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Agile Methodology Steps & Phases: Complete Explanation [2020]

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Suppose Google didn’t update its applications regularly. What if your favourite mobile game didn’t get any updates? What if you had to wait for months or even years to get a new version of an app?

It would be pretty irritating and disappointing. However, thanks to Agile methodology of software development, companies release regular updates, de-bug their applications, and keep you, the user, happy. 

You might wonder, “What is Agile Methodology?”. We’ll explain that in detail in this guide. So, let’s get started. 

What is Agile Methodology – Explained

As the name suggests, the agile methodology focuses on releasing products often and adapting to changes. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the term ‘agility’ refers to the ability to move quickly or swiftly. Agile methodology has become quite popular in the last few years because of its effectiveness and result-oriented approach. 

It’s a project management philosophy that focuses on such software development that relies on feedback and incremental changes. How you understand the environment around you and what kind of uncertainties you face, these are essential parts of this approach. 

Agile development focuses on the team rather than the product. The solutions in this approach depend on your team’s collaboration and cross-functions. An agile team is a self-organizing one. 

That doesn’t mean managers aren’t essential in agile development. Managers have the responsibility of ensuring every team member has the required skills. They are responsible for providing the members with a great environment so they can succeed in their work. 

History of Agile Development

Before agile development was popular, the Waterfall method was the most popular one. The Waterfall methodology was prevalent before a few decades. But the generation of software developers in the late 90s was dissatisfied with this methodology. They wanted a more flexible approach. 

The Waterfall approach is rigid, and the Agile methodology is flexible. In 2001, 17 software developers created the Agile Manifesto. They wanted to develop an alternative to heavyweight, document-driven software development processes. The four fundamental values of Agile development are as follows:

  • You should prioritize people and their interactions over the tools and processes
  • You should prioritize working software over detailed documentation
  • You should prioritize collaboration of customers over the negotiation of contracts
  • You should prioritize your responsiveness to change over your ability to stick to a plan

The Agile Mindset

In essence, Agile is a mindset. The creators of the Agile Manifesto laid down the 12 principles of Agile software development to explain it better:

  1. Satisfying your customers through continuous and early delivery of products should be your highest priority.
  2. If your project requirements change even in the later stages of development, you should welcome them.
  3. You should deliver a working product (software) often whether you launch it in a few weeks or months.
  4. Daily collaboration between the project’s stakeholders and the developers is a must.
  5. Your project should be built around motivated people. You must give them the environment and support they require, and you must trust them that they will complete the job.
  6. A face-to-face conversation is the most effective and efficient method of transferring information to and within your development team.
  7. Working product (software) is the critical measure of your progress.
  8. You should promote sustainable development. Your team, the stakeholders, the users, and the developers should be able to maintain a steady flow without hindrances.
  9. You should give constant attention to technical excellence, and good design improves agility
  10. Keeping processes simple, as in, reducing the work you need to do, is vital.
  11. Self-organizing teams generate the best designs, requirements, and architectures. 
  12. Your team should reflect on getting more active and then adjust its behavior accordingly. 

You’d notice that the primary principles of Agile development focus on user satisfaction the most. From releasing a working product frequently to having a good design, all of the fundamental values of this approach are focused on keeping the users happy. 

And it’s true. Your users (or clients) don’t care about your software documentation or your future strategies. They care about how soon they get the product, how fast they get the bug fixes, and what value the products offer to them. 

Differences between Agile and Waterfall

So you know that before the rise of Agile development, the Waterfall model was the most popular one. The Waterfall model has lost its popularity, but that doesn’t mean it’s obsolete. Many teams are still using this method. There are many differences between these two approaches that make them distinct. 

  • The agile model focuses on an iterative and incremental approach to software development, whereas in the Waterfall model, your software development takes place sequentially from the start to end. 
  • You’d have to break down an agile project into individual models. But you won’t have to do that in the Waterfall approach.
  • Your customers get early and frequent access to your working product in the agile approach. They can give you feedback accordingly and let you change your future work plan. On the other hand, your customers will get access to the product only when it’s finished if you follow the Waterfall approach.
  • The agile model is unstructured, whereas, the Waterfall model is structured and so, many consider it more secure.
  • Agile development is excellent for small projects as you can complete them fast. The Waterfall method is great for large projects because you can make more accurate estimations and complete the plan accordingly.
  • There is less planning in Agile development in comparison to Waterfall development.
  • You execute a development process in iterations of a few weeks when you follow an agile approach. On the other hand, with the Waterfall approach, you’ll complete the development process in phases, and a stage is bigger than an iteration. 
  • With an agile approach, you can fix errors in the middle of the process as you get feedback frequently. With the Waterfall approach, you’ll test the end product at the end and never before that. If you find an error in the end product, you’d have to restart the project right from the start. 
  • Documentation gets less priority in agile development in comparison to Waterfall development. In fact, in the latter, you might use the documentation for training your staff as well. 
  • Once an iteration ends in agile development, you send the shippable features to your customers directly. The customers can use those features right after receiving them. In the Waterfall approach, you’d send all the features of your product altogether when you finish the project after the phase.
  • In the agile approach, the testers and developers collaborate, whereas, in the Waterfall approach, they don’t. 
  • You’d perform user acceptance at the end of every sprint in Agile. In the Waterfall method, you’d perform user acceptance at the end of your project. 
  • Agile development requires developers to communicate closely and regularly for planning and analysis. In Waterfall development, developers don’t take part in the planning process and are only concerned with the coding phase. 

Agile Methodology Steps

Agile methodologies are of many kinds. We’ll discuss the most prominent ones among them briefly. You can refer to a methodology as a specific set of conventions your team chooses to follow. Your different teams can have different methodologies. Agile methodologies are those which follow the core values and principles of Agile development we discussed before. There are the following Agile methodologies:

  • Scrum
  • Kanban
  • DSDM (Dynamic Software Development Method)
  • Crystal Methodologies
  • FDD (Feature Driven Development)
  • XP (eXtreme Programming)

Let’s discuss the primary ones below:

Methodology 1: SCRUM

SCRUM is a framework that focuses on empowering teams to work together. It is a heuristic. It focuses on adjusting to factors that fluctuate and continuous learning. It understands that a team doesn’t necessarily know everything at the start of the task. Scrum is based on the strategies of rugby teams. 

It focuses on enhancing the collaboration in a team by dividing it into smaller ones, just like a rugby team does. You see, a rugby team has different groups of players who have specific responsibilities. In Scrum, your team also gets divided into smaller groups. 

Scrum has three primary artifacts that are an increment, a sprint backlog, and a product backlog. Let’s discuss each one of them briefly to understand Scrum better:

Product Backlog

Product backlog refers to the primary list of tasks your team needs to perform. The responsibility of maintaining this list goes to the product manager or product owner. It’s the to-do list of the group as it contains the requirements, fixes, enhancements, and features that are the input for the next artifact, sprint backlog. 

Sprint Backlog

This artifact contains a list of bug fixes and items your development teams select for the particular sprint cycle. However, a sprint backlog is quite flexible, and you have the option of modifying it during the sprint if required. 

Increment

Another name for an increment is the sprint goal. It refers to the end-product you get from a sprint. The sprint goal is the ultimate result of your development team. And you can say you’ve achieved this goal only when you’ve completed the entire process. 

Suppose your team needed to publish an app on the Play Store. In this case, you can say that you’ve achieved the sprint goal when you hit the publish button. 

As we mentioned earlier, Scrum divides your team into smaller segments. The first segment would be the Scrum Master, who has the responsibility of completing the team setup and management of sprint meetings. The second one is the Product Owner who has to create the product backlog and oversee the delivery at the end of every iteration. 

The last one is the Scrum Team, which works on the sprint cycle. 

Methodology 2: Kanban

Kanban focuses on developing the software in one long cycle. It’s quite different from SCRUM, the agile method we discussed earlier. In Kanban processes, you’d use cards that travel through the entire process. Kanban is incremental but not iterative. As it has no iterations, a Kanban project doesn’t have a specific start and endpoints. 

Its projects have ‘Work in Progress’ limits. They help your team in focusing on a small segment of the task at a time. You’d add new functions in the cycle only when you’ve completed the previous one. Kanban represents the various phases of the creation process through the multiple stages of the software development life cycle. You represent the features through Kanban cards and manage their flow such that the quantity of the features entered is the same as the number of functions completed. 

Methodology 3: Feature Driven Development (FDD)

Feature Driven Development focuses on building and designing the features. In FDD, your team would work in short phases that are highly specific and focus on working on an element. Design inspection, domain walkthrough, code inspection, and promotion for building are some examples of the same. In simple words, FDD focuses on feature-specific development. 

You’d have to work on component ownership, domain object modeling, regular builds, inspections, and feature teams. You must maintain proper visibility of results and the current progress of the project as well. 

Methodology 4: Lean Development

The iterative development methodology of agile matches the principles of Lean software development. Lean aims to reduce the amount of work in the process to manage the flow. This helps in enhancing the speed of delivery. Lean teams function as “Just In Time” systems. This means that they have to wait until the last required moment for making decisions. 

Lean focuses on the removal of waste. And according to Lean principles, anything which the customer won’t pay for is a waste. It also focuses on automating processes that are repeatable and are highly prone to human errors. 

Final Thoughts

Agile methodology is a broad topic. You can see how complex it is. Its impact on modern society is visible everywhere.

Overall, Agile practices/methods help create environments where the requirements are continually evolving and changing. Through a disciplined project-management approach, Agile methodology promotes and pushes the delivery of high-quality software that is aligned with customer needs.

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