What is agile software development?

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Agile is a term used to describe software development approaches that emphasize incremental delivery, cross-team collaboration, continuous planning, and lifelong learning, rather than focusing on a single block delivery at the end of the project.

Adopting agile methods will help your teams be more productive, efficient and motivated. You can also call on Bocasay to build a tech team in Vietnam.

Use agile methods for your software development - ©Canva
Use agile methods for your software development – ©Canva

Agile software development aims to lean theprocess and create minimum viable products (MVPs) that go through a number of iterations before being finalized. Feedback is gathered and implemented continuously and overall it is a much more dynamic process where everyone works together towards the same goal.

The history of agile development

Agile development is older than you think. The Kanban method was conceived in the 1940s. Iterative and incremental development (IID) dates back to the 1950s, with evidence of its use by teams at NASA and IBM’s federal systems divisions. Other adaptive methods such as Evolutionary Delivery (EVO) and Rapid Application Development (RAD) were used during the 1970s. However, it was not until the late 1990s that the agile method became popular.

For decades, IID, EVO, RAD and other adaptive methods were considered marginal and not taken seriously. Most organizations relied on the one-pass software development life cycle, known as the waterfall. This cycle defines requirements upstream and executes projects in sequential phases. This cycle can be effective for projects with a fixed scope, but it is prone to failure if requirements change during development. And as anyone who has worked in technology knows, it is virtually impossible to anticipate all requirements from the start.

Around the same time, new technologies emerged that allowed for faster product development. Widespread access to the Internet has disrupted entire markets. As new software-based products and services became more popular, expectations began to change. Accelerating time to market became a priority for companies struggling to survive in highly competitive markets. Customers wanted products to be continually improved with new features. And, they wanted to be involved in defining those new features.

It was in this context that a group of 17 software professionals met in Utah in 2001. This meeting is the most widely reported in the historical accounts of the agile movement. But the group had met in Oregon in 2000 to discuss what they called “lightweight” development methodologies. No one was particularly comfortable with the potentially negative implications of the word “lightweight” and so the word “agile” was retained when they met the following year to formalize what became the Agile Manifesto.

It should be noted that many of the original authors of the Agile Manifesto had developed their own methodologies, such as Extreme Programming (XP), Crystal and Scrum, by the time the group met in 2001. These methodologies, along with other innovative approaches to programming from the past, provided an ideal foundation for developer communities ready to embrace a new way of working.

𝔹𝕠𝕔𝕒𝕤𝕒𝕪, 𝕒𝕟 𝕖𝕩𝕡𝕖𝕣𝕥 𝕔𝕠𝕞𝕡𝕒𝕟𝕪 𝕚𝕟 𝕨𝕖𝕓 𝕕𝕖𝕧𝕖𝕝𝕠𝕡𝕞𝕖𝕟𝕥, 𝕤𝕠𝕗𝕥𝕨𝕒𝕣𝕖 𝕕𝕖𝕧𝕖𝕝𝕠𝕡𝕞𝕖𝕟𝕥 𝕒𝕟𝕕 𝕞𝕠𝕓𝕚𝕝𝕖 𝕒𝕡𝕡𝕝𝕚𝕔𝕒𝕥𝕚𝕠𝕟, 𝕒𝕔𝕔𝕠𝕞𝕡𝕒𝕟𝕚𝕖𝕤 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕚𝕟 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕤𝕦𝕔𝕔𝕖𝕤𝕤 𝕠𝕗 𝕪𝕠𝕦𝕣 𝕕𝕚𝕘𝕚𝕥𝕒𝕝 𝕡𝕣𝕠𝕛𝕖𝕔𝕥𝕤. 𝔹𝕦𝕚𝕝𝕕 𝕪𝕠𝕦𝕣 𝕥𝕖𝕔𝕙 𝕥𝕖𝕒𝕞𝕤 𝕚𝕟 𝕍𝕚𝕖𝕥𝕟𝕒𝕞 𝕨𝕚𝕥𝕙 𝕦𝕤 !

How does it work in practice?

Agile software development breaks down tasks into smaller iterations, or parts that do not directly involve long-term planning. The scope and requirements of the project are defined at the beginning of the development process. The scope regarding:

  • the number of iterations
  • the duration and scope of each iteration are clearly established in advance

In the Agile process model, each iteration is considered a short time “frame,” typically lasting 1-4 weeks. Breaking the entire project into smaller parts minimizes project risk and reduces the overall project delivery time. Each iteration involves a team working through the entire software development life cycle. This includes planning, requirements analysis, design, coding and testing, before a working product is presented to the customer.

Minimize risk and increase productivity with agile methods - ©Canva
Minimize risk and increase productivity with agile methods, build your tech team in Vietnam with Bocasay – ©Canva

The benefits of investing in agile software development

There’s a reason why the agile approach is so popular, it has the potential to benefit teams in a multitude of ways. Here are the main benefits your team could enjoy by adopting an agile approach:

Increased Transparency:

Agile teams document their work. Archives, work in progress, updates, everything is visualized and accessible to teams. This translates into better knowledge sharing, alignment and accountability.

Reduced Risk:

Agile processes reduce waste in terms of time, effort and money. When you make plans months in advance and then commit capital to those plans (with a waterfall approach, for example), you risk delivering increments that are no longer timely or reflective of actual customer needs. An agile approach, on the other hand, encourages you to deliver what is most needed in the short term, now in the moment.

Greater Adaptability:

Agile teams don’t fear change, they embrace it. An agile approach encourages you to think iteratively and break work down into smaller chunks. Greater flexibility means you can adapt quickly to a changing market and incorporate customer feedback quickly and often.

Motivated Teams:

Agile teams have more autonomy to collaborate, prioritize work, and assess progress. And when teams have full freedom to have a say in how they do their work, team members are more motivated and engaged.

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