What is Agile

by | May 3, 2024 | Agile

If you have been working in software development for the past 20 years or so, you have likely encountered the term Agile multiple times. Phrases like “Let’s do Agile” and “We are Agile” are common, but what does ‘being Agile’ really entail? Beyond just a modern-sounding buzzword, there’s a rich background to Agile. To understand it fully, first we need to understand the origins of Agile software development.

History of Agile

In the late 1990s, leading figures in software development, disappointed with the rigid and inflexible practices of the time, began experimenting with more adaptable and responsive techniques. In 2001, a group of 17 influential individuals got together to share their experiences. They quickly recognized a common desire to produce working software quickly and obtain quick feedback on its impact. This collaboration led to what would soon be known as the collective term Agile.

Agile Values

Agile values

The core philosophy of Agile is encapsulated in the Agile Manifesto, which highlights four comparative key values:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation 
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change over following plan

The manifesto clearly acknowledges the value of the latter elements of each pair, indicating a shift in focus rather than a complete rejection of traditional values. This is important to emphasize because it is often assumed that agile promotes no documentation or plan, which is absolutely not true. Agile states that items on the left are more valuable than items on the right, but this in no way implies that items on the right are obsolete.

Therefore, the first of the four values means prioritizing team collaboration and client feedback has more value than relying only on a set process or specific tools.

The second one states that quickly delivering a functional piece of software to the customer is more valuable than getting bogged down in paperwork.

In the third one, Agile champions working closely with clients and make adjustments based on their feedback rather than strictly following a contract.

And the fourth one states that being adaptable and ready to pivot based on new information is valued more than sticking to a set plan.

The 12 Principles of Agile

Tied to these values are 12 principles that guide the Agile approach to project management. They include customer satisfaction through early and continuous delivery, welcoming changing requirements, maintaining a constant pace of work and many others. These principles support a dynamic environment where teams can thrive and innovate.

You can see the full list of principles here: https://agilemanifesto.org/principles.html

Agile Frameworks

Agile frameworks

Agile isn’t a one-size-fits-all methodology; it’s more like an umbrella term that covers several frameworks, each with its own specific focus. Here are a few that are the most widely used.

Scrum

Scrum is probably the most famous Agile framework. Scrum is all about short iterations of work and regular check-ins to adapt work as needed. It defines and uses roles like Scrum Master and Product Owner to keep everything on track.

Kanban

Kanban is a framework that focuses on completing pieces of work faster by minimizing the work in progress. It visualizes work with a Kanban board, allowing teams to see the flow of work and identify bottlenecks. It’s great for continuous delivery and flexibility.

Lean

Lean originates in manufacturing. It emphasizes efficiency by eliminating waste, improving quality, and delivering faster value to the customer.

Extreme Programming (XP)

XP enhances software quality and responsiveness to changing customer requirements. It emphasizes technical excellence and good practices like code reviews, continuous integration, and automated testing.

Benefits of Agile

So, what are the benefits of Agile, and why go Agile? Here are a few compelling reasons:.

  • Flexibility: Agile’s adaptability allows teams to pivot quickly in response to changes, whether they’re customer demands or project scope adjustments.
  • Improved Quality: Agile methodologies emphasize continuous feedback and iterations, helping to identify and fix issues quickly, leading to higher-quality outcomes.
  • Customer Satisfaction: Agile frameworks involve the customer throughout the development process, ensuring the final product is more closely aligned with what the customer wants.
  • Increased Collaboration and Morale: Agile promotes teamwork and collaboration. Regular meetings with high efficiency and an emphasis on communication build a more cohesive team, boosting morale and productivity.
  • Faster Time to Market: Agile methodologies can significantly reduce time to market by focusing on delivering functional components of the project early and often.

In just a few minutes, you’ve taken a whirlwind tour of Agile—from its core values and principles to the various frameworks and their benefits. Remember, Agile is more than just a methodology; it’s a mindset. It encourages flexibility, collaboration, and a continuous striving for improvement and efficiency.

Whether you’re part of a small startup or a large corporation, incorporating Agile practices can lead to more dynamic teams, happier customers, and better products. So, why not take the next step? Dive deeper into the framework that interests you most, and start your journey to becoming truly Agile.

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