In recent years Agile seems to be a buzzword in the world of software development. Many industry insiders connect the term with the highest degree of flexibility applied to internal development processes. This is not far from the truth as Agile practices put fast adaptation to the new and fast-changing circumstances at the centre. Working in an uncertain business environment might be challenging, but it is an inseparable part of our globalised world. Thankfully, the core Agile philosophy proves that busy demands effective practical approaches.
From my experience working in a bespoke software development company, I know that it requires discipline and continuous education to build successful teams devoted to their projects. We at Dreamix are proud to implement Agile methodologies like Scrum and Kanban in our work. With lots of technical experience and highly motivated individuals, we understand that to spread the Agile spirit within a company, even non-technical employees should grasp the basic principles. That is why we self-organise internal clubs, share our knowledge with our teammates, and grow together.
I’ll now share with you the essentials of Agile methods and their practical advantages.
The Origin of Agility – What is it Exactly?
The rapid answer to the question is that agility means responding to changes fastly, adequately and efficiently. In a sense, Agile methods should stabilise through innovation to secure that modern businesses stay competitive. The actual concept of agility exists since the 1950s when the American sociologist Talcott Parson created the famous AGIL paradigm. He described four characteristics each system must contain to stay cohesive and function.
The abbreviation AGIL comes from the first letters of:
– Adaptation, or the system’s ability to react to changing external conditions
– Goal Attainment, or to define and pursue specific goals
– Integration, or to establish and secure cohesion and inclusion and
– Latency, or patterns and basic structures that maintain common values.
Much of traditionally formulated definitions remain actual to this day. Though when it comes to software development, Agile methods became popular at the beginning of the 21st century, primarily thanks to the Agile Manifesto, Scrum Guides and Kanban visual boards.
The Most Important Agile Methods in a Nutshell
A brief chronological overview of the most influential and most widespread Agile methodologies within the context of software development:
- Crystal Methods (mid-1990s) – created by Alistair Cockburn and based on empirical research among teams not following official methodologies but still getting excellent results. Here, projects are described in details and broken down into small parts called iterations with a project-dependable duration between a week and two months (coloured by duration). The specific thing here is that a deliverable product increment does not necessarily have to be available after each iteration.
- Scrum (1995) – in its current form, Scrum revolves around humanistic values such as commitment, mutual respect, courage and work focus. One Scrum team is divided into three roles: developers (previously “development team”) that do the coding, Product Owner (PO), responsible for maximising the product value and Scrum Master, who helps coordinate the process by the established practices in the Scrum Guide. The schedule of Scrum teams follows regular meetings and work cycles, called “events”.
- eXtreme Programming (XP) (late 1990s) – XP was created by synthesising various disciplines in software development and field best practices. Like in all Agile methods, effective team communication is a significant factor. The five phases in XP are the initial planning stage, followed by managing, designing, programming and testing. There are four fundamental roles: customers, developers, metrics trackers and a coach (usually external).
- Lean Development (2003) – like the rest of Agile practices, Lean software development also handles uncertainty well. The concept originates from manufacturing and consists of seven main principles. For instance, waste elimination (anything without a value is a waste), continuous learning are basic Lean values. Decision-making is pushed for as late as possible, but teams aim to deliver as fast as possible. Finally, team empowerment and product integrity, as well as continuous optimisations, are essential.
- Kanban for Software Development (2007) – this is a project management method originally developed by Toyota. Nowadays, it primarily associated with physical or digital boards that track task progress. It divides status into the categories “to-do”, “in progress”, and “finished”, etc. Kanban helps Agile teams easily identify bottlenecks that block workflow and brainstorm ideas on how obstacles can be overcome most effectively and time-efficiently.
The Modern Era of Agile Organisations
One of the current megatrends in the business world is the transformation of traditional organisations into Agile enterprises. This transition, known as agile transformation, brings completely new challenges that a company has to face. It often requires several years of experimenting with different methods until it adopts a stable and efficient approach. Five main characteristics are typical for an Agile organisation, viewed as a living and continuously evolving system. These core components are strategy, structure, process, people and technology.
Firstly, Agile organisations have a client-centred strategy that strives to maximise customer benefit. They develop a long-term vision and build business partnerships based on mutual trust that nourishes growth efforts sustainably. Secondly, Agile teams have a flat structure that consists of clearly defined roles and responsibilities that contribute to the bigger picture. Cross-functional teams are also vital to accomplish this aim and serve the customer the best way possible.
On the process level in an Agile-oriented company, work is divided into iterations (usually 2 weeks) that quickly deliver code fragments ready for the production environment (e.g. Scrum). The fourth component is the people in the company who are highly motivated individuals seeking progress. On a company level, deliberate efforts are made to support continuous learning and strive for mastery. The last trademark of Agile organisations is the technology used. It needs to be future-oriented (e.g. AI and ML) and integrable within the current tech ecosystem.
About the Author Aleksandrina Vasileva
Aleksandrina is a Content Creator at Dreamix, a custom software development company, and is keen on innovative technological solutions that positively impact our world. Her teaching background, mixed with her interests in psychology, drives her to share knowledge. She is an avid reader and enthusiastic blogger, always looking for the next inspiration.
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