When it comes to software development, there are a few different processes that you can use. Choosing the right development process is integral to ensuring that you create a high-quality software app that is delivered on time and within your budget.
With that in mind, the most effective development process you can adopt is the Agile process.
What Is Agile?
The Agile process is an iterative and incremental approach to software development. It is cyclical in nature, where the development cycle has iterations of smaller tasks known as “increments” or “sprints”.
Each sprint consists of planning, code development, feedback, and production. Sprints are continuously used to progress the development of the software. The emphasis is on team collaboration and customer satisfaction.
The Agile process contrasts with the traditional Waterfall process. In the Waterfall process, the project is completed in sequential phases, where one phase has to be completed before the next phase can begin. The Agile methodology was developed to address some of the issues development teams had with the more traditional Waterfall process.
One of the most significant drawbacks of the Waterfall process is that if a problem were to be found in testing, it could undo a substantial amount of completed work, thereby drastically delaying the launch. The Agile process differs as testing occurs at the end of each sprint, and it is therefore easier to address any bugs or issues as soon as possible.
In the Waterfall process, completed projects may not be revisited, even if the developers gain valuable customer feedback, as the budget may already be depleted. The Agile process gives flexibility to developers, to adapt to unexpected changes and quickly correct course to avoid big, expensive problems later on.
How Agile Software Development Works
The Agile software development method begins with the creation of a vision for the project, which is shared by all stakeholders involved. Together, these stakeholders collaboratively establish a roadmap that outlines the expected deliverables at each iteration (or sprint) during the execution phase of the process.
During the execution phase of an Agile project, small cross-functional teams work in short sprints to deliver functional increments of the product. These iterations are timeboxed periods (e.g., one week, two weeks) during which developers process the functionalities of the product.
The outcome is a software application that evolves as a result of continuous customer feedback and collaboration with stakeholders.
This method allows developers to break down complex projects into smaller-sized tasks within each iteration, allowing teams to better manage risk by iterating quickly and often.
As a result, development projects using the Agile method can provide more flexibility in terms of requirements and offer early technical feedback throughout the process.
Each Cycle Sprint Timeline
The Agile process is cyclical, meaning that the development process is divided into sprints that are repeated until the project is completed and can be officially launched.
The following are the different phases that make up an Agile development timeline:
Scoping And Prioritizing Projects
The Agile software development process starts with product owners scoping out the project, including defining business requirements. They work closely in conjunction with project management teams to determine the scope of the product backlog. This stage can take anywhere from two to four weeks.
Initial Sprint Diagram Requirements
Once a clear understanding has been established between both parties, developers are responsible for building a prioritized product backlog, which is the list of features that will be developed during each sprint.
The project management team then creates a sprint backlog, which outlines the tasks required to complete each feature. This stage shouldn't take more than two weeks.
Construction - Iteration
During the construction phase, developers work in iterations to develop the functionalities of the software product. At the end of every iteration, developers deliver a working product to stakeholders for feedback.
It's important to note that the length of time of each iteration depends on the business context. On average, each iteration should take around two weeks; however, some iterations can take as little as one week or as much as four weeks to complete.
Once developers have prioritized the product backlog, it is reviewed by project management teams and stakeholders for feedback.
These reviews occur at the start of each sprint, allowing project management teams to make any necessary adjustments and prioritize the requirements for the upcoming sprint.
After project management teams and stakeholders have reviewed the prioritized product backlog, developers can complete each task outlined in the backlog. Once each requirement is complete, it can be tested. Only then will the team move on to the next sprint.
Once the project management teams are satisfied with the functionalities of the software product, they will begin testing its features to ensure that it meets the product's overall business and technical requirements.
Testing makes it easier to detect and address issues without having to undo a lot of the work that has already been completed.
Once project management teams are satisfied with the gains made in the sprint following the development and testing stages, developers can begin building any necessary integrations between the software product and other applications or services that are required for its smooth operation.
At the end of each sprint, developers deliver the working code to the project stakeholders for review.
After the working product is tested and finalized, the project management teams and stakeholders review the gains made in the sprint. This review is done at the end of each Agile development cycle. Agile project management teams gain feedback during these reviews to make necessary changes and prioritize requirements for upcoming sprints.
Iteration Into Production
Once the project management teams and stakeholders are satisfied with the product increment, Agile software can be released into production to begin bringing value to users. Release into production is done at the end of each Agile development cycle.
Production Into Ongoing Support For Software Release
Once Agile software has been released into production, the project management teams and stakeholders can focus on ensuring that it meets user needs.
Agile product support teams will also monitor the software to ensure that it is working as intended. Monitoring continues until a new product increment can be created that will address any issues discovered in the sprint review and incorporate general user feedback.
The Agile development process is cyclical and ever-evolving as teams gain more knowledge of the software they are developing.
An Agile software development project is considered finished once the project management teams and stakeholders are satisfied with the software product.
Satisfaction is determined through reviews of the product increments, software release into production, and product support throughout its lifetime. Overall user feedback can also be used to indicate satisfaction levels amongst the product users.
At some point, software will become obsolete and be retired from production. Retiring software also means that project management teams are no longer responsible for its support.
Overall Project Timeline
The number of sprints needed to complete any given project will depend on the length of the sprints and the project's complexity. It also depends on how familiar your team is with the Agile process.
A team that is comfortable working with Agile will be more capable of completing one- to two-week sprints, whereas a team that has just adopted Agile may be more comfortable with three- to four-week sprints.
Of course, the shorter the sprints are, the quicker you can discover and address issues in the development process.
As far as how many sprints your project has in total, smaller projects can have as little as two to three, whereas bigger projects may require as many as 10 to 20 sprints.
For larger projects that require more sprints, you'll often be ready to launch a workable product before all of your sprints have been completed—that's one of the primary benefits of the Agile process.
However, the ability to do this depends entirely on how effectively you prioritized the development of your project's requirements.
Having more project management teams and stakeholders will likely affect the overall timeline. Agile development is a collaborative effort, so having teams from different backgrounds can help achieve goals faster compared to having only one or two teams involved with the process.
However, having more project management teams and developers working on a single software development project is not always better. The team should be big enough to complete all development tasks but small enough for developers to communicate easily with each other.
If there are too many teams working on the same project, development can slow down due to miscommunication issues and a lack of team collaboration.
Scrum Versus Kanban
Even though the Agile process may seem like it has a very defined process, there are actually two subsets of the Agile process: Scrum and Kanban.
While they may seem very similar on the surface, there are some key differences that you should be aware of to determine which methodology will suit your development process best.
What is Scrum?
Under the Scrum methodology, every participant has a clearly defined role. Each team has both a product owner (who defines the goals, objectives, and team members) and a Scrum master (who determines the project's timelines). Each team member is allocated their own specific tasks.
What is Kanban?
With the Kanban methodology, there are no predefined roles. While there's generally a project manager, the roles on the team are more flexible, meaning anyone can contribute to any task when help is needed. The lack of defined roles is intended to foster collaboration.
What Is The Difference?
The significant difference between Scrum and Kanban is that, with Scrum, deliverables are based on the pre-established sprints. Sprints are set periods of time during which a specific amount of work needs to be completed. As such, there's a very heavy emphasis on schedule.
The Scrum board reflects this. The “board” is the visual representation of each sprint. On the Scrum board, each column is labeled to reflect a period of the workflow, starting with the pre-established backlog and ending with the definition of its completion.
The tasks added to the first column at the beginning of the sprint should end up in the last column at the end of the sprint by the due date. There are strict deadlines built into each sprint. Whenever a sprint is completed, the board is reset for the next sprint.
Conversely, the Kanban method is not so dependent on scheduling. Kanban focuses more on delivering products and processes as needed. Due dates are only implemented when required.
The Kanban board looks somewhat similar to the Scrum board in that they both use columns labeled to show the state of the workflow. However, the Kanban board doesn't have sprint lengths, despite using an iterative process.
The workflow is meant to evolve naturally as tasks are completed, which allows for new tasks to be added as needed and for changes to be made mid-project.
Essentially, both methodologies are iterative. However, Kanban is meant to be more flexible, whereas Scrum provides a more structured approach.
Kanban is likely to be more suitable for projects with a wide range of priorities that may change throughout development. Scrum is arguably the best choice if you have an established set of priorities that won't change much over time.
Benefits Of The Agile ProcessSome businesses may think the traditional Waterfall methodology is their best bet because it is difficult to contemplate releasing an unfinished product. However, there are several advantages that the Agile process has over the Waterfall process.
These benefits include the following:
- More User-Oriented: The ability to deploy software before its completion allows your team to be more responsive to customer feedback and requests, ultimately resulting in a better product.
- More Cost-Effective: The ability to improve productivity and use feedback to focus on features that the users actually want makes the process more cost-effective.
- Improved Efficiency: Testing for issues and addressing problems within each sprint makes the development process much more efficient.
- Faster Launch: The use of sprints allows for a quicker software launch.
- Better Collaboration: The focus on collaboration makes for a more efficient workflow and helps eliminate miscommunication among teams and team members.
- Easier To Reprioritize Work: The use of Agile makes it much easier to reprioritize work based on customer and stakeholder feedback.
- More Accountability: Sprints make it easier to monitor the development process and hold each individual accountable for their tasks.
- Improved Planning: It becomes easier to plan effectively throughout the development process as there is better clarity for each stage of the project.
Understanding Agile Software Development
Implementing the right software development process is the key to ensuring that you launch a successful product that is cost-effective, user-oriented, and timely. Agile software development will allow you to do just that.
With Agile, you’ll be able to collaborate with your development team, focus on the user experience, and enjoy a faster product launch.