There are many companies nowadays specializing in software development projects. Some of them are working with a standard business approach (waterfall) and some are already involving principles of Agile. Product developers and development teams are constantly looking for more efficient ways to approach production. While a waterfall process has been widely adopted in the past, more and more teams are drifting to agile development, which is a modernized approach to project management and product development. In this document, we would like to introduce you to the world of Agile and open the benefits of working with a development team using an Agile approach in their work.
And looking ahead, we would like to note, that according to PwC research, Agile projects are 28% more successful than traditional projects.
Introduction to agile
Agile software development is an approach to software development under which requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organizing and cross-functional teams and their customer(s)/end user(s). It advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, empirical knowledge, and continual improvement. Agile encourages rapid and flexible response to change.
It is a way of dealing with, and ultimately succeeding in, an uncertain and turbulent environment.
Agile development refers to any developmental process that is aligned with the concepts of the Agile Manifesto. Agile Manifesto was developed by a group of fourteen leading figures in the software industry and reflects their experience of what approaches do and do not work for software development.
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 essential to their approach. You could say that the first sentence of the Agile Manifesto encapsulates the whole idea: “We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.” When uncertainty is faced it is worth trying something new, something that might work, get feedback, and adjust accordingly, keeping the core values and principles in mind.
Comparison with traditional development
The main difference in Agile development from a traditional one is that high-quality, adaptive software can be developed by small teams using the principles of continuous design improvement and testing, based on rapid feedback and change. While the traditional systems are fully identifiable, predictable, and can be built through precise and extensive planning.
Instead of power trickling down from the top, Agile recognizes that the future of a firm depends on inspiring those doing the work to accelerate innovation and add actual value to customers.
It recognizes that enhancing the capacity of those doing the work depends on giving autonomy to self-organizing teams with broad parameters of control. It values transparency and continuous improvement ahead of predictability and efficiency. It recognizes that open interactive conversations are more valuable than top-down directives. It stops doing anything that is not adding value to the end customers.
When teamwork is done right, the benefits are clear: 50% of team members are motivated more by team success than by the company’s (27%) or individual’s goals (23%).
Agile realizes that the key to success is not to do more work faster. The key is to be smarter by generating more value from less work and delivering it sooner.
As it’s mentioned in the Agile Manifesto itself, individuals and interactions are valued more than tools and processes. Without an Agile mindset, tools and processes achieve little.
Agile is an umbrella term for several iterative and incremental software development approaches, with each of those variations being its own Agile framework. The most popular Agile frameworks include Scrum, Crystal, Dynamic Systems Development Method, and Feature-Driven Development.
The most frequently used is Scrum. It focuses on a delivery cadence called a sprint and meeting structures that include:
planning (where sprint priorities are identified)
commitment (where the team reviews a list or backlog of user stories and decides how much work can be done in the sprint’s duration)
daily standup meetings (so teams can communicate updates on their development status and strategies)
Sprints end with a demo meeting where the functionality is shown to the product owner (client), followed by a retrospective meeting where the team discusses what went well and what needs improvement in their process.
The applied framework is a careful choice of the company according to the business needs and methodology. Each framework has its own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. And the framework that works for one team might not be the right one for others.
No matter which specific framework the company uses, the spirit of agile is penetrating it through and the main principles of the Manifesto are kept in mind.
The roles in the agile methodology
An agile software development process always starts by defining the users and documenting a vision statement on a scope of problems, opportunities, and values to be addressed. The product owner captures this vision and works with a multidisciplinary team (or teams) to deliver on this vision. Here are the roles in that process.
Agile processes always begin with the (end) users or customers in mind. Today, we often define them with user personas to illustrate different roles in the workflow or different types of customer needs and behaviors.
The agile development process itself begins with someone who is required to be the voice of the customer, including any internal stakeholders. That person distills all the insights, ideas, and feedback to create a product vision. These visions are often simple and short, but they nonetheless paint a picture of who the customer is, what values are being addressed, and a strategy on how to address them. This person who forms these visions is called the product owner.
In the situation when development is made by a third-party company a client acts as a product owner. That person is fully involved in a process. His or her responsibility is to define the vision and then work with a development team to make it real.
To work with the development team, the product owner breaks down the vision to a series of user stories that spell out more detail on who the target user is, what problem needs to be solved for them, and why it’s important for them. He/She also interpret what restrictions and acceptance criteria define the solution. These user stories prioritized by the product owner, reviewed by the team to ensure they have a shared understanding of what is being asked of them.
Software development team
In agile, the development team and its members’ responsibilities differ from those in traditional software development.
Teams are multidisciplinary, composed of a diverse group of people with the skills to get the job done. Because the focus is on delivering the ready to use the software, the team has to complete end-to-end functioning applications. So the database, business logic, and user interface are parts of the application that are developed and then demoed. To make it right, the team members have to collaborate on what and how they are developing. They arrange frequent meetings to make sure everyone is aligned on the assigned tasks and acknowledged about agreed processes to complete software development.
In addition to developers, software development teams can include quality assurance (QA) engineers, other engineers (such as for databases and back-end systems), designers, and analysts, depending on the type of software project.
How to get Agile right
You may have seen from the articles’ titles that Agile doesn’t work, Agile goes wrong, it’s a new waterfall, and so on. But this is a problem of Agile not as a methodology, but as an application of this methodology by companies in their teams.
Many teams and firms that claimed to be Agile were Agile in name only. Some implied that Agile, as it expanded beyond individual software development teams, would unavoidably mutate into traditional hierarchical bureaucracy in order to achieve efficient, reliable management at scale. Many companies were failing in agile because of the same repeating reasons: lack of management support, lack of proper training, lack of clear communication, and so on. Although the journey of transformation is long, time and discipline is the key to achieve agility of an organization.
The thing is: ”Agile, when it’s done right, is awesome”.
By now what is working and what doesn't become apparent. As a result, there came to be a remarkable merging toward a family of goals, principles, and values that were demonstrably more productive and responsive to customer needs than traditional management.
As Agile is increasingly applied to large scale projects, the winnings that become possible at firms are dramatic, particularly the ability to deliver instant, personalized responsiveness at scale. As the software itself becomes a critical driver in almost all businesses, Agile is now spreading to every kind of organization and every aspect of work, as recognized by the citadel of general management—Harvard Business Review in the article “Embracing Agile”.
It is, however, becoming increasingly clear that Agile principles and approaches are no longer simply an IT way of working, and we are seeing a spread in adoption across different functions in the organization. Interestingly, 77% of respondents of a survey conducted by KPMG reported using Agile principles and approaches within their Business Units which indicates a clear sign of the adoption of Agile outside of IT functions. Even more interestingly, of the 9% of respondents that do not adopt Agile in their IT functions, 1 in 6 of them reported using Agile in their Business Unit or Marketing & Sales functions. This is a clear sign that the adoption of Agile is no longer exclusively used in IT functions; it is spreading across other business functions of organizations.
According to the IDC's top 10 predictions for IT and Business Services in 2020 and beyond, By 2022, 75% of IT organizations will have undergone process transformation to adopt DX-enabled processes, such as Agile development, impacting 80% of processes and affecting 90% of their IT employees.
Benefits of agile for software development
We have already outlined some things about Agile, its roles, principles, and projects of applying. So it’s time to show the advantages of working with an Agile development team from the client perspective. For stakeholders outside of the development organization, these advantages are not so readily apparent. This part is to help business leaders understand the value of agile and align their business goals with development practices. It doesn’t mean that just a client benefits from it. As all the members of the project are in a close connection with each other, Agile methodology is favorable for all of them.
The Agile Method grew out of the experience with the real-life projects of leading software professionals from the past. Because of this, the challenges and limitations of traditional development have been discarded. Subsequently, the Agile Method has been accepted by the industry as a better solution to project development. More than fifteen years after its founding, agile practices remain as relevant as ever and the businesses that embrace agile continue to lead the pack.
Advantages of partnership with Agile development team
Faster delivery to market
Moving to an agile way of software planning and delivering helps teams to meet client needs faster. That means delivering a project or a product in shorter terms in comparison with the traditional form. By using time-boxed, fixed schedule Sprints, new features are delivered quickly and frequently, with a high level of predictability.
The end product is ready for market faster, staying ahead of the competition and quickly reaping benefits.
Higher product quality
Instead of trying to market software before it is written, the Agile Method empowers teams to optimize the release during its development. This allows the product to be as competitive as possible within the marketplace.
Frequent meetings, status quo on the development, involving customers in the development process enables the team to deliver a high-quality product, fitting clients and customers’ expectations.
Organizations that use Agile tools strengthen team communication by 52% and improve both product quality and project timeframes by 44%.
Clients can reduce wastage by focusing on a team development effort on high-value features. It reached by reducing non-productive work for developers (e.g. writing specifications or other artifacts), and giving them more time to concentrate on the work which is more valuable and brings more joy.
Agile provides high visibility into the state of a development project, on a daily basis. External stakeholders can use this visibility to plan more effectively and adjust their strategies based on more solid information and less speculation.
Flexibility and adjustment
Agile is designed for flexibility and adjustment. As the problem is divided into components that can be developed and tested with users. If something isn’t working well or as expected, the effort can be adapted quickly to get back on track, or even change tracks if that’s what needed.
If some function is abundant or not cost-effective, it can be replaced on the go. If the client changes his mind over some parts of the projects, it can be changed accordingly.
Project managers cannot look into the future, but their guidance at every step of product development helps a team to adapt to changes whenever they require.
Higher Return on Investment by Project Predictability
Companies calculate the value of a project on the grounds of cost and return on investment. If the ROI outweighs the cost, then a company may decide to take the project further. But if the ROI of the project is not known, predicting the result of that project in terms of success becomes next to impossible. This is the reason why predictability is important in projects. The advantage of Agile methodology is that when companies take time on the front-end during planning a project, they can predict the cost of a project to let the client conclude whether they should continue with the project or make necessary adjustments.
The benefits of the agile method for the client are cutting costs and time to market in half while increasing application quality and customer satisfaction.
Reducing the overall risks
The Agile Method ensures that value is optimized throughout the development process. Agile techniques virtually eliminate the chances of absolute project failure. Always having a working product, starting with the very first sprint, so that no agile project fails completely.
Developing in sprints, ensuring a short time between initial project investment and knowing fast that a product or an approach will work or not.
Agile gives freedom when new changes need to be implemented. They can be implemented at little cost because of the frequency of new increments that are produced. Also, the project can be adapted to the client’s needs and preferences through the development process.
Better customer retention and more positive customer references
Throughout the process, the client and the team are changing the requirements in order to produce the quality needed by the client to bring value to the customer. The ongoing change can sometimes give both the client and the team more than they had originally envisioned for the product.
Improved customer satisfaction by the quality of the product and delivery time translates to better customer retention and more positive customer references.
Agile is an exciting and fascinating approach to software development. By integrating the product developers and customers in the planning and implementing processes, the result is a more rewarding experience for everyone involved. When Agile programming is done properly, organizations can continually find ways to increase the value to their customers. It gives more meaning to those who are actively working on the project and creates a more positive experience for the customer, producing more prominent end results for the company.
Do you feel excited to work with an agile development team or you would like to know more? Feel free to contact Amsterdam Standard.