Agile Methodology: What is Agile Software Development?
You’ve probably heard of the Agile development methodology or the Agile software development approach, which sounds intriguing. Being ‘agile’ is a positive attribute in a human but how does it work in the world of software development? At Manao Software, we’ve been using Agile methodology for many years and understand the benefits of this flexible philosophy, which allows us to deliver the best possible software efficiently and effectively.
What is Agile Software Development?
What confuses many people is that they think Agile is a single methodology that software developers or project managers will use. Actually, Agile is more like a project management philosophy, which is laid out in a manifesto. This contains a set of principles and values that have been used to create a range of frameworks for software development and project management - although some of these frameworks were actually created before the Manifesto was written.
The Manifesto for Agile Software Development, which was published in 2001, lays out a set of principles for an iterative and incremental approach to software development that emphasises continuous delivery, flexibility, and collaboration. It contrasts with the Waterfall methodology, which is a much more sequential process, going from analysis to planning, to development and then testing, with each step being completed before moving on to the next step.
The Manifesto has some key values around which all the Agile software development principles are built:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Client collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
The key point to note with these values is that they don’t do away with processes, plans, contracts, or documentation altogether. That would be rather drastic! Rather they prioritise delivering working software over creating documentation that will sit in a file somewhere, never to be read. Having clear and useful documentation is still important but shouldn’t be created just for the sake of it. The same holds true for all the other values - having a contract is still vital but it shouldn’t come at the cost of working closely with the client.
Applying these values to the real world generally results in assembling a collaborative team, often with a client representative as part of the team. This team works to deliver operational software frequently, in increments, even if it’s not ready for market at the early stages. This allows for constant feedback from clients and stakeholders, which helps to ensure that the final product meets their needs. It also allows for changes at any point in the process, as well as helping to spot bugs and issues early on, not just when the final product is being tested for delivery.
The Agile approach also places a strong emphasis on communication between developers, clients, and stakeholders to ensure that everyone is on the same page throughout the process. This makes it particularly well suited to larger projects that are complex or uncertain, and projects with a need for a high level of client and stakeholder involvement.
Advantages of Agile Methodology
There are many benefits of Agile methodology that make it attractive to businesses and developers alike, especially if they are looking to create innovative and high-quality software.
- Risk reduction: For businesses, it can help to reduce risks and increase transparency by allowing stakeholders to see the product as it is being developed and providing opportunities for feedback throughout.
- Faster to market: Ideally, Agile should deliver a product to market faster than the traditional Waterfall methodology, as later iterations of the software may be suitable for release, even before the final product is completed.
- Collaboration and creativity: It can promote collaboration and creativity by fostering a more open and flexible working environment.
- Deal with the unexpected: As this methodology is designed to be adaptable to change, this means it can accommodate new requirements or unexpected challenges as they arise.
- Quality throughout: Quality control and testing are carried out with each increment, which allows for issues to be dealt with immediately - not just during a final testing stage, as with more traditional methods.
- Efficiency: Agile values are all designed to minimise redundant work and maximize the use of resources, saving time and money while delivering high-quality results.
Disadvantages of Agile Methodology
While the Agile methodology has been developed to mitigate most of the issues encountered in traditional, Waterfall methodology, it does bring with it some disadvantages that can cause issues, especially from a client perspective:
- Steep adaptation curve: Agile can be challenging for businesses that are not used to working in this way. The iterative nature of Agile can be confusing for those who are accustomed to more traditional Waterfall methods.
- Unpredictability in early stages: Especially at the start of a project it can be hard to give clear and accurate estimates for project completion, and any plans that are given to a client are likely to change during the project, which can be stressful if you’re not used to working this way. This can also lead to issues with resource planning within development teams.
The Agile Frameworks
When asking the question ‘What is the Agile process?’ or ‘What is Agile programming?’ There's no clear answer as it is not a single process. However, when putting the Agile methodology into practice, software development teams use one or more of the many frameworks or methods that have been developed using the key values and principles of Agile. These include
- Extreme Programming (XP)
- Feature Driven Development (FDD)
- Dynamic Systems Development Model (DMDM)
- Adaptive Software Development (ASD)
- Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)
At Manao Software, we use both Kanban and Scrum, which are two of the most popular workflow-based frameworks.
Kanban actually predates the Agile manifesto but fits with its values and principles. Kanban is a visual way of managing a project, first developed in Japan in the 1940s. This flexible framework works with any existing team structure you might have and focuses on categorising tasks in a visual manner according to their level of completion (to-do, in progress, or complete). The core principle of Kanban is to make small, incremental changes, in order to gradually improve efficiency and quality. Central to this principle is the idea of ‘work in progress limits’, which means that teams should only work on a certain number of tasks at any given time, in order to focus their efforts and avoid overburdening themselves. Other key Kanban practices include continuous improvement, visualizing workflows, and tracking progress.
Scrum is a lightweight software development method designed to work well with smaller cross-functional teams. It helps teams move through each stage of the software development process more efficiently, from initial planning to final testing and deployment. It breaks up projects into shorter ‘sprints’ of 2-4 weeks with regular feedback sessions. There are three key roles within the framework: the scrum master, the product owner, and the development team. The scrum master helps to coordinate the team's activities and keep them on track. The product owner (usually a client representative) is responsible for setting the overall direction and priorities for the project. The development team is responsible for actually building the software.
Agile at Manao Software
Here at Manao Software, our values include understanding, quality, professionalism, respect, and transparency and we believe that these are best delivered through Agile Methodology. Agile helps us understand and communicate with our clients more clearly and transparently throughout the entire project. It allows us to deliver a high-quality product in an efficient and professional manner, resulting in a product that we can all be proud of. If you would like to learn more about how we work contact us now for a free consultation.