What Is “Agile” and Why Should Your Team Be Agile?

by Anna Khrupa on Mar 9, 2022

Agile is a term you can often hear if you’re related to the software development industry, but you may not actually know what it is unless you work with it professionally. Agile software development is definitely a major trend in the IT community. Sot what is Agile software development and why is it currently such a big trend? Find out right now!

What is Agile methodology in software development?

Agile is a software development methodology that is centered around the idea of iterative development. Unlike the Waterfall approach, which is linear and sequential, Agile is based on doing the work in small increments. This allows the team to develop the product faster, with more flexibility, and fewer quality issues that go unnoticed.

The term “Agile software development” has been around since 2001, when it was coined by 17 engineers searching for a more efficient way to create software. The Agile methodology is based on 12 principles that are defined in the Agile Manifesto and 4 key values:

  1. Individuals and interactions matter more than processes and tools.
  2. Functional software is more important than extensive documentation.
  3. Customer collaboration deserves more attention than contract negotiation.
  4. Agile is more about responding to change than about following the plan.

During its early days 20 years ago, the principles and values of Agile were mostly applicable to the software development industry. Since then, however, more industries and businesses have come to recognize the benefits of iteration-based development. This is why engineering, healthcare, marketing, and even military projects now use the same principles to achieve higher adaptability, development speed, and product quality.

What is Agile software development life cycle?

Under the Agile methodology, the software development life cycle is divided into six stages:

  1. Concept stage, where the product owner defines the scope of the project, its duration and cost, and the priority of this particular project in relation to other current projects.
  2. Inception stage, where the product owner assembles the team, taking into account their availability and relevant experience. At this stage, the team may start designing the product.
  3. Iteration stage, where the developers work alongside designers to make sure that all the design elements and features are present in the product. This is also known as the construction stage and is typically the longest phase in the SDLC.
  4. Release stage, where the team is getting ready to release the product to the market after a rigorous testing period and making changes to the code if necessary.
  5. Maintenance stage, where the product is available to the public and no major iterations are going to be required. The team may resolve issues with the product, update existing functionality, and add new features as needed.
  6. Retirement stage, where the current product’s life cycle ends and the team withdraws its support. It can happen due to the product being no longer needed or due to an alternative product that is going to replace the old one.

“Agile software development” is an umbrella term that combines several techniques and methodologies. Some of them are better known than the others, but these are the methodologies that are most widely used in modern software development:

  • Scrum;
  • Kanban;
  • Lean software development;
  • Feature-driven development;
  • Behavior-driven development;
  • Adaptive software development;
  • Dynamic software development method;
  • Extreme programming.

The important thing to remember here is that the choice of project methodology is not set in stone. There can be more than one methodology where the principles match the ones you are going for. There are countless teams that successfully combine aspects of two or more Agile methodologies to their benefit, and with a careful approach, anyone can do the same.

Benefits of Agile methodology

New technologies in IT come and go, but Agile has proven to be more than just a trendy buzzword. Going Agile is not something that you should do just because it’s a popular move in the industry. There are many benefits to the Agile approach, and here are the biggest ones.

Focus on quality

The Agile methodology focuses on two important aspects of quality: customer perception and business value. By bringing these two things together and using them as a reference at every stage of the development project, an Agile team is able to achieve higher quality of the product.

Better adaptability

The sprint nature of the Agile software development life cycle means that the team can introduce changes to the product exactly when they need to happen. The team will collect feedback not after the project is over, but while it’s actively running, and implement the changes based on what the customers actually need.

Timely delivery

One of the principles of the Agile approach is the division of the software development process into sprints that last from 1 to 4 weeks. By knowing exactly how long the next sprint is going to last and what it’s expected to add to the product, you will be able to plan your testing or release schedule more precisely.

Predictable costs

Because the process of developing a software product under Agile methodology is broken down into sprints, and the cost of each sprint is discussed before it starts, the client has a clear idea about the overall project costs. Moreover, the client is able to make more informed decisions when it comes to scaling the project or adding new features based on the anticipated budget.

Lower risks

The Agile software development life cycle gives you an opportunity to test your software product multiple times while it’s still being developed, as opposed to testing only once the product is completed. As a result, potential issues are located and resolved early, and there are fewer risks associated with the quality of the product.

Stakeholder involvement

Under the Agile methodology, the stakeholder or the clients of the development team are not some outside spectators who exist to tell what kind of project they need and then simply collect the finished product. The stakeholders are actively involved in every stage of the project and can clearly communicate their vision to the team, leading to fewer instances where the team has to start over or make significant changes to the product.

How to know if Agile is right for you

The Agile methodology may have a lot of benefits, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach that works for every software development project and team. These are the three signs that your team may benefit from a switch to Agile:

  1. Your project is expected to change or grow over the course of time and you want to be able to quickly make the necessary corrections in every iteration to ensure quality.
  2. Your team works from the same location and needs a convenient, effective way to collaborate on projects and achieve seamless delivery.
  3. You have a service-oriented project that relies on customer satisfaction for its success and want to be able to quickly collect and process customer feedback.

Roles in an Agile team

There are two signs of a true Agile team: it’s not big (up to 10 members), and every team member has a clearly defined role. These are the most important roles in every Agile project:

  • Stakeholder — a person who does not take active part in the development process but is interested in the successful outcome of the project. A stakeholder can be anyone from the end user to the project’s investor.
  • Product owner — a person who oversees the development of the product, its usability, and technical features.
  • Project manager — can also be called a Scrum Master in a Scrum project; directs the workflow and serves as the intermediary between the team and the client.
  • Software architect — a highly skilled specialist who creates the architecture of the software product and makes sure that it has all the necessary features.
  • Software developer — a person or a subteam that directly deals with the development of the product and writes code according to the project requirements and selected technologies.
  • QA engineer — a software tester or group of testers responsible for thoroughly checking every iteration of the software product for bugs, bottlenecks, performance issues, and security loopholes.
  • UI/UX designer — a person or a subteam that deals with the visual appeal of the product and makes sure that its interface is attractive and easy to navigate for the end user.
  • Business analyst — a specialist who analyzes the market and the value of the product, ensuring that it has a competitive advantage and can generate profit after its release.

Often, due to the specifics of the project or the small team size, not every role is represented in an Agile team. In other cases, a single team member can be responsible for more than one role — of course, as long as this kind of multitasking does not hurt the progress of the project.


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