Agile in English is an adjective that means “quick to move or drive”. When you apply the same definition to software application development, Agile is a methodology that helps cross-functional teams. Agile principles bring a flexibility to the software project through disciplined project management processes. They also help project managers deliver software projects at a rapid pace.
With an aim to keep pace with changing client expectations and software requirements, an Agile methodology in software development creates room for constant inspection and adaptation to changes. Moreover, you can also ensure a coordinated teamwork supported by a strong leadership, paving the way for the release of a high-quality software.
Agile Methodologies in the Corporate World
When a company adheres to the principles of Agile methodologies, it will have a provision for constant alterations. These alterations will lead to continuous product improvement along with a flexible pattern to accept and move in the changing direction . Eventually, these iterations will pave the way to unveil a clean software piece in a quick manner.
Prominent Agile Software Development Methodologies
mid-1990s was the evolving period of Agile practices when a bunch of software consultants created a set of independent procedures. As time passes by , these procedures were recognized under one umbrella of Agile Software Development Methodologies.
Here is a list of the most frequently used and prominent Agile methodologies that are currently in vogue.
- Adaptive Software Development (ASD)
- Crystal Methods
- Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)
- Extreme Programming (XP)
- Feature-Driven Development (FDD)
- Lean Software Development (LSD)
You will now be able to understand these methodologies under their respective heads.
1. Adaptive Software Development (ASD)
Adaptive Software Development (ASD) is a technique that helps you build complex systems and software applications, by focusing on the evolution of software systems by hastening up their creation. Not prescribing any hard and fast pre-planned steps, ASD plays a vital role in the dynamics of self-organizing software development teams. This practice helps to coordinate with various teams through individual approach or by group effort.
Bringing in the flavor of interpersonal cooperation in software development, ASD lives by the promise of constant alterations coupled with re-evaluations of system and client requirements. Helping all the concerned parties including software developers, the testing team and the end-users, ASD can be a powerful Agile methodology that will deliver a seamless software project. This methodology finds its place in churning out predictive data mining applications.
2. Crystal Methods
Recognized as a family of software development methodologies, Crystal Methods attach a lot of importance to the human capital. This methodology primarily revolves around 7 important aspects.
They are: –
- Personal safety
- Simplified interactions with expert users based on their skills and talents
- Focus on the need
- Set up an Agile technical environment
- Ensure frequent delivery
- Thrust on Reflective Improvement
- Implement Osmotic Communication by constantly interacting with concerned people
The Crystal Methodology which bestows utmost importance on people puts the “process” of software development on the back burner.
Considering people as the most important project management resource, Crystal Methods go by a stringent color-coding pattern. If a section of the project can pose a risk to human life, then it is depicted in the form of Crystal Sapphire markings. On the other hand, if your project does not bring in any riskiness to teams, then you can go ahead and paint such modules with Crystal Clear.
Again not being governed by a set of recommended project management tools and techniques, Crystal comes as a lightweight methodology with limited documentation along with a simplified pattern of management and reporting. So, if you have a small team of 5-6 developers who are working on short-term projects from a single workstation, you can incorporate the Crystal Clear Agile Methodology.
3. Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)
With an intention to come up with a structure for Rapid Application Development techniques, the DSDM Consortium, comprising of experts in software engineering and vendors uncovered an Agile methodology named DSDM in 1995. Tagging the principles of object oriented programming with project management, DSDM unveiled a set of eight principles that have helped huge businesses and software companies like American Express, Oracle, Logica and British Airways with their project deliveries. Allowing the teams of the above enterprises to stick to project deadlines, the DSDM principles also ensured deliveries in line with their budgets.
Here are the 8 principles of DSDM that have presented “a way of working” to all those teams that have embraced them.
- Focusing on the business need
- Timely project delivery
- Constant and strong interaction with end users
- Compromising quality is non-negotiable
- Aim to build incrementally by taking the support of strong foundations
- Repeated efforts in development
- Engage in constant and clear communication with different groups including team members, stakeholders, business representatives and all those concerned
- Demonstrate a high-level of project control
The star attraction of the DSDM philosophy is that these principles not only help you uncover software products. They also can make their presence felt in non-IT projects like government projects which incorporate these principles in combination with the tenets of PRINCE2 methodology.
4. Extreme Programming (XP)
Extreme Programming (XP), as the name suggests has gone one step ahead of the best practices that were in vogue since 1996. In 1996, XP came as an innovative methodology that stretched the limits of methods like unit testing, pair programming and customer acceptance tests. The limit was to surpass an extreme condition which surfaced on account of changes that were emerging in the spheres of software technology and development. This principle of going beyond the limit was favored by a specific emphasis to object oriented programming and the World Wide Web (the internet).
Offering short development cycles, XP goes by the principle of addressing the present needs rather than getting bogged down by the changes that will take place in the future. This method can help small teams operating with a maximum of 12 developers who are ordained to respond to dynamic requirements or projects that encompass a high-risk element. It is an interesting piece of trivia to note that XP principles were followed to unveil the CD and web formats of Encyclopedia Britannica.
5. Feature Driven Development (FDD)
1997 was the year in which FDD was introduced by a consultant who was managing a software development project for a booming Singapore-based bank. Incorporating the best practices of software engineering, FDD focused on the concept of feature and code ownership coupled with domain object modeling. This principle introduces software engineers to come up with a cohesive product that is dictated by 5 basic activities. They are:
- The development of an overall model
- Building a list of Features by grouping them into sets and sub-sets
- Every Feature should have a development plan chalked out by Class Owners and Feature Set Owners
- Every Feature should result in a sequence of design packages
- Every Feature should help you build the final product in accordance with the requirements of your client
A star attraction that makes FDD stand apart from the rest comes in the form of its scalability, attracting large teams to make the most of its principles. Essentially helpful in churning out complex projects which are governed by a feature-centric process, FDD was the methodology that uncovered Mousebraker.com; the famous online gaming interface.
6. Lean Software Development (LSD)
LSD is another name for lean manufacturing philosophies and practices that are recognized as a subculture of the Agile methodologies. Aptly representing a tagline which reads: “think big, act small, fail fast and learn rapidly”, the crux of software development is presented by LSD when all the principles of lean development are put into place.
Offering a strong conceptual framework along with a host of principles and values, LSD handholds organizations to move in the direction of good practices that have emerged out of years of project management experience.
LSD is governed by a set of 7 principles.
These are: –
- Eradicate waste caused by reworks, defects in products, use of unnecessary processes and features along with the damages caused by mismanagement.
- Amplify learning so that software developers can write codes and test them easily.
- Delay the decision making process so that you don’t rely on uncertain assumptions while taking a decision.
- Prompt delivery should be the key to success of any technological product.
- Empower teams so that the best people are hired
- Bring in an element of integrity through efforts which should be directed towards the elimination of bad code designs.
- Come up with insights about the product as a whole by adopting standards of software development. These inferences can then be applied to all the intermediary products that are being developed. Once huge tasks are broken down into smaller tasks, it paves the way for the elimination of defects. All in all, this step delivers a system in which all the interacting elements work in perfect harmony to produce a final product that is acceptable to end users.
Last but definitely not the least is the principle of SCRUM, a subset of Agile. Recognized as the most popular type of Agile methodology, SCRUM comes across as a “lightweight”, “process framework”.
The word “lightweight” comes into the picture as SCRUM maintains small overheads of the process so that the management can make the most of the available time. SCRUM -based companies can aim to get things done by capitalizing their productive time.
It is also a “process framework” which offers a collection of practices that should be adhered to, so that you can arrive at a consistent process within a framework. Employing the use of development cycles called Sprints, a SCRUM process stands apart from other Agile methods since it offers certain specific practices and concepts. These are divided into three elements: 1. Roles 2. Artifacts and 3. Time Boxes.
Let us now look at each of these elements in detail.
Typically, there are three roles in SCRUM.
They are 1. The SCRUM Master 2. The Product Owner and 3. The SCRUM Team.
Going by the title, a SCRUM Master is the coach and the person who is in-charge of complete project work flow. A SCRUM Master handholds the entire team to follow the directives of the framework alongside offering knowledge and guidance to the entire team, as and when the situation arises. As a supervisor, the SCRUM Master takes on the mantle of a gatekeeper, removing obstacles that emerge out of external distractions alongside safeguarding all his team mates.
The Product Owner is a subject matter expert who is in total control over the expectations of the stakeholders. He/she is responsible for defining and gathering the requirements. Tagged as a liaison between the team and the client, the product owner is ordained to set the right priorities to the team, which should be in sync with the needs of the stakeholders.
The SCRUM Team (Development team), as the title suggests, is the group that does all the work. Comprising of a squad of 7 members, the SCRUM Team is a multi-disciplinary entity with software engineers, designers, architects and testers coordinating with each other.
SCRUM presents three artifacts. They are: 1. The Product Backlog 2. The Sprint Backlog and 3. The Burndown Chart.
Let us now delve deep into what these three artifacts are all about.
1. Product Backlog: The Product Owner, described above is the professional who has total control over the product backlog. This is a repository of all business requirements. Along with user stories, this backlog is a database comprising of high-level feature descriptions. The Product Owner who is in constant touch with the stakeholders gathers feedback along with their suggestions and makes necessary changes to the log.
2. The Sprint Backlog: Recognized as the subclass of the Product Backlog, a Sprint Backlog is a collection of the top most priorities of the Product Owner. It helps the Product Owner to break up these requirements into achievable tasks supported by manual, time and budgetary estimates. He can clearly define the responsibilities of the SCRUM Team. However, in contrast to a Product Backlog which keeps changing, a Sprint Backlog, once started cannot be altered.
3. The Burndown Chart: If you want to keep track of the amount of work that is pending in the Sprint, then you can bank on the Burndown Chart. This is a piece of information that attracts the attention of everyone concerned with the project, to see and act upon; including the members of the SCRUM Team, the Product Owner and the management. It is the responsibility of the SCRUM Master to update this log on a daily basis in line with the progress of the SCRUM Team, discussed over the Daily SCRUM Meeting.
III. Time Boxes:
Every task of SCRUM is linked to a rigid timeframe called the Time Box. When everything is timeboxed, it helps project managers to be in total sync with what is happening and what is expected to happen. Along with a timebox for every SCRUM meeting, you can also work around a timebox that dictates the total amount of time taken to complete a particular task.
As regards Sprints, it is advisable to go on a 2-4 week long project working which should be followed consistently all through the project. Coming to the SCRUM meeting timebox, there are 5 meetings that can be conducted within a Sprint. The Sprint Planning Meeting can go on for a maximum of 8 hours followed by the Sprint Commitment Meeting that can last for about 4 hours max. As you are getting closer to the completion of a Sprint, you can initiate a Sprint Review Meeting which can be conducted for a maximum of 4 hours. The penultimate Sprint Retrospective Meeting can go on for not more than 3 hours. Lastly, you can conduct the Daily SCRUM Meeting for about 15 minutes.
Now, let us move on to the principles of SCRUM.
There are 3 basic principles of SCRUM methodology that favor the Agile implementation.
They are: –
1. Timeboxing – Anything and everything concerning SCRUM is timeboxed.
2. Self-Managing Teams – Every SCRUM Team is self-sufficient and delivers its responsibilities through a self-serving mode.
3. Shippeable Code – With an intention to constantly measure your deliverable, you should know your current position so that you can learn and improve simultaneously. Hence you should aim for a high-quality shipped code that will become the yardstick to assess the progress of your working pieces.
Given the fact that SCRUM is a widely used Agile methodology, you might be wondering about its areas of application. Mobility is the field of technology that has been witnessing a series of advancements. It is in this context that SCRUM finds its place in the development of mobile applications which are stable. SCRUM assists in the development of a mobile app that can address different types of business requirements. The aim to churn out mobile apps with fewer bugs also prompts mobile app development companies to tread the path laid out by SCRUM.
Applications of Agile Methodologies
Apart from information technology, you will be surprised to note that Agile methodologies are making their strong presence felt in a number of domains. These principles can be applied to the design and building activities concerning engineering and other non-software products. All those activities with high innovation and uncertainty quotients which call for the intervention of project management tools are employing Agile practices.
Multi-Disciplinary Applications of Agile Practices
Non-software products like automobiles, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, food, clothing, computers and music can also make the most of Agile methodologies. It will surprise you, that Agile methodologies can also be employed in Avionics and Nuclear environments.
A steady increase in the use of Agile methodologies is being registered for the domain of IT infrastructure deployments and migrations. You will also find the prominence of these techniques applied to general management including those that rely on risk, finance, business strategy and governance. All these departments employ the terms of Business Agility and Principles of Agile Business Management. General organizational management including the aspects of personal autonomy and staff engagement can made better through Agile principles.
The Surprise of Agile Parenting
It is interesting to note that the paradigms of Agile Software Development can become family tools, assisting parents to bring up their children in an organized manner. Since child development is all about focusing on effective communication, adaptability and general awareness, attentive parents can rely on the time-tested Agile principles as effective tools to raise children with a clear sense of reasoning and understanding. You can check out this video titled Agile Programming – for your family or read a book titled The Secrets of Happy Families. Supported by the article Agile Practices for Families: Iterating with Children and Parents, you will be able to lay hands on a clear-cut plan to develop a happy and engaging family. Many thanks to Agile methodologies for creating a scope for better families through contented childhoods.
Making use of iterative principles that the Agile Software Development Methodologies offer, you can attach an increased value to your deliverable along with enhancing visibility. All for the sake of bringing in an adaptability to change, these methodologies can also help you reduce project risks substantially so that you can tread the path of constant change and development.