Agile Software Development:
Benefits & Best Practices
Think about the experience of building a custom home. Is the first thing you see a completed structure, fully decorated and landscaped? Of course not.
Working together as a team, the future homeowner works with an architect and a builder to outline the desired features.
Then, the home is built in stages by skilled professionals according to a plan, budget and schedule. Generally, the owner is actively involved and can guide the process when questions emerge, as they inevitably do in building projects.
The idea behind the agile software development process is much the same. Agile is an iterative approach to developing software where teams of Business Analysts, Designers and Developers work collaboratively with the client’s designated “Product Owner” to ensure the vision, business goals, and user needs are met.
“Agile software development is a process that turns a vision for a business need into solutions. We use agile because it results in software that better supports our customer needs on a faster timeline.”
The Benefits of Agile Software Development
The agile movement is based on the overarching goal of building software more simply. Agile helps teams respond to unpredictability through incremental, iterative work, which also allows the team to gather feedback and react quickly.
The benefits of agile software development were summarized in the 2001 ‘Agile Manifesto’ which included 12 principles:
- Customer satisfaction through early and continuous software delivery.
- Accommodate changing requirements throughout the development process.
- Frequent delivery of working software.
- Collaboration between the business stakeholders and developers throughout the project.
- Support, trust and motivate the people.
- Enable face-to-face interactions (co-location).
- Working software is the primary measure of progress.
- Agile processes support a consistent development pace.
- Attention to technical detail and design enhances agility.
- Self-organizing teams encourage great architectures, requirements, and designs.
- Regular reflections on how to become more effective.
Customer input is a central element to the process. The Product Owner has the power to change priorities and manage the budget as the project unfolds, resulting in software that is deployed quicker while meeting customer needs more precisely.
“While we take the time to get to know the business, no one knows it better than the customer. The Product Owner’s knowledge about the system being automated or created really guides developers on what product features should be included and when they should be deployed.”
Agile Development Best Practices
With more than two decades of expertise in the software and IT world, TDK’s agile software development teams have identified several best practices that can help your business thrive. They are:
- Get used to life without a big up-front design.
- Learn to guide the design by influencing the Product Owner to select items from the backlog in early sprints which help drive out downstream uncertainties.
- The optimal team size is 5 – 7 members.
- As team members, specialists remain valuable but should also be able to contribute beyond the confines of their specialty.
- Feature-focused teams are best at evaluating the impact of design decisions and keeping the focus on delivery features.
- When components and specialists might have to be shared between several feature teams, a component-based team can make good sense.
- Teams should strive to deliver working software at the end of each sprint. At the very least, deliver something valuable at the end of each sprint.
- Sprints should be strictly timeboxed to better manage scope, develop a cadence, and facilitate more effective sprint and release planning.
- Iterative demos of working software are useful to validate stories, use cases and assumptions, and to elicit regular user/customer feedback.
- Integrate testing into the entire development process, including user acceptance testing.
Agile software development is an incredibly effective practice, but it may not be the answer for every organization’s software development solution.
Project risks must be identified, analyzed and mitigated, and the delivery approach needs to be planned accordingly.
When agile software development does make sense, organizations can utilize it to deliver high quality software with a faster speed to market, increased efficiencies, and a reduced budget.