Project management is not particularly an easy task. And since there are excess number of methodologies available to choose from, organizations have become more confused than ever.
There is one trend, however, that is growing exponentially since 2015 and earlier – Agile.
Agile methodologies have helped many organizations to respond quickly to the changing market conditions, increase customer satisfaction, and improve overall efficiency.
But, there are still lots of organizations that are facing difficulties in understanding & adopting Agile.
So, to help such organizations overcome these challenges, we’ve comprised a comprehensive guide that explains everything about Agile.
This guide is meant for:
- Anyone who wants to gain knowledge on what is agile and why it is freakishly awesome.
- Anyone who wants to learn ins and outs of agile project management methodologies.
- Anyone who is afraid to adapt agile methodologies in their next software development project.
Who are we to write about agile?
We’re a leading software development company based in India. We help startups, small-to-medium businesses, and large-scale organizations with mobile, web, and software development.
Since our inception in 2011, we’ve witnessed both Waterfall and agile projects fail and succeed.
We’ve learned what works and what not, and after implementing both software development methodologies throughout our journey, we’ve simply fallen in love with Agile.
This 10-minute guide will cover following:
- Overview of Agile
- Limitations of Traditional Waterfall Model Approach
- History of Agile Methodologies
- How Agile Works
- Agile Misconceptions & Their Actual Benefits
- Popular Agile Methodologies
- When to Embrace Agile in Your Project
- How to Use Agile Methodologies to Your Advantage
Overview of agile
As most of you might already know that in the past few years, a new project management approach called ‘Agile’ has taken the software development and testing world by storm.
In fact, according to a study by Version One. 94% of organizations are already practicing agile in some form.
In simplest terms, Agile is a way to manage projects. While agile approach can be used for virtually anything; however, it was originally founded in software development industry.
Unlike Waterfall approach, where all the requirements are gathered at the beginning, then all the design is done next, and lastly the development part gets executed, the Agile approach allows business analysts, designers, developers, and stakeholders to work together simultaneously.
It basically breaks large projects into small iterations. And, at the end of each iteration, something of great value is produced.
Limitations of traditional waterfall model approach
Waterfall approach was first presented by Winston Royce in 1970 and it was first intended to be used in the development of government projects.
Web applications were a perfect remedy to this problem. Both Uber and Instagram could increase their reach by setting their foot in the Web world. And that’s what exactly happened.
This approach was called Waterfall due to its design of cascade activities that went through phases starting from analysis, requirements, specification, design, development, testing, and maintenance.
While the traditional IT managers have successfully developed lots of software with Waterfall approach, but there are still two huge limitations which cause a lot of problem during the software development process.
Making changes will be extremely difficult
As you already know, Waterfall approach is based on following a set of phases that keep the software development process keep moving forward. Due to this nature, this methodology leaves no room for making unexpected changes.
Now, imagine that your team has followed all steps loyally and have reached a near-end of your software project, but then, an unexpected bug has occurred that necessitates a change in the original scope of project.
When this happens (and it usually does in software development), making changes won’t be easy. It will demand a lot of work and will also waste time and money.
Excludes the client from project
The Waterfall approach mainly focuses on helping internal team work efficiently throughout all phases of project, while involving the client rarely in the process.
Now in the modern age, clients wants to be involved during the development as often as possible for adding their opinions and clarifying how exactly they want their software to work.
But,since Waterfall approach gives very little attention to the client involvement, chances are high for receiving change requests later in the development.
History of agile methodologies
The history agile approach goes way back to 1957 when John von Neumann, Gerald Weinberg, Bernie Dimsdale, and Herb Jacobs were using incremental software development technique for the software that they were building for Motorola and IBM.
Although, they did not know that they were actually practicing Agile at that time. All they knew was that it was different from the Waterfall approach in many ways.
The Modern-day agile methodologies were actually discovered in 2001 when a group of 17 software engineers met to discuss an alternative project management approach.
All 17 engineers had a clear vision of creating lightweight, flexible, and team-oriented approach, thus they formed the entire Manifesto of Agile project management which was aimed at discovering better ways to develop software.
How agile works
Unlike the traditional Waterfall approach, the Agile methodologies follow an iterative approach. The agile approach basically involves a number of cycles usually called ‘sprints’ that are designed, developed, and tested individually.
Simply, consider each sprint to be a miniature project having its own backlog, design, development, testing, and deployment phases within the pre-defined scope of work.
At the end of each sprint, a potentially deliverable product is shipped. In simple terms, with every iteration completion, new features are added to the main software which results into the software growth.
Agile misconceptions & their actual benefits
Even though the agile methodologies have been adopted majorly worldwide, there are still many misconceptions about Agile approach which are listed below.
It’s too different
“Although I’m well-aware that Agile is a popular project management approach nowadays, but I’m just scared as it will be difficult to get my team on board with it.”
We have heard this too many times! We know that the agile approach can be a completely new concept to you and your whole team.
We also know that it will demand a slight rewiring as to how all stakeholders will stay on the same page during the software development.
But, all companies that have adopted Agile know that this new approach runs the software development cycle consistently smooth.
While you might feel that in Waterfall approach, the entire software project is under control as everything is mapped out at the beginning phase, but in reality, the project actually take way longer than expected and costs way more than should.
The biggest drawback of Waterfall approach is that it doesn’t allow the flexibility to make changes during the development as and when new ideas come to mind.
“I have a strict budget and that doesn’t work with Agile.”
Wrong! There is no such evidence proving that Agile can’t meet a strict budget.
For those who have no idea how project cost is calculated in agile approach, here’s how it works – Agile provides you dedicated resources, and there is a fixed cost to each sprint that includes number of team members.
An experienced software development company can provide you with a net time estimation of how long it will take to build specific software and on the basis of that they can provide you with cost estimation.
Additionally, if your project evolves or you choose to add a new feature, Agile also allows you to eliminate a similar-sized feature so that you can stick to your initial budget.
Yes! Agile can be unpredictable sometimes. But so are the other software development approaches. To be honest, it is completely impossible to figure out exactly what the software should be in the beginning of development.
But, unlike the traditional approach, Agile embraces this unpredictability and uses it to its own advantage and produces better outputs.
Developers prioritize all features
Some people still believe that in the agile approach, developers decide what is important and what should be implemented & when.
Now this is far from the truth because at the beginning of each sprint, there is always a comprehensive sprint meeting conducted where all stakeholders participate and decide which feature(s) will be developed and delivered in that sprint.
This sprint meeting generally includes designers, developers, project manager, the client, and sometimes the end-users as well.
Agile demands more teamwork
True! Agile does demand a closer collaboration between designers and developers, and getting everyone on the same page can be a bit more of a uphill task. But in the end, the output of such close teamwork always results into better software that is developed faster and for less money.
Agile is more focused on short-term
We just can’t seem to understand why, but some people still believe that because the Agile approach divides projects into short iterations or sprints, it doesn’t take the long term goals into account.
In reality, Agile approach provides way better and a lot more benefits compared to the traditional approach. Moreover, by start testing earlier during development, it allows you to make better decisions for your long-term goals indirectly.
Popular agile methodologies
Let’s admit it. – Each organization is different and so are their internal as well as external factors that they face. So, to meet such varying requirements of different organizations, there are two different agile methodologies.
Now, which methodology is right for your organization will completely depend upon your internal as well as external factors.
But, we will discuss each agile methodology individually in detail, along with explaining how it is different from Waterfall approach and also its primary benefit.
By now, you’ve most probably know about the term – “Scrum”. It is a popular agile project management methodology which focuses on defining key features and its objectives in the beginning of each sprint.
Simply put, Scrum was introduced to reduce the overall risk in a software project, while also providing the value faster.
How scrum works?
Scrum basically begins with the requirements or a story that explains how the specific features should work and be tested. Once the team understands and knows the expected outcome, they cycle through a set of sprints which provide small value quickly and consistently.
How scrum is different from waterfall approach?
While the Waterfall approach consists several testing cycles before delivering the final software, but comparatively, Scrum is more beneficial as it is iterative and collaborative.
Moreover, the biggest disadvantage (like mentioned earlier) of Waterfall approach is that it demands very heavy documentation at the beginning.
This documentation, then, makes it difficult to make changes in the pre-defined features as development progresses.
Scrum, on the other hand, is like “mini-Waterfalls” as at the beginning of each sprint, the requirements are first discussed and finalized.
Also, the specific requirements of the next sprint is also not decided in advance, allowing you to prioritize and make changes easily if required.
Kanban was originally developed by Toyota due to their need to increase productivity in their factories. Kanban is a very simple Agile methodology which can be defined as a large, prioritized to-do list.
How kanban works?
While Scrum and Kanban is very much same at one level, but different at other. In simple terms, the requirements in Kanban, like Scrum, is also monitored by their current status such as to-do, in development, in test, and delivered.
On the other hand, however, Kanban is not time-based. Unlike Scrum, it is solely based on priority.
For instance, when the development team is ready for their next task, they pull a task from to-do column and puts it under in development column. However, keep in mind that since there are less meetings in Kanban, it is extremely important for all stakeholders to be incredibly close.
How kanban is different from waterfall approach?
While Kanban is actually a little similar to Waterfall approach, but the requirements in Kanban can be changed easily as the testing engineers on the team doesn’t start testing a developed sprint until the developers pull it from the backlog.
Furthermore, even though Waterfall is heavily time-based (which is good), but it isn’t always mandatory. Moreover, in Kanban it’s also possible to plan releases based on the place of a particular item on the backlog.
When to embrace agile methodologies
We’ve found the best resource that shares the different conditions and when agile approach is favourable or not favourable based on conditions shown in the image below.
How to get maximum out of agile methodologies
There are only three keys to get maximum out of any agile methodology.
For any agile software development project to succeed, the planning must be well. This doesn’t mean that you should plan every last detail in the beginning like the traditional Waterfall model, but you still need to think through a bit ahead of the time.
Every software project benefits from a good communication between the development team and stakeholders. And here, agile software projects are no exception.
In fact, by keeping everyone in the loop and by making sure that everyone is on the same page about what is next and what is behind in the schedule, you can easily avoid concerns regarding unpredictability.
Lastly, you can avail great benefits by ensuring that the hired dedicated teams are willing to collaborate with one another and have mutual goals. Remember, the better the team collaboration, the better the end result.
All in all, the agile methodologies are meant to improve software development process, not to complicate it. Its primary benefits include helping organization release their software faster and better and for a lot less money.
However, If you’re still unsure about adopting Agile in your next software project or have any concerns, share them in the form section below.