failure may be avoided with product development and workability at each sprint. Prediction of cost and schedule can be done by checking estimates and tasks completed.
With visibility and customer interaction, the project will be aligned to business needs.
With fast and frequent releases with added business values, the budget is better used and more predictable.
The core principle of agile methods is in dealing with change. The customer is free to introduce changes at any phase of development. As the agilists are aware that changes will occur during development, they model storm the requirements in a just-in-time (JIT) manner to successfully implement them in stages. They adopt smart strategies to pivot on requirements even in the late development stage.
Let us see what changes the agile methods require during the development cycle.
At the start, just envisioning the initial requirements is enough instead of documenting or carrying out early models. Tasks are aligned with requirements using a stack of priorities and estimates. Sometimes, re-prioritizing requirements is needed to reflect the changes suggested by stakeholders. Changes or new tasks are identified in the current iterations. The team writes it down as user stories (or task) to be included in the next iterations instead of working on it directly. In order to keep focus on what was planned in the sprint planning, the current iteration is processed without incorporating them.
In the deployment phase, it is a good practice to demo the working software, communicate with the team, and showcase it to stakeholders.
Understanding the benefits of agile method allows you to adapt and leverage this methodology into your own projects.