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What Exactly is Agile Development?

    “Agile development” is not just a buzzword. It’s a great way to ensure you are getting the most out of your development team.

    Traditional waterfall development has become a thing of the past. Too often you find yourself with a completed project only to discover the long development life cycle has left you with an already outdated product. The solution? Agile!

    So what exactly are “Agile Methodologies for Software Development?”  It’s a way of building your product iteratively, allowing you to adapt to changing market trends quicker and more efficiently. Instead of waiting for a fully completed project that can take months or even years, you now will release your project in short phases, allowing you to collect data and feedback along the way. The benefit? You can now change your project direction to reflect your user feedback, resulting in a better product.

    In agile development, your clients play a more active role by being able to see the iterative changes during development instead of seeing only the completed project. The results -> happier client.

    Now that you know what Agile is, how do you implement it?  There are a couple key processes that are implemented to ensure your development runs smoothly.

    • The discovery phase – This phase is not much different than any other methodology. The goal is to understand what your client’s main objectives are. These meetings will include all key members of the project team including the client, project manager, developers, product owners and designers. It’simportant to include all relevant team members that will play a role in the project so that there is a clear understanding across the entire team. This will help alleviate any potential misunderstanding or confusion later on.
    • Backlog – This is a new addition to a traditional development styles. The backlog is a constantly changing list of product changes or features that are discovered throughout the project life cycle. The client or product owners will continually prioritize this list on a regular basis. This allows the team to see what the top priority is for the client at any given time.
    • Iterations – Project iterations within Agile Development are referred to as “Sprints.”  These are fixed durations of development. After each sprint is completed, the team will determine what will be worked on in their next upcoming sprint. The sprint can be any length of time depending on project size and client preference and sprints are usually anywhere between 1-4 weeks in length. After each sprint, a partial or fully finished version of the product is completed and reviewed by the client.
    • Continuing the Cycle – The sprint cycles will continue until the project is completed. After each sprint the product backlog is assessed, client feedback is provided and testing is completed.  Each sprint can contain new features, enhancements to existing features, and bugs.

    If you are doing your own research into implementing agile development within your team, there are a few key terms you will run across. Below is a breakdown of the most common terms and their function within the methodology.

    Key Terms for implementing Agile Development:

    • Backlog– Work that needs to be completed. This can include bugs, new features or feature enhancements. It collected and maintained by the product owner and/or client.
    • Burn down chart – This is used to monitor the current sprint process. It shows how much work has been completed against the work remaining.
    • Daily Scrum – Because the focus can change quickly in an agile environment it’s important that the team is in constant communication. Daily stand-ups are encouraged. The stand-ups should stay quick and concise.  They include asking each team member, “what did you complete yesterday” , ” what will you complete today” and ” is anything blocking you from completing your work”.
    • Scrum Master – This person oversees the development process and helps the teams work in an efficient and collaborative way.
    • Sprints – An agreed upon length of time for your development phase.
    • Sprint Retrospective – A review of the lessons learned from the previous sprint. This can help with the teams communication and productivity.
    • Stories – A set of requirements provided for a feature or enhancement.
    • Velocity – A metric to determining the amount of work that can be completed in your given sprint length.

    Keep in mind, as with any methodology you choose, you can decide what works best for your team and your client. If you are not sure where to start, consider augmenting your staff with an already fully functioning agile development team like Excel SoftSources.

    Contact us today learn more about how an augmented staff can help you.