1. Satisfy the insatiable customer needs with continuous value streaming & continuous product delivery.
2. Help customers win by embracing change, and make responding to adversity & changing market needs their competitive edge.
3. Frequently ship working software to the end user — the shorter the time between software delivery and deployment, the better.
4. Effective collaboration among cross-functional teams is key to the success of agile software development methodology.
5. Identify self-managed & self-driven individuals to execute the agile project. Micro-management of talent, esp of the engineering team can be counter-productive. Good agile leaders help provide the environment & facilitate getting the job done by identifying and removing any impediments.
6. Agile principles advocates for face-to-face interaction for effective & efficient communication.
7. Working software is one of the core values of the Agile Manifesto. How frequently you ship value to the end users is the prime indicator of an Agile project’s success, not the software delivery but deployment without any critical bugs.
8. Sprint like a cheetah, but iterate like a tortoise. Burnout does nothing good to anyone, neither the developers nor the project. Consistency results in improved software quality.
9. Scalable, secure, reliable tech stack & architecture are the foundational pillars of agile software development. Good UX further improves the CX and satisfies customer expectations.
10. Agile principle evangelizes priority-driven feature development. Identify what need not be essential, and push ahead what will have a critical impact on growth, customer satisfaction, and engagement.
11. Decision-making is democratized in agile software development methodologies. There is no hierarchy. Everyone is equally involved in defining requirements, choosing the tech stack, and deciding on the final design of the software. This builds accountability among self-managed individuals and they give their best.
12. One of the core pillars of agile is to fail fast, and learn faster. Agile teams must periodically assess themselves at individual & team levels to spot scopes of improvement and accordingly do course correction to incrementally improve their performance, efficiency, and software outcomes.
Agile Software Development Advantages
- Continuous value delivery: Iterative/incremental software development, delivery, deployment.
- Market-competent: Effectively embrace, adapt, and respond to rapidly changing requirements.
- High quality & reliability: Feedback-led, customer-centric software development.
- Improved transparency & collaboration: Effective & efficient collaboration & communication within the agile development team.
Agile Software Development Challenges
The grass is not all green. Agile software development projects have their own fair share of challenges & pitfalls to address, often referred to as agile smells or agile anti-patterns —
1. Change request triggered Technical debt
Working software over documentation is the core value of the Agile manifesto but it can equally backfire. While agile software development can of course significantly improve the speed of development if done negligently, even small change requests can result in excessive re-work i.e., add to the technical debt of the company.
2. Story injection into iteration
Stories in agile projects are equivalent to new feature requests. Iteration is a planned time frame in which a set of stories will be developed and delivered. Normally, in non-agile software development methodologies, if a feature is highly critical, it may get adjusted in the course of development.
But doing the same in agile will be considered detrimental to the flow of work i.e., planned progression of iterations. This is because all the stakeholders must come to a consensus and re-align with the new iteration plan. Ideally, in agile software development, any new story must wait in the backlog before it enters an iteration to avoid slowing down the agile delivery process.
3. No buy-in from top-level management
In organizations that are operating on legacy infrastructure, buy-in for agile is tough to win as there is no empirical evidence of agile benefits.
So, the early agile adopters in any organization are often self-funded teams, who face high resistance from other teams, and have no support from management. On top of this, insufficient training & lack of guidance often leads the early agile projects to get buried in the graveyard of failed projects.
4. Teammates playing whack-a-mole with roles
As agile software development teams are cross-functional and versatile, often, the members are pulled into different projects and roles, which leads to a divided focus on agile project goals.
This results in poor-quality software development, poor code quality, and inefficient collaboration.
5. Deviation from Agile principles
Teams often misinterpret the flexibility of agile software development as the license to do anything — and so often developers take up the product owner's role, scrum masters try to bridge development gaps, senior developers assign tasks to juniors, overloading iterations with stories & goals, etcetera. The key engineering KPIs, and project management metrics for such agile software always find themselves in a vicious cycle of downward spirals.
6. Not embracing test automation, code refactoring, and DevOps
This leads to sprawling technical debt and an ever-growing product backlog. In iterative development approaches, software testing & code refactoring play a key role in ensuring high software quality.
By rigorously performing unit, integration, and regression testing for newly developed features & software components, developers can avoid the bulk reworking which would be needed at later stages otherwise.
Whoosh. Too many pitfalls!!! But don’t worry, next we reveal the secret we promised to share about successful agile engineering teams that mitigate most of the aforementioned challenges.
Using Engineering Analytics For Successful Agile Software Development Teams
We mentioned earlier that early adopters of agile teams find it difficult to garner support from management mainly due to a lack of any empirical evidence. This situation arises because agile engineering teams do not have any concrete system in place to report on engineering KPIs & metrics.
Successful agile software development projects not only make use of engineering analytics tools to measure and report progress but also plug in the gaps in agile project planning by tracking the right metrics, identifying the loopholes, and then fixing them.
For instance, companies like Amenify, Bobbl.ai, and multiple other Fortune 500 global startups & enterprises alike use Hatica’s suite of products to track key engineering metrics like–
1. DORA for assessing DevOps efficiency
Let’s say ‘Deployment frequency’ is high, and the ‘change failure rate’ is low — that means high-quality software is being shipped by the team. But if the change failure rate is high, it means low-quality software is shipped to the end-user. Maybe, the engineering manager/team needs to identify if test automation is properly implemented, or whatever is the underlying cause, and fix it ASAP. Ideally, any performance, integration, or functionality-related bugs should be detected in the CI/CD pipeline.
[Read more: How to use DORA for software delivery]
2. Cycle time metrics to identify & mitigate bottlenecks in the SDLC process
Another excellent engineering KPI is the cycle time metric which basically means the time period between the requirement/story from the backlog (list of features that needs to be developed) being assigned to a member of the agile software development project and the final deployment of the story.
Again, engineering managers use the Hatica dashboard to gain comprehensive visibility into the development team’s workflow and find solutions if they identify any bottlenecks or scope for improvement.
Sometimes, developers are staring at burnout which drastically hampers their productivity. With engineering analytics tools, great engineering managers can easily ensure the well-being of their developers. See how it works.
There are some 70+ engineering KPIs that every agile software development team can leverage for maximizing productivity, software quality, and subsequently every stakeholder’s peace of mind (of course, including developers). We have discussed the most common ones in our article on Engineering KPIs. See, if they could be beneficial for enhancing your team’s outcomes.
What are the Different Agile Software Development Methodologies?
There are multiple agile development methodologies, models, and frameworks for agile software development.
- Scrum & Kanban are the most popular agile frameworks among agile practitioners as they are highly efficient.
- SAFe and DAD are two evolving agile-based frameworks that natively encompass DevOps into their software development lifecycle process.
- LEAN, XP, DSDM, and FDD are some other popular agile frameworks.
Find here more details on each of these agile frameworks, the similarities & differences. Next, we briefly explain 2 wildly popular agile development frameworks-
- Scrum is an iterative, non-sequential, and prescriptive agile software development approach to building and delivering digital applications.
- Agile’s “time-boxed iterations” in Scrum are called Sprints i.e., a short period of time during which a set of stories (product features) are developed and delivered.
- Agile software development Scrum teams comprise a product owner, a scrum master, and developers.
- Ideally, the Scrum team size is kept under 10 members who are geographically or digitally in close vicinity (preferably, working under the same roof) and possess T-shaped skills. Read more about Scrum.
- Kanban is an adaptive agile software development approach.
- In other words, the Kanban framework is designed to balance the demand and capacity aspects of software development.
- New feature requests (often referred to as user stories in Kanban) are only taken up if there are bandwidth & available resources for the same. In fact, that’s the soul of Kanban i.e., to limit the Work In Progress (WIP).
Another major benefit of the Kanban agile development methodology is that it improves overall visibility into the software development processes & project progress. This is achieved via Kanban boards:
- These boards have columns and cards.
- On a high level, every Kanban board has three columns — Requested, Work-In-Progress, and Done.
- Based on the type/need of the project, each column can be further split. For instance, a colleague of mine personally prefers, Requested to be split into high priority & low priority. Similarly, WIP can be split into Developing, Debugging, and Reviewing. Lastly, Done into Delivered and Deployed.
What does a Typical Agile Software Development Lifecycle Looks Like?
Whack! This could be a bummer for many…
Agile SDLC is not much different than the Waterfall approach to software development. The difference is — unlike Waterfall SDLC, agile development lifecycle stages are not linear. Agile SDLC is sequential too, but they are iterative. Also, unlike waterfall, in Agile SDLC stakeholders are not strictly bound to one responsibility — anyone is free to don any hat (this depends on the chosen Agile framework).
On a high level, Agile SDLC is a 5 stage iterative methodology to software development. We’ve split it into 7 for better understanding:
- Research & conceptualize the software (Ideation & Design thinking)
- Deciding on the Agile framework, team formation, and planning the iterations/sprints
- Execution, Implementation, and Development of the project (coding)
- Reviews, QA Testing (quality assurance)
- Delivery, deployment (DevOps)
- Maintenance & upgradation (adapting & responding to evolving market conditions)
- Retirement — the funeral.
What Does a Typical Agile Software Development Team Look Like?
Agile teams are very dynamic & flexible — they are truly cross-functional, highly collaborative, and of course, non-hierarchical.
How agile teams are formed, and what roles & responsibilities are they accountable for is completely dependent on the agile framework that gets chosen for agile software development.
The SAFe agile framework will have different roles/titles in an agile team as compared to KANBAN, and vice-versa. The same goes for SCRUM & KANBAN, or any agile framework for that sake.
But no matter what the agile team structure is, all of them focus on—
- Having team members with T-shape skills, where the vertical line represents their core specific skill, and the horizontal lines represent the complementary skills that can be utilized in the project. So, let’s say, an engineering manager who has a really good understanding of the export market is a good fit for an agile team, which would develop a B2B marketplace for exporters & importers.
- Choosing individuals from diverse backgrounds for a balanced & versatile team environment, and to keep biases away from the product under development
- Selecting team players who keep internal politics and competition at bay, and rather cherish collaboration & peer learning
- Keeping the team size between 3-10 maximum.
- If the team size is big, agile teams prefer specialist team structure over generalists. And if it is small, then generalists are preferred. You may also go for a hybrid agile team structure i.e., a mix of both specialists & generalists for mid to large-size agile teams. Two more popular agile team structures are parallel structure (where roles of individuals change over iterations/sprints), and sub-teams (where there are teams within agile teams).
Key roles & responsibilities in an agile team —
1. Team Lead — who ensures everything runs smoothly in an agile project.
S/he overlooks everything in an agile project, right from the requirements lists (backlog/user stories) to sprints/iterations, workflows, meetings, team members' well-being, adherence to agile manifesto values & principles, and literally everything up until the project enters the retirement phase. Team leads have different titles in different agile development frameworks. For example, in the SCRUM agile framework, they are called Scrum Masters.
2. Product Owner — In agile methodology, an agile team member is the official representative for the client’s side.
POs need not be confused with project managers. Product owners deal with the business aspects of the project, while a project manager deals with the execution of the project.
Attributes of an ideal product owner for an agile methodology:
- Proximity to the business decision-makers from the client side, and development team from the vendor side.
- Transparent, well-spoken, trustworthy, high integrity, high accountability..
- Thorough understanding of the field, in and out.
3. Development Team Members — people who take the requirements list and return the Software.
The development team for successful execution of agile methodology consists of UIUX designers, frontend developers, backend developers, database administrators, DevOps developers, QA testers, engineering managers, and sometimes technical & UX writers too,
4. Business Stakeholders — beneficiaries and influencers of an agile project
Whoever has vested interest in the project — people who can get benefitted by the project, people who have the power to influence the course of the project, or people who will be affected by the project, in general, can be the stakeholders.
For example, key stakeholders for a real-estate aggregator app that deals in the sale/purchase of properties can be
- the client (owner of the app),
- executives at the vendor’s organization (vendor is developing the app),
- project team leads & members (development team),
- government (legal/license),
- contractors (real estate agents),
- media houses (GTM coverage), and
Towards Excellence in Agile Software Development
Woosh! Agile software development has simplified the way software is developed and delivered… making it more human/user-focused, and more market-relevant.
There are multiple tools & agile frameworks to suit specific types of software development projects. All the frameworks are based on the Agile manifesto & its principles which basically recommend being flexible, iterative, and choosing an adaptable approach while developing software. Also emphasizes collaboration, continuous improvement, and customer satisfaction.
Agile can mean faster time-to-market, higher quality software, and increased customer satisfaction.
However, it also comes with challenges such as technical debt, managing change, documentation, and ensuring effective collaboration. We briefly talked about how engineering analytics tools can help you avoid a lot of developer-specific challenges like developer burnout, technical debt, productivity, etcetera. You just need a true HAT-I-CAN in your team ;)
Keep shipping amazing products! Follow the Hatica blog today to read more about agility, unblocking developers, and boosting productivity with engineering analytics.
Agile Glossary For Agile Practitioners
Here’s your quick agile glossary for reference:
Agility — The ability of an agile team to sense and respond to internal/external changes. Changes could be an update in feature requirements, a team member leaving the project for some critical reasons, etcetera.
Antipattern — Ineffective solutions to problems that may have consequences in the future, and may derail the team from planned project progression/trajectory.
Backlog, aka Product Backlog — A single authoritative source for agile teams for new features, change requests, bug fixes, and any actionable item that is essential for the project’s completion and success.
Backlog Refinement, aka Backlog Grooming — Periodically editing the Product Backlog to only keep high-priority items in there that are critical for the project. Keep the fluff away.
Burndown chart, aka burnup charts — It’s to visualize the amount of work done by an agile software development team in an agile sprint/iteration/epic.
Cards — In Kanban boards, features/epics are represented using components called ‘cards’. These can be moved between different columns of the Kanban board to show their current status.
CI/CD pipeline — An acronym for continuous integration (merging code changes to the main repository) and continuous delivery (testing and making the code ready to be deployed) of software components that are developed by agile teams.
Definition of Done — A set of criteria that needs to be met before a user story can be considered completed for the product increment/iteration.
Definition of Ready — A set of criteria that a user story must meet before it is accepted into the product increment. This is often evaluated using the INVEST matrix.
Epic, aka User story — These are atomic building blocks of a product i.e., individual features that together comprise the product.
Estimation — Time efforts required to complete a sprint/iteration/feature development
Frequent Releases — The term that refers to the shipping of features into the hands of users on a regular basis during incremental development to loop in user feedback quickly into the development process.
Incremental Development — Developing a software product by adding up, removing, or updating features to the last deployment.
Information Radiators — A common channel/source from where critical project-wide information can be shared with all the stakeholders.
Iteration — A timebox expressed in duration that defines how long the development would take for the present set of features under development until the next release/integration.
Iterative Development — Repetitive approach to rework the released features to further improve them in terms of usability, performance, and security.
Kanban — An adaptive agile methodology that balances demand and capacity aspects of software development projects by limiting the Work-in-progress (WIP) i.e., an active set of features that await development/delivery.
Kanban Board — A visual dashboard used by KANBAN agile practitioners to see the status of various moving parts of a software project.
Lead Time — In Agile SDLC, lead time is the duration between requirements entering the backlog to the final delivery of the requirement.
Niko-Niko calendar — A calendar that is updated to show each agile team member’s current mood, can also be used to see the mood fluctuation history. Used for effective collaboration & communication.
Personas — a set of synthetic personality attributes that define different users of a product.
Planning poker — A game-led approach to involving the entire team to estimate a user story. Each member plays a card bearing a number i.e., points (time duration) which is a rough estimation for the user story.
Points — Time duration estimation in terms of units. Used to estimate Lead time for individual user stories.
Product Owner — Client’s representative in an agile team with a deep understanding of the business aspects, and helps ensure that product adheres to the requirements specified.
Project Chartering — Bite-sized summary of a project’s key success factors displayed on a flipchart-sized sheet of paper.
Quick Design Session — quick brainstorming sessions between developers during an ongoing iteration to decide on key architecture aspects of a software project, which may have a long-term impact on the project.
Refactoring — improving the internal code structure for improved performance and readability while preserving the external intended functionality/behavior.
Retrospective — regular meetings in an agile team (SCRUM) where progress since the last such meeting is shared and discussed, and the team identifies any scope of improvement.
Scrum — A prescriptive and iterative agile development methodology, with Sprints being its key characteristic.
Scrumban — A hybrid agile development methodology, which has the best of the top two agile frameworks i.e., SCRUM & KANBAN
Scrum Master — Team lead or project manager equivalent in a SCRUM agile project whose job is to ensure the team’s adherence to scrum principles and values.
Sprint — a timebox duration in a SCRUM project. Typically it is 2 weeks, the max can be 4 weeks.
Testing — Quality assurance activities like acceptance testing, unit testing, functionality testing, behavior testing, integration testing, performance testing, etcetera.
Timebox — Duration of an agile project’s iteration.
User — End-users of the product
Velocity — Net effort estimates the team put in to complete the user stories in an iteration. It is used to estimate how much more time it may take to complete the project based on the remaining units of user stories.
FAQs on Agile
Now that we know the ins and outs of agile, let's answer the few FAQs every team has around agile:
1. What is an Agile software development example?
An iterative eCommerce platform development that first gets shipped with bare-bones functionality i.e., MVP version, and then continuously new features are integrated into the platform like recommendation engines, voice commerce, video commerce, and BOPIS features can be a good example of agile software development. This can be achieved using any of the agile development frameworks. For instance, extreme programming (XP), SCRUM, Feature Driven Development (FDD), KANBAN, and Lean Software Development (LSD).
2. What are the 5 stages of agile software development?
Ideation. Development. Testing. Deployment. Maintenance.
3. What are the three pillars of agile?
Communication, collaboration, and agility are 3 core pillars of an agile software development project. Communication helps with transparency and aligning the team to the core goals. Collaboration helps in the effective execution of the plans. And agility helps quickly respond to changing project/market conditions.
4. What are the benefits of Agile?
Quick time-to-market, customer satisfaction, quality products, continuous delivery of value to customers, and decreased risk are key benefits of an agile way of development.