Is your organisation struggling to face the dynamic world of digital? Do you need an option that allows you to accelerate product delivery and enhance ability and flexibility, all whilst managing changeable priorities and increasing productivity? Stop searching for answers. All your solutions lie in Agile methodology.
There has been a growing trend in the number of organisations that practice Agile methodology. As of 2017, 94% of organisations in the UK are now using Agile. This is a huge increase of up to 78% since the previous year, according to the Annual State of Agile Report.
The concepts of Agile are changing the organisational structures of business cultures and it is fast becoming a powerful tool to face and manage changes within the digital industry. That is why we adopt an Agile approach within all of our projects at BrightLemon.
What is Agile Methodology?
The term ‘Agile’ was coined in 2001 in the Agile Manifesto:, a document written by 17 technologists. It is used to describe approaches to software development that emphasize collaboration over documentation, self-organisation rather than fixed management practices, and the ability to manage to constant change rather than to a rigid development process.
The Agile method relies on four major principles:
- individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- working software over comprehensive documentation
- customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- responding to change over following a plan.
Before Agile: The Waterfall Methodology
Before Agile was the Waterfall methodology. Launched in 1970, in a world that was accustomed to slow progress and assumed that the systems in place wouldn’t need to change, it revolutionised the discipline of software development.
How Waterfall differs to Agile:
- It required a ton of defined and detailed documentations, and technical specifications before coding was able to start
- Integration and testing were the two last phases, at the end of a process started at least two years before
- The team involved was usually large
- Communication tools were limited
- Many development tools required specialized training
- If a technical specification changed, it would required a long process of review
- The whole process could take a couple of years, at least
- Feedback was collected after the software was deployed
Source: Automation Planet
However, the increasing growth and pace of the digital industry led to the obsolescence of the Waterfall method and to the necessity of a new philosophy and a new approach to software development.
What an Agile Approach Implies
Agile methodology is built on the acknowledgement that customers’ expectations are mutable and so are competitors’ offerings. An Agile approach minimises the risks caused by this scenario, by helping the team to collaborate, interact with the client and adapt to actions with the new needs. This is supported by stand up meetings, open and constant communication, and critical feedback.
Agile teams are multidisciplinary, composed of a diverse group of people with the skills to get the job done. The team members have to collaborate on what and how they are developing and, in order to do that, they meet frequently to make sure everyone is aligned on who is doing what, and how the software is actually being developed.
It is crucial for Testers, following an Agile methodology, to stay in close contact with developers in order to collaborate on testing throughout the entire software development lifecycle.
Agile Methodologies: Scrum and Kanban
Every organisation faces different internal and external factors. To help meet the variegated possibilities, the Agile methodologies can assume several shapes. The most popular Agile methodologies are: Scrum and Kanban.
Scrum is the most widely-used subset of Agile. This is the style adopted by BrightLemon.
It is a lightweight process framework, and is focused on a delivery cadence which includes; ‘sprints’, planning, commitment and meeting structures including daily standup meetings.
The features of the Scrum process are:
- Specific concepts and practices (Roles, Artifacts, and Time Boxes)
- Significant productivity
- Ability to adjust the organisation smoothly to rapidly-changing requirements
- Production of products that meet evolving business goals.
Kanban is a very simple Agile based methodology rooted in manufacturing. Originally from Japan, it is a visual way to manage workflow.
The features of the Kanban process are:
- No specific structure or role
- Priority guides, not time.
- Strong and extremely close teamwork is required.
- Everyone on the team can jump in and help in different areas.
The Phases of Agile Delivery
An Agile software development process starts with analysstion and planning. This is called the ‘Discovery’ phase. It is about defining the user persona, identifying goals, researching user needs, understanding what to measure, drafting a roadmap and considering any potential impacts of technology or policy.
After the Discovery phase, the Agile process enters a cycle of critique feedback, designing and testing. This cycle is articulated in the ‘Alpha’ and ‘Beta’ phases. The role of interactions and testing is critical.
The ‘Alpha’ phase is focused on exploring possible solutions, creating a working prototype and obtaining user feedback in order to responding to new issues, solving problems, Integrating or reducing resource.
The ‘Beta’ phase is to do with the release of the project and is aimed to create a full end-to-end service, tested with real users in preparation for live launch.
The last phase of Agile is called ‘Deploy’ or ‘Live’. This involves creating a scalable, resilient service that is capable of ongoing development and improvement. In this phase, developers maintain and meet security and performance standards, and measure the success of the project against KPIs defined earlier on.
The Benefits of Agile Methodology
There are a number of benefits that the Agile methodology could bring to your organisation thanks to the clear guidance and principles that it prescribes throughout the software development cycle; planning, execution, and delivery.
The core concept of the Agile mindset is to break any problems into smaller components and develop and test them during the process, not only at the end. If something is not working well or as expected, the team can re-orientate the efforts.
Execution and Delivery
It promotes a business approach that aligns development with customer needs and company goals, a leadership philosophy that encourages teamwork, self-organization and accountability, a disciplined project management process that encourages frequent inspection and adaptation, and a set of engineering best practices to develop high-quality software.
Agile lets each team member contribute to the solution, and it requires that each member takes personal responsibility for his or her work. The collaboration with stakeholders, the advantage to share knowledge and the capacity to intervene when problems or new customer’s requests come up, disclose a more relaxed atmosphere in the workspace and guarantee customers satisfaction as well as higher level of efficiency.
All this encourages an ongoing process of improvement. The teams are more productive and feel happier since they are a part of the whole process, can engage with the client and are not disconnected from the flow.
The Future of Agile
The future of Agile is a prosperous one. This is not just due to its successful implementation within tech agencies but also because it is a method that is not exclusive to the digital industry alone. It can fit into every sector, including Government and Education.
Government organisations are structured with strict requirements, limited budgets, specific scope and long decision making processes that make them resistance to ‘the new’. But the Agile approach puts communication first, finds the right people for each project, believes in re-evaluation and feedback, and learns from past successes and failures. All of these features could support the Government to overcome these problems. So, even if the Government system causes obstructions, the Agile process can still find a way.
The same approach can be applied in the educational field. Instead of fixed annual plans and singular works, schools could run sprints, work on short developments, encourage students to work in teams, transform boring lessons in funny and educative games, develop a healthy sense of competition, and build a reward-system.
There is a noticeable trend in educational institutions adopting the Agile methodology. Successful examples of this that have been recorded in the last few years are Laboratoria and the Boston School. Based on the positive outcomes from these studies, the number of schools that adopt Agile is likely to increase.
The Agile approach can be looked at as a philosophy. It is a way to be in constant contact and remain aware of what is happening around you, to be keen to collaborate and eager to grow. By calling it a philosophy, we mean that Agile is not just simply a way of doing things. It is a mindset. This Agile mindset needs only the fertile soil of our brain to be cultivated and to thrive.