Everything You Need to Know About Agile Software Development

by Sandra Petrova

9 min read · Jul 24, 2019

The software industry has been captivated by the agile project management. Companies of all sizes have been influenced by promises of faster development, more releases, and higher revenue. 

Although the agile method has been used by everyone from Apple and Facebook to Google and Spotify, in reality, only a small number of companies have a firm grasp on how the agile process works. 

That’s why we’re going to try to peek beneath the surface of the agile approaches before you dive in headfirst.

This blog article will take you from the roles in the agile methodology, right through to its core frameworks, and then give you several reasons why agile project management is right for your team.

Let’s get into it!

The 4 Roles on the Agile Team

In order to truly understand how to build an Agile team, we’ll need to go over the basics. The first step would be to dive deeper into the structure and main roles of an Agile team. We’ll see how each role contributes to a fast and continuous development throughout the project. 

The Product Owner

The Product Owner is the voice of the customer. This person communicates all the ideas, insights, and feedback of the stakeholders to the developers to create a product vision. Their responsibilities include making decisions in a timely manner, prioritizing backlog and maximizing the return on investment. 

The Stakeholders

The stakeholders can be users, managers of users, Portfolio Managers, investors, or the executive team. The agile process always begins with the stakeholders in mind and follows their ideas and feedback. They represent the different types of customer needs and behaviors. 

The Team Lead

They are the closest thing to a project manager. Their responsibilities include guiding the team, mentoring junior team members, and giving feedback. The Team Lead also oversees daily functions, communicates with team members, and ensures that all tasks are being completed on time. Apart from senior technical skills, this person should possess great soft skills. 

The Team Member

The team members can be the front and back-end developers, testers, designers, copywriters, etc. They’re responsible for the creation and delivery of the project. Their roles and skills are varied and their main concern is to deliver a high-quality project on time. 

agile software development method

How an Agile Team Works

The Waterfall methodology meant creating separate focus teams that will work on different sequential stages. Each of the stages must be 100% complete before the next stage can start. Well, the Agile method calls for more collaboration between cross-functional teams.

The Agile team prides itself on open communication, regular collaboration, and trust amongst members of the team. The team comits to following the agile best practices, tight feedback cycles, and continuous improvement. 

Some teams implement scrum while others use kanban. There are co-located teams and distributed teams. Team members learn from one another and mentor one another. Mentorship is highly encouraged on the agile team. Everyone is aware that the impact made by the team as a whole will be greater than the impact made by individual members. 

The high-performing agile team follows the recommended engineering practices, including:

  • Code reviews: once a developer finishes working on an issue, they analyze the code for any logic errors.
  • Regular testing: the majority of agile teams use automated testing just because it helps them align better with the faster development cycles of Agile.
  • Task branching: instead of deploying large features of the software at the same time, agile teams divide them into smaller batches to reduce release risks.
  • Continuous integration: a development practice where developers integrate code into a shared repository often, sometimes even a few times a day.

Scrum, Kanban or another flavor of Agile? 

As we’ve mentioned earlier, there’s no single formula of the ideal Agile team. Some teams follow the Scrum method, while others adopt the Kanban processes. These methodologies are quite similar, although they do have their own mix of practices and terminology. 

Let’s explore the top 3 and see how they’re different:

Agile Scrum Methodology

The agile Scrum methodology is a highly popular development method among teams. According to the State of Agile Report, a whopping 56% of teams use the Scrum methodology. They like using Scrum because of its simplicity and proven productivity.

Here’s how it works:

  1. The Scrum Master collaborates closely with the team members to identify and prioritize their goals or features. These goals or features are then added to what’s called a “Product Backlog”.
  2. The cross-functional team reviews the Product Backlog and agrees to deliver “potentially shippable increments” of software during successive Sprints. The average length of each Sprint is 30 days.
  3. There are daily standup meetings so that the team can communicate and stay up-to-date with development progress. 
  4. After 30 days, the Sprint ends and the team analyzes the backlog. They gather for a demo meeting and present the functionality to the Scrum Master.
  5. The final step is a retrospective meeting where the team discusses what parts of their process need improvement and what went well. 
agile software development

Kanban

Although scrum dominates, Kanban is another popular agile methodology among teams. Its emphasis is on continual delivery where things are kept simple so the team doesn’t get overstressed. 

The Kanban method follows 3 main principles:

  1. Visualize your workflow: many teams visualize their workflow with the help of kanban boards. These kanban boards use cards and columns in order to help teams make their work visible, show it to others, and complete the job. Some teams use sticky notes on a whiteboard to communicate status, progress, and issues. Other teams use software like Jira or Atlassian. The software offers a “board” style interface where teams can see their “to-do” or “in progress” tasks. 
  2. Limit work-in-progress: teams know how much they can do in each sprint and nothing more can be added. This helps balance the workflow and prevents the team from burnout. 
  3. Manage flow: the team should always know what task comes next after an item is completed. When they complete an item, the team starts working on the next highest priority task. 
agile kanban board

Source

Extreme Programming (XP)

XP is a lightweight framework for high-quality agile software development that focuses on fast and continuous delivery. It involves rapid feedback loops, high customer involvement, continuous agile testing, and close team collaboration. 

The methodology got its name from the belief that traditional software development methodologies have some beneficial elements. These beneficial elements are taken to the “extreme” levels. For example, in XP, code reviews are highly important and taken to the extreme with continuous reviews and the practice of pair programming. 

The end goal is to deliver working software at frequent intervals. If the Scrum sprint lasts an average of 30 days, the XP sprint duration is 1-3 weeks. 

Here’s how it works:

  • The stakeholder works closely with the development team to define and prioritize goals known as “user stories”.
  • The development team estimates, plans, and delivers the highest priority user stories on an iteration-by-iteration basis.
  • And the final step is getting more feedback from the stakeholder until the software is ready for release.

Why Choose Agile?

When you adopt agile development practices, you’ll higher-quality solutions, rapidly developed applications, and better technical practices. Let’s take a closer look at the most notable benefits of adopting agile:

The agile method is flexible and adaptable

Instead of defining everything up-front, the agile method lets you complete work in smaller increments and assess the team’s progress. There’s ample time for feedback and review to make sure you’re on the right path. If some part isn’t functioning properly, you can make the needed changes and quickly get back on track. 

The agile method is more suitable for today’s software development world 

For many companies, agile software development is more appropriate as it helps them stay relevant in the highly competitive market. You need to operate smarter and faster in order to release your solution ahead of the competition and have ample time for promotion. 

The agile method can help teams engineer the perfect application

By embracing continuous integration, and daily testing, the agile team can address issues while they’re fresh. By maintaining close collaboration and communication, the team can move forward in unison. The end product will be a high-quality application and a happy customer. 

The agile method makes people happier and more productive

Believe it or not, the agile method can make your employees more engaged and happier. Developers get a say in how much work they can take on, there’s a culture of collaboration, and room for innovation. This type of a self-managing team lets people be creative, learn from others, and mentor their peers. It’s a win-win for everyone!

Conclusion

At the end of the day, agile is about rapidly reacting to changes in the marketplace. It’s about responding to your customers’ feedback as quickly as possible without derailing your project’s delivery date. It’s about planning and shipping your product in small, frequent increments so that there’s room for continuous improvement at a minimal cost.

But agile is also about the team. It’s a call for collaborative cross-functional teams in which there’s authentic human interaction. Open communication, collaboration, and trust amongst team members replace rigid processes.

And magically, what you thought was impossible with the Waterfall method, has become possible with the agile methodology. And that’s the timely delivery of a high-quality product to your customers. 

Choose agile and keep going forward!