What is Agile Methodology? Fundamentals, and Benefits

By | April 23, 2022
What is Agile Methodology

In today’s era, every organization or company is adopting agile methodology. This methodology ensures high-quality products at a faster speed. Therefore, ‘Deliver Quality at Speed’ has become a motto of this agile world. When it comes to software development, the entire process is divided into two steps. First, developers develop the source code, and then they send this code to testers to ensure that there are no bugs.

For large applications, the traditional approach consumes a lot of time, energy, and resources. Therefore, many times, project managers have to hold back the testing process or delay the delivery deadline. With the need to deliver products faster using a robust software development approach, the agile methodology came into existence.

However, the agile methodology is not very new. It was set in motion right back in the 1990s. But most organizations in those days did not adopt it. Surprisingly, even many organizations have not adopted it till now. If you are in confusion about whether to adopt an agile methodology for your organization or not, this article will help you know what agile methodology is and what benefits it offers.

What is Agile Methodology?

The agile methodology in the software development domain is a practice of managing a project by dividing it into multiple phases. In addition, this methodology involves continuous repetition of developing and testing a project throughout its lifecycle.

Once the development phase of a project begins, the entire team, including developers and testers, follows a cycle of planning, executing, and evaluating in agile methodology. The cycle continues until the final product that meets all the requirements is created and delivered successfully.

Unlike the conventional or Waterfall model, the agile approach follows an incremental flow. Developers and testers work concurrently to develop and test the project. At every phase of the software product, developers communicate with stakeholders and share the progress. Moreover, the agile methodology is all about continuous improvements of a project.

The agile methodology is a productive and successful approach to transforming business insights into software solutions. It involves continuous planning, development, improvement, learning, and team communication. In addition, the agile approach is flexible in responding to changes made in a project’s requirements.

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Agile Manifesto

Agile Manifesto is a document consisting of four core values and twelve important principles of agile software development. In February 2001, 17 software engineers proposed the Agile Manifesto at a ski resort in Utah.

4 Core Values of Agile Manifesto

The agile methodology follows four major values that are discussed as follows:

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1. Individuals and interactives over tools and processes

The Agile Manifesto’s first principle states that communicating with stakeholders or clients is of the utmost importance. Clients often have several questions about the project development. Therefore, it is the responsibility of team members to clear all the doubts of clients. In addition, the development team must consider all suggestions provided by clients.

2. Working software products over unified documentation

The traditional approach of software development primarily focuses on software documentation. This documentation consists of all the details of a project. But the Agile Manifesto’s second value states that instead of focusing on software documentation, the development team should concentrate on delivering a fully-featured product that meets clients’ requirements.

3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

The third value dictates that the engagement of customers in all the development phases of a project is essential. In the conventional approach, like the Waterfall model, customers are engrossed only at the beginning or end of the project development.

Suppose customers are engaged in the entire development activity. In that case, the development team can produce the product according to their requirements and suggestions, resulting in a superior quality product.

4. Responding to change over following a plan

The traditional software development approach involves developing a fully planned strategy before starting the project. The development team sticks to this strategy in every circumstance, no matter what the result is. But in some circumstances, customers’ demands change as time passes. Therefore, the earlier planned strategy will not include customers’ changing requirements. Hence, the final product will not meet the demands of end-users effectively.

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The Agile Manifesto’s fourth value states that the development team should respond to customers’ changing requirements instead of following a pre-planned strategy. In addition, the development team must create a product that satisfies all their needs.

12 Core Principles of Agile Manifesto

The Agile Manifesto involves twelve significant principles, as explained below:

1. Customer Satisfaction

In the conventional software development method, customers can see the final product only after its development, i.e., when testers perform all quality checks on the product. However, it becomes difficult for the development team to introduce new changes after the product’s final development.

Conversely, customers in the agile methodology are engaged in the development process. Therefore, they can see the product during its development and suggest changes if required.

2. Dividing the Project into Small Chunks

Managing a lengthy and complex project may seem challenging as it requires plenty of time and hard work. However, when dividing the project into smaller modules, team members can work on different modules simultaneously.

The second principle of agile methodology states that the development team should break a project into smaller chunks. Doing this will result in quicker task completion. As a result, valuable time, resources, and energy can be saved. Moreover, the development team can introduce changes in any chunk seamlessly. They can even identify possible risks and bottlenecks easily.

3. Sticking to the Deadline for Delivering the Product

Another Agile Manifesto principle is adhering to the given deadline to deliver a high-quality and working product. As the agile approach is iterative or repetitive, the development team needs to enhance the product’s performance in every sprint. Delivering a well-working and reliable product to end-users within the timeframe is essential.

4. Frequent Collaboration of Stakeholders

Stakeholders in traditional software development models are unaware of the different phases involved in the development process. In addition, they cannot see the progress of the product. However, the agile approach encourages stakeholders to take part in the product’s development process. They can give feedback and suggest changes. Therefore, the quality of the product developed will be superior, and customers will be contented.

5. Developing a Supportive Environment

Having a helpful and motivating environment while developing applications is the most vital element. All team members must be encouraged to express their ideas and opinions to build a better product. In addition, project managers should motivate team members and boost their confidence so that they can give their best. If the development team is confident, the outcome will be undoubtedly fruitful.

6. Adopt Face-to-face Communication

The sixth Agile Manifesto principle is to ensure face-to-face communication among all parties involved in the product development. Communicating via emails or messages is not a good approach in the agile methodology. As arranging meetings has become more accessible in this technological epoch, everyone involved in product development can meet and carry out discussions via video conferencing.

7. Working Software is a Primary Measure of Progress

Every approach involved in software development has a primary objective of delivering a superior-quality product to end-users. The same is the objective of the agile model. The effectiveness of the agile model depends on the delivery of a working project within the given timeframe.

8. Maintain Constant Pace

Keeping the constant speed during each iteration of the project development is the seventh principle of the Agile Manifesto. Therefore, the development team has to establish a reliable iterative pattern for developing the project successfully. Creating an iterative pattern helps team members to work accordingly without any stress.

9. Maintain the Product’s Quality

Customer satisfaction is the motto of every business domain. As a result, the ninth principle of the Agile Manifesto dictates that the development team has to maintain the quality of the product and meet customers’ requirements. In addition, team members must pay attention to the product’s technical aspects and satisfy customers by delivering quality software.

10. Maintain Simplicity

Team members often work hard to add extraordinary features to the project and plan accordingly. But it is not a good practice in agile methodology. Instead, they should completely concentrate on the customers’ requirements and remain focused on them.

11. Stimulate Self-organization in the Team

The last but one Agile Manifesto principle states that the development team should be self-organized. It should possess decision-making capabilities. In addition, team members should understand their responsibility of satisfying customers.

12. Track Performance Regularly

The final Agile Manifesto principle is to track the performance of the product under development regularly. After implementing each iteration, team members should check its performance. In addition, they must perform changes whenever required.

Agile vs Waterfall Model

In the above section, we discussed what is an agile approach in software engineering. Now, let us go through the Waterfall model in brief.

The Waterfall model is the first and most typical software development approach. Like the Agile model, the waterfall model also divides a project into smaller phases. However, the difference is that the Waterfall model follows a linear or sequential flow.

In the Waterfall model, the input to the current phase is the output of its previous stage. Therefore, only after executing the current phase, developers can move to the next phase. In other words, developers manage only one phase at a time. Hence, this model is easy to comprehend and execute.

However, in the Agile approach, developers and testers work concurrently to develop and test each phase of a project.

Agile vs Waterfall

The below table describes the dissimilarities between the Waterfall model and the Agile model.

Waterfall Model Agile Model
The Waterfall model develops software products using the sequential and linear flow. The Agile model develops software products using a continuous and iterative approach.
Phases of a software product in the Waterfall model are not treated individually. The input of the current phase is the previous phase’s output. All phases in the Agile model are independent.
Customers can see the final product only after the completion of the project’s last phase. Customers can check out the project anytime during its development and can address changes wherever required.
The Waterfall model is a plan-oriented approach. Hence, it is more secure. An agile methodology is an unstructured approach.
This software development model is ideal for all sizes of applications. The agile model produces small projects more quickly. However, it becomes time-consuming for large and complex applications.
Software documentation in the Waterfall model has a top priority. The agile model does not give a top priority to software documentation.
Testers carry out the testing process only after the completion of all the phases of development. Every phase in the agile model is tested. In addition, it supports regression testing to ensure that a newly added code does not affect existing functionalities.

6 Different Agile Methods

The Agile methodology involves six different approaches, that we will be discussing below:

1. Scrum

One of the finest approaches involved in agile methodology is SCRUM. This method primarily concentrates on how tasks are managed within an environment that involves teamwork. However, the term SCRUM originated from activity occurring in a rugby match. Below are some generic steps involved in the SCRUM process:

  1. Every iteration is referred to as a sprint in the SCRUM approach.
  2. Product owner develops product backlog, which includes a product’s requirements.
  3. During the execution of each sprint, product backlog with top priorities are chosen and converted into Sprint backlog.
  4. Once the Sprint backlog is achieved, the scrum team works on it daily.
  5. After executing each sprint, the product’s functionality is delivered by the Scrum team.

Generally, the SCRUM approach involves a team of only seven to nine members. However, there are three different roles involved in this approach that are as follows:

1. Scrum Master

The primary responsibility of the scrum master is to eliminate all obstacles in product development. Moreover, they are accountable for forming a team and arranging meetings before the execution of each sprint.

2. Product Owner

The product owner is accountable for delivering the functionalities before each iteration, generating product backlog, and prioritizing it. A product backlog is a repository of a product’s requirements. In addition, all requirements of a product are tracked with their details. Also, the product owner is responsible for sharing the product backlog with the scrum team.

3. Scrum Team

All members of a scrum team handle their work and complete each cycle of a product with the utmost dedication and attention.

2. Crystal Method

Another method involved in the agile methodology is the Crystal method. This approach is derived from three core ideas that are as follows:

1. Chartering

The first idea involves developing a robust team, carrying out a preparatory analysis, generating a plan, and tweaking the development strategy.

2. Cyclic Delivery

There are two or more delivery cycles in the development stage of a software product with each delivery cycle involves:

  1. Refining the previous release plan.
  2. Implementing pieces of requirements.
  3. Reviewing the developed project plan and adopting the development strategy.

3. Wrap Up

It involves deploying and delivering the product to the end-users. The development team gets reviews directly from the users.

3. Dynamic Software Development Method (DSDM)

The DSDM method provides a robust agile framework for agile project management. It is also referred to as Rapid Application Development (RAD). The most interesting part of the DSDM method is that it actively allows users to participate in the development process and empower the development team to make decisions.

4. Feature Driven Development (FDD)

As its name suggests, the Feature Driven Development (FDD) method concentrates primarily on designing and developing a software product’s features. In the FDD approach, every task involved in the development process is carried out individually with respect to features.

5. Lean Software Development

The Lean Software Development method in the agile approach involves increasing the speed of software delivery while reducing the development cost. It follows the ‘Just in time production’ concept.

6. Extreme Programming (XP)

The Extreme Programming approach in agile development is ideal for applications that involve constant changes in their requirements. When customers change their demands or requirements frequently, organizations adopt the Extreme Programming (XP) approach.

Extreme Programming requires the development team to release the product in short cycles. Doing this will help them to enhance the speed of application development. In addition, it introduces checkpoints that enable developers to implement new requirements specified by end-users.

The development team collects business requirements with reference to stories. A parking lot is a place where all these stories are stored. As mentioned above, a software product’s versions are released frequently in shorter iterations in a time of around 14 days. Every iteration in the Extreme Programming approach undergoes six phases, as explained below:

  • Planning

In the planning phase, sponsors and stakeholders are identified by the development team. In addition, they plan and list all infrastructure requirements and collect all information associated with security and service level agreements.

  • Analysis

In the analysis phase, the development team collects stories stored in the parking lot, prioritizes them, and scrubs them for estimation. Also, the team defines the time period of each iteration and performs resource planning.

  • Design

The development team in the design phase is responsible for breaking down the tasks, developing test scenarios for each task, and using regression testing tools to perform testing.

  • Execution

The most crucial phase is the execution phase. In this phase, developers code the software, and testers perform unit testing. In addition, testers carry out manual test scenarios. After testing, a report is generated that consists of the resulting defects. Manual test scenarios are then transformed into automated ones. Finally, it involves mid iteration review and end of iteration review.

  • Wrapping

The wrapping phase involves small releases of a software product, performing regression testing on these small releases, generating stories depending upon new requirements, and improving a software product by following the comment written at the end of the iteration review.

  • Closure

The closure phase is the last stage that involves production launch, reviewing SOA strategy, and assuring SLA guarantee.

Benefits of Agile Methodology

Project managers across the globe use the agile methodology due to its impressive benefits. This methodology enables project managers to perform their jobs easily and have complete control over projects. In addition, the major reason why the Agile methodology is an industry-recognized approach is that it concentrates on valuing customers, providing high-quality products, and delivering them within the given deadline.

The agile methodology offers the following benefits:

1. High-Quality Products

One of the key objectives of software engineering is to provide top-notch and fully-featured applications to end-users. In the agile approach, developers and testers carry out development and testing concurrently. Therefore, the overall quality of applications is always high.

In addition, the agile methodology promotes the involvement of stakeholders or clients throughout the development of products. Hence, it becomes easier to develop a product as per the client’s requirements. The agile methodology follows an iterative approach, which allows teams to learn and improve products continuously.

2. Customer Satisfaction

In the agile approach, customers are involved throughout the development and decision-making process.

When customers are engrossed in the planning and execution phases, the development team can make changes in the product according to their feedback and requirements. Therefore, the final product produced using the agile approach fully complies with the customer’s needs, thus customer satisfaction can be ensured.

3. Better Control

As the agile methodology is transparent and involves quality-control characteristics, it enables project managers to have great control over their projects. In addition, project managers generate daily progress reports of the application under development using advanced tools and techniques.

4. Reduced Risks

The agile methodology divides the entire project into small modules. Therefore, it majorly concentrates on continuous delivery by working in small sprints. Developers and testers work parallelly in each iteration and mitigate the risks. As customers and clients are engaged in the development process, it becomes possible to get feedback for each sprint. Developers can work on that feedback and develop the product accordingly.

5. Enhanced Project Predictability

As the agile approach is transparent and flexible, identifying risks and developing effective plans is quite easier and manageable. This approach enables the development team to identify all possible risks involved with the product development. This will allow the development team to plan accordingly and mitigate the risks.

For instance, burndown charts and sprint backlogs in the SCRUM method help project managers to identify the product performance.

6. Continuous and Frequent Improvement

One of the Agile manifesto principles is to strive for continuous and frequent improvement and work on self-reflection. As the agile approach divides the project into small sprints, each sprint developed will be more efficient and superior than the one created earlier. Moreover, the development team will not repeat the mistakes they have made in the previous sprint.

Additionally, the agile approach promotes collaboration and idea-sharing, enabling all members of a team to grow and learn from shared experiences.

7. Increased Flexibility

Developers and testers feel more comfortable working in small sprints, as these sprints are flexible and manageable. In addition, sprints enable the development team to make changes whenever stated by the client or customers. Due to this increased flexibility, organizations adopt the agile approach for developing projects.

Conclusion

Agile methodology is the most beneficial and flexible approach used widely in software engineering. It has helped several organizations to develop and deliver high-quality products. However, to deliver projects successfully, it’s important to carry out the Agile methodology properly.

By following the four core values and twelve principles of the Agile Manifesto, companies can meet the requirements of clients effectively. Also, there are six different methods in an agile approach – SCRUM, XP, Crystal, DSDM, FDS, and Lean software development. It is important to choose one that seems to align well with the objectives of a project.

The agile approach is beneficial for organizations, teams as well as customers. It helps development teams to create and deliver high-quality software products that can satisfy the needs of the end-users.

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Author: Sameeksha Medewar

Sameeksha is a technical writer and holds a bachelor's degree in Computer Science and Engineering. Her passion for writing started in her college days and now moved on to writing well-researched tech articles. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and listening to music. Currently working as a technical writer for TechAtom Pvt. Ltd.

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