Agile Methodology: What is Agile, How It Works, Best Practices, Tools

This tutorial aims to teach you about Agile methodology or Agile process in simple and easy steps. The underlying philosophy of Agile is to bring people to work together and accomplish a common goal. Here, our focus is on how the team can work together, plan, execute and deliver a quality Software following the Agile mindset.

From this tutorial, you’ll get to the basic concept of Agile methodology, its principles and manifesto, various techniques and how to use them at work. The scope of Agile is not only limited to software developers, but it applies to Tech Leaders, Engineering Managers, Product Managers, Testers, Tech Pubs, and anyone associated with a release. Agile process is flexible, fast, and promotes continuous delivery and improvements in quality.

Table of Index

Agile Methodology - A Complete Guide

The Need for Agile Methodology

Before you adapt to the Agile process, you first need to acknowledge that the legacy “Waterfall” way of Software development had a lot of gaps to fill. The sequence of “Plan, Design, Execute, Validate, Deliver” might work for producing mobile phones or infrastructure projects but not the same for building Software applications. In a dynamic business environment where the cost and competition drive the changes, it’s the Agile methodology which has been successful in drawing a delicate balance between the expectations and the execution.

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What is Agile Methodology?

Agile Methodology is a modern software development method for executing a project from the inception to its end. It introduces the concept of failing faster which only means to get quick feedback on the work done. By executing in this manner, it expects to reduce the risk of failure after spending months on a project or a late discovery of mismatch in requirements. Agile defines a value system where the teams and the individuals get more ownership in planning, design, development, and execution. It inculcates trust, confidence, and goodwill among them.

The success of the Agile process depends on the team and each member to work directly with the customer to understand the real picture and propose solutions quickly and incrementally. Following are the influential factors of the Agile methodology.

1- Short and quick

Legacy software development processes like Waterfall used to have phases like requirements collection, planning, design, coding, testing, and release.

On the contrary, Agile methodology aims to deliver the entire release in the form of increments in a couple of weeks and the fully functional version in a few months.

2- Communication

In Agile, the teams meet daily, exchange info, discuss impediments at every stage of the project. Such collaboration and exchange of ideas guarantee the release stays on track even if the scope changes a bit.

3- Feedback

This one is the beauty of the agile process. Since the team delivers features in increments, so they get quick feedback from Dev, QA, PO, and customers. That’s how the Agile methodology helps in tracking the progress of the development cycle regularly.

4- Trust

In Agile, the teams and each member are self-organizing. The process backed by the management empowers them to understand the goals and define their respective paths to reach success.

5- Adjustment

The agile team can quickly align and adjust the process based on the need. The KIS or Keep It Simple principle is what guide them.

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Timeline of Agile Software Development

The software industry saw a bit of crisis in the early 1990s. Some called it “the application development crisis” and some referred to it as “application delivery lag.” The problem was the inability to meet customer demands and requirements. Also, the processes at that time used to take a long time to deliver the product. They were using a timeline-based approach, where the development process was sequential, and the customers had to wait until the very final step. The more the delivery time, more were the chances for customers to change their specifications. So, by the time the application was ready, the original requirements would have had lost the relevancy.

Even, there were projects which got to stop in the midway. Hence, the professional leaders of the software industry had to think of a new approach to address the above issues. In 2001, some of these leaders met in Utah and conceptualized the idea of Agile. They were all in sync to materialize this process and recognized it at the industry level. They also devised agile guidelines and named the document as the Agile Manifesto.

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What is the Agile Manifesto?

The Agile Manifesto is an advisory which contains the values and principles to follow in the Agile methodology.

It includes four foundational values and twelve principles. Each has a purpose to help explore better ways of developing software.

The Agile Manifesto proposes to have a clear and measurable structure and encourages iterative development, team collaboration, and accept changes.

You can read about the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto from below:

Agile Values

1- Trust individuals and prefer interactions over processes and tools
2- Focus on delivering working software rather than complete documentation
3- More customer involvement than just negotiation
4- Willing to accommodate changes instead of being rigid to a plan

Agile Principles

1- Short development cycles, quick delivery, and happy customer
2- Accept scope changes, revise goals
3- Continuous delivery of working software
4- Collaboration between all stakeholders throughout the project
5- Show confidence in the people involved
6- Allow transparent interactions
7- Working software defines the progress
8- Agile processes to normalize the development speed
9- Refer design and technical details
10- Simplicity
11- Self-organizing is the key to good architectures, requirements, and designs
12- Revisit how to become more efficient

The people following the Agile methodology should align with these values and principles. The Agile Manifesto provides clarity on the Agile development lifecycle practices.

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Agile Project Management

Agile project management is a proven method to produce complex projects on time. It stresses the following aspects.

  • Collaboration,
  • Flexibility,
  • Continuous improvement, and
  • High-quality deliverables.

It makes use of six primary “deliverables” to monitor the progress and release the product.

Following are the deliverables.

1- Product vision statement

A summary which defines the goals of the product.

2- Product roadmap

A high-level overview of the requirements to implement.

3- Product backlog

The complete list of features to be added to the project.

4- Release plan

A graphical document to show the release progress.

5- Sprint backlog

The list of user stories picked in the latest sprint.

6- Increment

The working product with features implemented in the current sprint cycle.

There are many frameworks for Agile project management which you can pick and start developing a product. Each of them has unique feature-set and terminology. But they all follow the same principles and practices.

The most famous ones are the Scrum and Kanban which supports the Agile development lifecycle.

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Agile Scrum Framework

Scrum is the most used Agile framework. It helps in applying the practices laid down by the Agile software development. Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber were the two of thirteen members who devised the Agile Manifesto. It includes the following five values:

1- Commitment,

2- Courage,

3- Focus,

4- Openness, and

5- Respect.

It helps to create, deliver, and maintain difficult products through collaboration, answerability, and interactiveness.

What puts Scrum aside from other Agile frameworks are the roles, events, and a set of artifacts which it uses to achieve the release goals. They are as follows:

Roles in Scrum framework

1- Product owner

A person who is an interface for the stakeholders, and a messenger of the customer.

2- Development team

A team of self-organizing members who works to deliver the product (developers, QA, UI/UX)

3- Scrum master

A person who addresses the blockers. He brings the team together, enforces Scrum execution and imparts process awareness.

Scrum events

1- Sprint

A cyclic development process, have a fixed timeframe for each cycle in a release. Its purpose is to accomplish the sprint goals.

2- Sprint planning

A planning meeting which occurs at the onset of every sprint to define the goals for the current cycle.

3- Daily Scrum

It’s a time-bound meeting of fifteen minutes duration, occurs every day at the same time for a release. It provides a platform to discuss previous day’s achievements and the expectations for the next day.

4- Sprint review

A meeting which occurs when the Sprint ends. Here, the Scrum team demonstrates the features done in that cycle.

5- Sprint retrospective

It is a meeting for the team to re-look the way the previous sprint has gone and decides for the action items for the next cycle.

Scrum Artifacts

1- Product backlog

A comprehensive work catalog created by the product owner for keeping the customer requirements in the form of user stories.

2- Sprint backlog

A smaller work catalog derived from the product backlog includes items for implementation in the current sprint.

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Kanban Framework

Kanban is a visualization-centric method which is also quite famous for Agile project management. It sketches a real-time picture of the project workflow to ensure early discovery of bottlenecks in the process and on-time delivery of the higher quality product.

It lays down the six general practices which are as follows:

1- Visualization-centric
2- Restricting work in progress
3- Workflow management
4- Keep policies explicit
5- Encourage feedback loops
6- Collaborative or innovative evolution

It was in the 1940s when the production line of Toyota factories though of this concept. Its purpose was to bring in efficiency with the help of visual aids for showing milestones of the development process.

A Kanban framework has the following key elements.

1- Kanban board

A visual dashboard which showcases the development workflow. It can be both physical (a whiteboard or sticky notes) or virtual (a tool like Jira). You can use it for personal productivity, as well as team-wise.

2- Kanban cards

The card represents a work unit/item in the entire work process. You can use it to share the progress within the team. It can take many forms such as a status, a timeframe, or the project deadlines.

3- Kanban swimlanes

It is another visual element on the dashboard which helps in segregating work units/items by grouping them. It spans horizontally, enables filtering and gives a clear picture of the workflow.

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Agile Methodology Best Practices

We are outlining seven best practices of Agile Methodology which you should use while implementing any of the available Agile frameworks.

1- Customer Collaboration

Agile Manifesto includes it as one of its core values. It’s an integral part of the Agile methodology. With continuous communication,  the dev team, PO, and the customer would always have the clear view on the progress. Their united effort will lead to delivering a quality product.

2- User Stories

The PO should create user stories as they describe a software feature from a customer perspective. A User Story is nothing but a simple form of the requirement. It helps to understand the user’s context of the product, what he wants, and the reason(s) for having it.

3- Continuous Integration

Continuous Integration (CI) is an industry-wide practice for regulating the development process. It organizes the development process and stabilizes the product by creating daily or frequent builds. The goal of CI is to optimize the time and effort spent in the integration.

4- Automated Testing

Automation is the life-line for any Agile framework. It helps to establish that the regular changes are not breaking anything in the code. It also ensures that the code changes are acceptable or not. Building a regression test suite is what should be the objective of Agile teams.

The team should continually add the regression tests to avoid any manual verification of the features delivered in previous increments.

5- Pair Programming

It is an agile technique in which two programmers carry out development in a pair. One writes the code whereas the other does the review. They can also switch roles frequently.

6- Test-driven Development (TDD)

TDD encourages simple designs and brings in confidence. The agile team prepares test cases for the requirements, automates, and then use it to qualify as a stable software build.

7- Burndown Charts

A burndown chart is a graph-based reflection of the work that is pending versus the time to finish it. In Agile project management, such a technique makes us forecast the completion timeframe. It can also portray the no. of User Stories per unit of time.

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Summary – Agile Methodology

Indeed, Agile Methodology is a powerful tool for the software teams looking for a resilient strategy to product development. It has proved that Agile also applies to the software industry. Any IT business which needs a quick action plan can utilize Agile for better customer collaboration, efficient teamwork, conscious changes, and none the less, quality results.

We hope the Agile methodology could improve the way your team currently works. If you wish to see more such updates, then please follow us on (Facebook/Twitter).