The word ‘Agile’ brings to our mind a picture of liveliness, vigor, quickness, etc. The agile methodology too stands for these feelings. We are living in a fast moving world. Agile methodology is a project management approach which has been developed to keep in pace with the dynamic software development requirements popping up in the software industry. It was conceived by a group of engineers in the early 2000s aimed to promote a more efficient and collaborative way of developing software and systems. They even came up with a document called the agile manifesto which outlined the principles for this approach. Now, the agile methodology has been accepted as a mainstream software development methodology with many organizations already implementing this model and more and more organizations moving towards implementing it.

Why go Agile?

The agile methodology is all about being collaborative, flexible and adaptive. The goal of agile methodologies is to adapt to change and deliver working software as quickly as possible. In the traditional waterfall model, there are strict phases as shown below:
The model follows each of the phases sticking to the requirements and design plan created at the beginning of the project. The project would have many milestones and a project plan on how the work would be carried on through several gates to completion. From the requirements gathering phase to successfully delivering the entire product, it usually has a long release cycle, like six months or even longer. The chief drawback to this model is that it takes a very long time to deliver working software and also it is not responsive to changes. And like I already said the most important feature of agile methodology is to meet these issues of the waterfall model. There is no doubt that overcoming these challenges is of utmost importance in today’s business needs when the customer expectations are very high. Now let’s have a look at the features or core values of agile methodology:

  • Agile gives emphasis to individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  • In agile, importance is given for building working software over the comprehensive documentation as in the waterfall model.
  • Agile methodology emphasizes responding to change over following any solid plan.
  • Agile gives importance to customer collaboration rather than negotiating with the customer.
  • Agile methodology gives emphasis to the technical excellence of the teams as well as the teams have to be self-organized.

How Agile works?

So, how does the agile methodology overcome the challenges of the waterfall model? How exactly does it work? The word agile and the core values might make you think the agile methodology is highly unstructured and dynamic. But that’s not the case; rather it is a much focused yet rapidly iterative software process. The agile development model is an evolutionary delivery model. It uses an incremental, iterative work sequence commonly known as sprints. Iterative development implies frequently creating working versions of the final system that have a subset of the required features. So, at the end of each iteration or sprint or release, you have a working end product which has a subset of functionalities of the final product. These systems are short on functionality but should meet the demands of the final system and be fully integrated and as carefully tested as the final delivery.
Another important feature of agile is collaboration. There is a continuous interaction between the business, development team and testers at regular intervals to reflect on the progress and how to become more effective. These interactions are the key leading to better communication with clients and end users, better working relationships between developers and testers, better responsiveness to changing project requirements and a more efficient way of delivering the final product.

Agile Development Life Cycle

There are a variety of Agile software methodologies practiced by organizations these days like Scrum, Kanban, DAD (Disciplined Agile Delivery), Extreme Programming, Lean Software Development, etc. All these methods emphasize teamwork, frequent deliveries of working software, close customer collaboration, and ability to respond to change. Each methodology may have slight variations in defining the phases of software development, but the goal of each method is to adapt to change and deliver working software rapidly. Furthermore, each team’s process flow may vary depending on project situation as well. In general, the agile development cycle can be represented as shown below:

1. Requirements analysis

At this stage, the requirements for the particular iteration are defined based on the requirements prioritized by consulting with the customers and stakeholders. This phase involves many meeting with clients and other stakeholders.

2. Design/ Develop

At this phase, based on the finalized requirements design and develop software.

3. Test (QA)

Test the software for any issues. This phase includes unit testing, system testing, integration testing, and acceptance testing.

4. Release/Delivery

Release the working product of the corresponding iteration into production.

5. Feedback/ Review

This phase is a review of the customers and other stakeholders. Accept the customer feedback on the release product and also the feedback from other stakeholder and move to the next iteration. These feedback and review comments would be worked out in the next iterations.

Benefits of Agile Methodology

We have already seen agile methodology was developed to meet some of the challenges in waterfall model like long delivery time and inability to respond to changes. Here are few more advantages of Agile:

  1. In an agile model, the end goal can be unknown. Agile is suitable for projects where the end goal is not clearly defined. In agile there is always an opportunity to refine and reprioritize the requirements, letting the teams and clients introduce any changes to the project.
  2. Agile ensure faster and high-quality delivery with the consistent, successive iterations.
  3. In an agile model, there is a strong team interaction – teams work together and take responsibilities.
  4. Client satisfaction is more in agile methodology as they have opportunity to see the work being delivered, share their views and feedback by working closely with the project team.
  5. Agile projects have more scope for continuous improvement as the life cycle itself has a feedback gathering session after each iteration. The lessons learned and the feedback really helps in future iterations.
    So, that was all about the agile methodology. The agile methodology definitely has brought in a lot of changes in the way the software industry works- with respect to technologies used, quality of delivery and most of all the way people work. With many organizations already implementing the agile methodology in some form, it gives satisfaction to clients, organizations as well as the project team. Agile is definitely an approach that enables enterprises to effectively develop and deliver applications in this dynamic digital era!