Today, most modern technology agencies use the agile software development methodology. Or a version of it, as least. But why has this development style become so popular? What are its advantages? And what methodology were developers using before? Formally introduced back in 2001 with the Agile Manifesto, agile software development focuses on four main principles - personal interaction, functional software, customer collaboration, and adapting to change. We're taking a look at the benefits of using an agile approach to your software development project. And explaining why, in 2021, the future is agile...
Why agile software development works
Waterfall vs agile development practices
Old school developers will tell you that for a long time the waterfall methodology was the standard in software development. It required large amounts of documentation upfront, including a business requirement document that covered everything from overall strategy and comprehensive functional specs to the visual UI designs. This document was then used by technologists to create a technical requirements document that the coders could then work from.
Once the technical requirements document was finalised, developers could begin coding, after which the process of integration and testing began. The aim was to have such clear instructions from the outset that you wouldn't have to spend time developing various iterations or going back to make changes. Because each step in the waterfall methodology is so detailed, it could take up to a year to develop an application. And, once it was released, it was assumed it would never need to be adapted.
The agile approach to software development is quite different. When developers started working on internet applications, they realised they needed to develop software faster, with more iterations, and in a more collaborative manner. This gave rise to the Agile Manifesto, where developers stressed collaboration over documentation, self-organization rather than rigid management practices, and the ability to manage constant change rather than lock yourself to a rigid waterfall development process.
Below is an example of the agile development life cycle where you can see how an application goes through as many design, build and test iterations as necessary before it's finally launched.
What are the benefits of agile principles:
It's about flexibility and adaptability
The agile methodology breaks projects down into manageable components, testing with users as you go. This means that if something isn't working well, or as you thought it would, or if an effort turns out to be unnecessary for users, you can change and adapt at any stage. It could mean altering a certain function or feature, or deleting it completely to make room for something else you hadn't considered. The agile approach allows you to identify and correct issues quickly, so you can get back on track. It also encourages each team members to contribute to the project and take pride in his/her work.
It's faster and smarter
The ultimate goal with the agile methodology is to produce better software in a shorter space of time. This is possible because the process prioritizes delivering working software and learning from constant feedback in order to create the best possible final product. In today's modern deadline-driven world, this is a more suitable approach to development projects.
There's ongoing improvement
This is one of the most important benefits of the agile methodology. Rather than creating a product and leaving it for years to come, agile development encourages continuous improvement. As technology and society changes, software needs to be updated, enhanced and supported. We see it with tech giants like Facebook and Microsoft where new versions are continuously being introduced. Agile development provides a process for those improvements and promotes a mindset where continuous development is encouraged.
Everyone is happier
The agile approach establishes a feeling of community and cohesion between those involved in the software development project. The coders and programmers are happier because they can control how much work they take on, and have a say in the way the work is structured. Clients are pleased because they get to see their ideas come to life sooner, knowing their decisions are based on the latest insights. And users are more satisfied seeing their changes and suggestions incorporated into software so that the processes and applications do what they need them to. Win, win, win!
Digital transformation expert and CIO Isaac Sacolick sums it up perfectly when he says, "When you take the aggregate of agile principles, implement them in an agile framework, leverage collaboration tools, and adopt agile development practices, you usually get better-quality applications, faster-developed applications, and better technical methods." These are just some of the reasons the agile methodology has become so popular. And why it will continue to be the process of choice in the future.