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The Agile Method: Everything you need to know

As a developer, you’re being asked to develop faster, better, iteratively. Juggling new requirements and changing technology requires a thorough development approach that allows you to develop and release quickly. Agile development is the best approach to take when you need these short bursts of productivity and a fast release schedule.

Agile software development supports short iterations of development so you can constantly adjust the (in-flight) requirements and solutions to the growing and shifting demands and needs of the business. In this article, you will learn more about the Agile approach and the benefits and constraints that come along with this way of working.

What is an Agile approach?

At its core, Agile development enables teams to work quickly and efficiently by creating clear goals and a standard way of working. Your team even has the option to choose between a number of frameworks within Agile project management.

A few, key fundamental aspects of an Agile team include:

  • Communication between team members, management, and cross team to discuss rapid change.

  • Introspective opportunities, or team retrospectives, where team members can discuss what went well, what went poorly, and what needs improvement.

  • A flexible, adaptive way of working when projects require quick, unexpected changes.

  • Self-organizing and self-sufficient ways of working that allow teams to assign their own tasks and sprint goals and estimates.

  • Collaboration and independent management amongst team members to improve delivery.

For more information about how to create a successful agile team, read our article, “10 ways to achieve agile”.

Benefits vs. constraints

Now, let’s explore some of the benefits and constraints you may run into from using Agile practices on your next project.

Benefits:

  • Agile projects deliver quickly.

  • New requirements can be swiftly incorporated into the design, the team, and priorities.

  • There is stakeholder engagement throughout the development process to review and improve the products and projects being delivered.

  • Transparency and openness are encouraged with a focus on improvement over blame.

  • Projects that aren’t successful can quickly be contained, repaired, or retired entirely to save money.

  • Defects and required enhancements are caught early because changes are tested over small iterations. These are picked up and added to future sprints in the sprint planning phase (for the Scrum method) or added into the backlog based on importance for next delivery by the team (for the Kanban method).

  • Teams can adapt how they work, providing a more productive and satisfactory working environment by portraying mood and highlighting issues in retrospective sessions.

  • Documentation is less time consuming and costly because it is limited to use cases, test cases, user stories, and other artifacts over detailed product documentation. Documentation as a result, is leaner and more concentrated, although admittedly less detailed.

Constraints:

  • Agile projects can be chaotic if not managed well or if the team does not engage in the practices.

  • Documentation can become quickly and easily out of date where teams have little time to write it over, reducing defects. This makes it hard for new team members to get up to speed and increases the number of duplicated conversations and confusion over why decisions were originally made.

  • A lot of time is spent in scrums, retrospectives, sprint planning, mood discussions, and stakeholder meetings which can strain time and money.

  • If there is no clear end-goal, scope can forever increase with no defined measurement of success.

  • Good design is delayed in preference of quickly adding new features. This can lead to extra work in the long run because functionality that hasn’t been thoroughly worked out may receive negative feedback and increase defects as more users start to use them.

  • With teams that are highly knowledgeable about their specific projects, members cannot always be easily replaced with low cost resources, which can be essential to keeping a project in budget. This inability to outsource can cause significant headaches for organizations with low cost thresholds. This also relates to teams needing to be entirely remote or entirely co-located, which can limit the available resource pool.

Summary

For an agile approach to work successfully, teams must be both flexible and adaptable. Agile software development works by continuously evolving through short iterations to constantly adjust the requirements and solutions to the growing and shifting needs of the business. If your next project requires you to deliver quickly and efficiently an agile way of working may be the best way to achieve success.

Hopefully this article has given you a better understanding of when to use Agile Methodologies. To see how we implemented these practices, check out our article “How to use Waterfall and Agile practices on your next project“.

Aiden Gallagher
Jack Dunleavy
Peter Reeves