What Is Agile Development?

Agile development is a description of a group of iterative and incremental approaches to software development. The term was coined in the Agile Manifesto in 2001. Agile development emphasizes working software as the primary measure of progress, combined with a preference for face-to-face communication. The agile method encourages stakeholders to prioritize “wants” with other iteration outcomes, based on the business value perceived at the beginning of the iteration.

Where Is Agile Development Used?
There are many specific agile development methods. Most promote development, teamwork, collaboration and process adaptability throughout the life-cycle of the project. Typically agile development is used for projects with constantly evolving requirements developed by cross functional teams.

How does Agile Development Work in Practice?
The approach enables rapid and flexible responses to changing needs and encourages adaptive planning, evolutionary development and delivery and a “time boxed” iterative approach. Used as a conceptual framework Agile promotes foreseen interactions throughout the development cycle. agile development methodology infographic Agile methods break tasks into small increments with minimal planning and do not directly involve long-term planning. Iterations are short time frames known as timeboxes that typically last from one to four weeks.

What Happens In An Iteration?
Each iteration involves a cross functional team working in all functions: planning, requirements analysis, design, coding, unit testing, and acceptance testing. At the end of the iteration a working product is demonstrated to stakeholders. This minimizes overall risk and allows the project to adapt to changes quickly. The goal is to have an available release (with minimal bugs) at the end of each iteration. Multiple iterations might be required to release a fully working product or new feature. At the end of each iteration, stakeholders and the team (or its ‘customer representative’) review progress and re-evaluate priorities with a view to optimizing the return on investment (ROI) and ensuring alignment with customer needs and company goals.

What Roles Are Involved In Agile Development Teams?
Team composition in an agile project is usually cross-functional and self-organizing, without consideration for any existing corporate hierarchy or the corporate roles of team members. Team members normally take responsibility for tasks that deliver the functionality an iteration requires. They decide individually how to meet an iteration’s requirements. Team size is typically small (5-9 people) to simplify team communication and team collaboration. Larger development efforts can be delivered by multiple teams working toward a common goal or on different parts of an effort. Agile methods emphasize face-to-face communication over written documents when the team is all in the same location.

Are There Any Agile Development Guidelines?
The Agile Manifesto reads, in its entirety, as follows:

“We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.”

The meanings of the manifesto items on the left within the agile software development context are described below:

  • Individuals and Interactions – in agile development, self-organization and motivation are important, as are interactions like co-location and pair programming.
  • Working software – working software will be more useful and welcome than just presenting documents to clients in meetings.
  • Customer collaboration – requirements cannot be fully collected at the beginning of the software development cycle, therefore continuous customer or stakeholder involvement is very important.
  • Responding to change – agile development is focused on quick responses to change and continuous development.

Who Invented The Agile Methodology?
In February 2001, 17 software developers published the Manifesto for Agile Software Development to define the approach. Some of the manifesto’s authors formed the Agile Alliance, a nonprofit organization that promotes software development according to the manifesto’s principles.

What Are The Twelve Principles Of Agile Methodology?
The twelve principles are:

Customer satisfaction by rapid delivery of useful software
Welcome changing requirements, even late in development
Working software is delivered frequently (weeks rather than months)
Working software is the principal measure of progress
Sustainable development, able to maintain a constant pace
Close, daily co-operation between business people and developers
Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication (co-location)
Projects are built around motivated individuals, who should be trusted
Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design
Simplicity– The art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential
Self-organizing teams
Regular adaptation to changing circumstances

In 2005 a group headed by Alistair Cockburn and Jim Highsmith wrote The Declaration Of Interdependence, an addendum of principles which applied agile development methods to software project management.

How Does Agile Development Compare With Other Software Development Methods?
Methods exist on a continuum from adaptive to predictive. Agile methods lie on the adaptive side of this continuum. Adaptive methods focus on adapting quickly to changing realities. When the needs of a project change, an adaptive team changes as well. This is sometimes referred to as “permanent beta” where a particular software development project does not have a defined “end point” but is continually being refined and improved. Predictive methods focus on planning the future in detail. A predictive team can report exactly what features and tasks are planned for the entire length of the development process. Predictive teams have difficulty changing direction. The plan is typically optimized for the original destination and changing direction can require completed work to be started over. Predictive teams will often institute a change control board to ensure that only the most valuable changes are considered.

Why Does SciVisum Use Agile Methodology?
We believe that the Agile approach enables us to create user focussed software, responding rapidly to the evolving needs of our clients, the developing market and the pace of technological change.

It also allows us to demonstrate working models to our clients, and for them to provide feedback, much more often and more successfully, making the working relationships much closers and deepening our understanding of their needs.

We typically release an average of 5 new features a month, and the majority of our clients are directly involved in new product development projects in some way, from initial ideas, through to full beta testing and piloting.

The agile approach is at the heart of the responsive development for which SciVisum is known.


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