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Introduction to Agile

This article introduces the core principles of Agile methodology used across industries.

The core principles of Agile methodology are used across industries. These principles allow organisations to benefit by becoming more productive in fast-changing environments, operating more efficiently, taking an iterative approach to delivery, producing higher quality outputs, and continually improving.

Core principles of Agile methodology

As you learned in the History of Agile, the 2001 Manifesto for Agile Software Development, also known as the Agile Manifesto covered four core values:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation.
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  4. Responding to change over following a plan.

These four statements serve as guiding principles for an Agile approach. In other words, when faced with an obstacle or choice, the Agile approach will prioritise the former part of each statement over the latter. That is not to say the latter should be dismissed completely, but rather that it shouldn’t be as important as the first part of each statement.

Common Agile frameworks

Agile methodology is an umbrella term that covers many frameworks, each of which drawing on the overall principles of the methodology. The frameworks fall into one of two categories: the lighter frameworks and the offshoots.

Graphic shows “Agile Methodology”. There is an open umbrella with “Agile Methodology” writing on it. On the left side of the umbrella handle, there is a copy that reads: “Lighter frameworks” with 4 bullet points: “Extreme Programming (XP)”, “Adaptive Software Development (ASD)”, “Feature-driven Development (FDD)”, “Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)”. On the right side of the umbrella handle there is copy that reads: “Offshoots” with 4 bullets: “Lean”, “Scrum”, “SAFe”, “Kanban”, “Venture Design”. Click to enlarge

In this course, we’ll look at the Scrum and Kanban frameworks in greater depth.

The many Agile frameworks out there are continually evolving to improve best practices. To learn more about some common frameworks and their applications, read the article from status.net. The author unpacks six common Agile methods including Crystal methods, Extreme programming, and Feature-driven development.

Read: Six Agile Methods You Should Definitely Know About

The Agile process

Agile methodologies allow development and testing to happen concurrently with ongoing communication between developers, managers, testers, and customers that allow teams to work collaboratively. Each member of the team takes ownership of their work, communicates progress or blockers, and works together towards the same goals.

To better understand what this means, let’s contrast how an Agile approach differs from a traditional sequential approach. A well-known sequential approach to software development and project management is the waterfall method. The waterfall method starts by defining the project’s requirements, then designing the solution, implementation, testing, and maintenance. Each phase is executed by a team of specialists. Once a phase is completed, it gets handed over to the next team.

There are several limitations to the waterfall method. Each phase can delay the project and issues identified further down the waterfall can be difficult, costly, and time-consuming to resolve. Phases are rarely repeated and there is no room for changes once the process has started. Fewer people are involved during the development phase, which means that customers or end-users have less influence.

On the other hand, Agile methodologies deliver work in small, consumable increments or sprints, demonstrate the outcome following each sprint, and seek feedback from key stakeholders.

Agile for software, product and business

Agile product development and Agile business development are based on the same principles as Agile software development. Implementing Agile ways of working enables manufacturers, retailers, and service providers to keep up with an increasingly competitive market.

To understand how this works, consider the overall themes across the Agile frameworks:

  • Working in sprints or timeboxed iterations.
  • Prioritising requirements and work that needs to be done.
  • Iterative development and continuous improvement.

Working in sprints or timeboxed iterations

Short deadlines and clear achievable goals will differ across industries. For example, an app developer may roll out a new feature in a two-week sprint, while a car manufacturer may assemble the entire automobile in a month.

Prioritising requirements and work

Avoiding unnecessary costs is a common goal across industries. Prioritising means involving the right people at the right time and ensuring the right materials are available at the right time. This applies to software, products and businesses.

Iterative development and continuous improvement

Automating everything that can be automated is a form of continuous improvement. Automation has been equally relevant to the success of the automotive industry as well as software development.

Iterative development may be most obvious in software and technology, but only because the cycles are much faster. The new model of a car is an iterative improvement on last year’s model.

Over to you

How might you use ongoing feedback and multiple quick iterations in your role or organisation?
Share your thoughts in the comments.

References

1. Status. Six Agile Methods You Should Definitely Know About [Internet]. Status Net; 2019. Available from: https://status.net/articles/agile-methodology-methods-rup-crystal-extreme-programming-adaptive-feature-driven-development-dsdm/

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