Why Agile is still your best bet?

2019/ 17/09
Continuous delivery in software development is strongly tied to understanding agile values and principles in our unique business context. How to be successful in implementing iterative and incremental practices and methodologies based on agile beliefs? We strive for exploring this in our next article.

Adapting to the ever changing circumstances of the technological world strongly requires high level of flexibility. In order to provide continuous delivery in software development leading to customer satisfaction, organizations tend to engage in the values and principles of agile. Applying iterative and incremental practices and methodologies based on agile beliefs contributes to the productivity of the agile team and the rapid creation of business value.
With the purpose of understanding the significance of continuous delivery, we would like to open a discussion about how a company can benefit from interpreting and applying agile principles in software development properly.

The essence of agile

Before diving into the dissection of agile benefits, it is important to interpret the essence of agile. Generally, proceeding according to agile guidelines means focusing on and understanding the importance of agile principles and values. Decisions about ways of developing software are built on these beliefs. Therefore, the decision making process is what matters the most, practices and methods follows after that aligned with a certain agile group’s values. Understanding directions of agile gives your team a clear but flexible guideline for decision making, resulting in achieving better performance in software development. 
The basic values and principles are discussed in Agile Manifesto, which describes that valuing some considerations better than others and applying principles in decision making will result in more preferable software development achievements. Relying on the beliefs of the manifesto, decision making and software development promote user involvement, transparency and the ability for iterative planning in every stages of the process. Agile therefore is the basis for easing adaptation to changing circumstances and requirements, which means that teams will be capable of early delivery of business value thus addressing customer needs and minimizing the risks of any misconception.

Benefits of agile

Utilizing decision making based on agile values and principles comes with tremendous opportunities for improvement in the performance of software development. Let us discuss the main benefits briefly as following.

Efficiency

Working and participating in decision making processes in accordance with shared values and principles creates a shared sense of ownership and goals for the agile team. The collaborative culture goes with clear roles and task alignment enhancing the efficiency of the certain team. Furthermore, a group of people working with unequivocal objectives tends to perform faster and provide better quality output.

High quality

The iterative nature of an agile project provides the benefit of continuous testing and development during the whole process of execution. Measuring productivity over time contributes to achieving the optimum state of the result, which enables prompt responses for changing circumstances and increase awareness about the future workload. Furthermore, prompt inspection of potential bugs guarantees a more efficient way of minimizing risks associated with weak points.

High quality of output is also supported by continuous flow of information throughout the whole process, sequential integration and regular testing with the purpose of promoting development, using automated testing tools and developing software in incremental cycles.

Project predictability

Dividing software development into small cycles is the key for the early identification of potential cost - ROI interference and therefore working in sprints allows for preventing businesses from unsuccessful development attempts. Also, promoting continuous planning throughout the development process supports the prediction of the potential costs of the project, which might be the basis of the decision-making on any further development.

Adaptability

Since agile endorses continuous learning as a part of the development process, changes occurring during the development can be adapted more easily than using the guidelines of waterfall project management operating according to detailed project plans. Proceeding in terms of sprints allows for achieving better flexibility in software development and earlier results. According to this, making overall progress successfully towards a final product is supported by faster feedback cycle and also, following stakeholder needs throughout the development process is easier.

Visible and fast results

One of the key benefits of agile in software development is that project teams are encouraged for achieving tangible and operable results at the end of each and every sprints of the project cycle. This process provides stakeholders with early benefit and opportunity to improve the product according to feedback. Fast results might serve as catalysts for realizing competitive edge as early outcomes might be the basis of first mover advantage.

Understanding agile values and principles in terms of methodologies

Understanding the values and principles of agile, turning them into group beliefs and later practices is a unique process varying from team to team. Applying agile approaches depends not only on the culture of a certain software development team, but also on the nature of the project and the desired result. This is the reason why it turns out that it is more advisable to use a mixture of methods rather than restricting your team to a single approach for development. Furthermore, taking into account the iterative nature of agile projects, as time goes by these practises might be altered to find the best fit for unique business solutions.

Now, let us look at the most popular methodologies derived from following agile values and principles.

Scrum

One of the most widely used framework, scrum highlights the short cycles of development regarding agile mindset, called sprints. This approach enables collaborative cross-functional teams for fast and continuous delivery of software in incremental portions. Regular meetings called daily scrums provides agile teams with the opportunity to discuss about the current activities and raise suggestions for taking corrective actions and allows for reorganizing priorities in case of necessity.

Extreme Programming (XP)

Changes of stakeholder requirements might arise in all stages of software development. In order to ensure stakeholder satisfaction, stages of development should be designed as to be in a position to adapt to the alterations. XP methodology was created by Kent Beck, American software engineer and focuses on how code is actually written and tested. Extreme Programming enhances test-driven development and promotes continuous integration of improvements in development based on test results.

Kanban

The idea of Kanban methodology is based on using Kanban board for illustrating the stages of the development process. This table addresses all the flows of software production, which are for instance in backlog, in progress, waiting for review or testing or under blocking procedure. The goal of Kanban is to minimize work-in-progress thus concentrating on just-in-time solutions and self-organization of the development process. This methodology requires a high level of communication and clear information to be able to handle processes efficiently and to avoid unnecessary efforts put in actions deriving from ambiguous and obsolete directives. Kanban is best applied together with other agile methodologies.

When to use agile development

Since as discussed before, operating according to agile approach is about aligning decision making processes with agile values and principles, agile management comes with cultural change. In other words, it can be effort and resource intensive to build up a viable agile project team and to embed its operations into your organization. This is why agile can achieve the most in case your company structure supports cross-functional teams working together. It is also important to be able to handle breaking down the barriers of open communication. Agile approach is strongly built on continuous, regular and open communication, which should not be narrowed by communicating according to formal directives. This is especially significant in the case of frequent deliveries of working software, when the continuity of the feedback cycle is essential. To sum up, proper operation following agile requires company-wide changes for anybody who has not taken part in similar projects yet. In order to make these changes the easiest possible, it is advisable to start with smaller projects engaging in agile first and widen it as it gets success.

Sources: Forbes, Tech Beacon, Nisos Technologies, Project managerAgile Manifesto