What is Agile Methodology?
If you've never heard of Agile Methods, it's time to discover a new project management strategy that allows you to deliver software solutions quickly and efficiently. The main aim of this approach is to develop projects or products iteratively, incrementally - and of course, more efficiently. These are agile processes.
For those who already know, the method differs from the waterfall model in that it doesn't follow a predetermined sequence of stages, in which each phase must be completed before the next can begin.
Agile projects are subdivided into smaller tasks, delivered in pre-defined cycles, allowing the client to assess progress and make changes or necessary adjustments along the workflow more quickly.
Where did the Agile Methodology come from?
It originated in the 1990s as an alternative to traditional software development - at the time based on rigid processes and extensive documentation. Its creator was the American Ken Schwaber, who joined forces with Jeff Sutherland to create the Scrum framework. We'll talk about this framework later in this article!
Companies such as Google, IBM, Microsoft and HP have successfully implemented some of the practices suggested by the Agile Methodology and, thanks to it, have achieved better results in product development, including the much-desired reduction in costs.
The agile method has also become popular in areas other than software, such as project management and the organization of work teams. We'll come back to that later in this article!
The Agile Manifesto
Eleven years after its creation, 17 professionals and users of the agile methodology got together to create the Agile Manifesto (2001). The aim was to change the way software development was done and the document is based on four core values:
- Individuals and interactions rather than processes and tools;
- Working software rather than comprehensive documentation;
- Collaboration with the client rather than negotiating contracts;
- Responding to change rather than following a plan.
These values have shifted the focus of software development from a hierarchical approach, based on processes and control, to a collaborative and adaptive process, centered on the customer.
By prioritizing the continuous delivery of value, frequent communication with the client and flexibility to respond to change, the Agile Manifesto has enabled development teams to adapt to project requirements and improve the overall effectiveness of the process.
The 8 Main Agile Methodologies
Each Agile Methodology has its own environment, strengths and weaknesses and it's important to choose the one that best suits the needs of the project and the skills of your team. We'll explore the main methodologies, such as Scrum, Kanban, Lean, XP, Crystal, FDD, DSDM and ASD, explaining the benefits and drawbacks of each one.
Scrum is perhaps the best known and most widely adopted Agile methodology. It is characterized by short work cycles, called sprints, which usually last from two to four weeks. Each sprint begins with a planning meeting and ends with a review and retrospective. There are also daily follow-up meetings, known as Daily Stand-ups.
The implementation of Scrum at Salesforce, a technology giant, has been a great success, with the company managing to improve the quality of its products and customer satisfaction.
Important: a key figure in this process is the Scrum Master.
The Scrum Master is responsible for ensuring that the team follows the values and practices of Scrum. This is not a leadership position in the traditional sense, but one of service and support to the Scrum team. The Scrum Master serves as a facilitator, helping the team to self-manage and remove obstacles that might impede its progress.
At the same time, the Scrum Master plays a crucial role in keeping the team focused on the goals of the sprint and the product. In addition, the Scrum Master protects the team from outside interference, allowing team members to concentrate on their work.
Advantages: Scrum promotes transparency and adaptability, providing frequent deliveries and offering high visibility to the process.
Disadvantages: However, the rigidity of Scrum can make it difficult to adapt in certain contexts, and may require a significant cultural change.
2. Lean Development
Lean involves agile processes that focus on eliminating waste and increasing the value delivered to customers. It originated in the Toyota production system and has been adapted to software development.
Advantages: Lean methodology minimizes the time and resources required for development, improving efficiency in meeting targets and system productivity.
Disadvantages: However, its implementation can be complex, especially in larger teams.
Kanban is a visual methodology that helps manage workflows and limit work in progress. It does this through the use of a Kanban board, which allows work to be visualized and identifies any problems. Siemens Healthineers is an example of a company that has successfully implemented Kanban, improving the efficiency of its development processes.
Advantages: Kanban is flexible and helps reduce bottlenecks, improving efficiency and effectiveness.
Disadvantages: However, implementing Kanban may require training and cultural change.
4. XP (eXtreme Programming)
XP is an agile method that prioritizes software quality and continuous collaboration between the team. Key XP practices include pair programming, test-driven development and continuous integration. Industrial Logic is an example of a company that uses XP to develop high-quality software efficiently.
Advantages: XP provides rapid delivery of high-quality, functional software.
Disadvantages: However, it can be difficult to apply XP to large projects or distributed teams.
Crystal is a family of Agile methodologies that adapt to the size, complexity and unique characteristics of the project and the team. Due to its customizable nature, there aren't many widely known examples of companies using Crystal, but it's particularly useful for small teams that need flexibility.
Advantages: Crystal is easy to customize and is focused on people, interactions and community.
Disadvantages: However, Crystal requires experienced leadership for implementation.
6. FDD (Feature-Driven Development)
FDD is an agile method focused on delivering specific functionalities in short periods of time. FDD breaks the project down into smaller functionalities that can be developed independently. JP Morgan is known for having used FDD to develop complex software solutions in short periods of time.
Advantages: FDD makes it easier to monitor project progress and provides frequent deliveries.
Disadvantages: However, it can be difficult to adapt to more complex projects.
7. DSDM (Dynamic Systems Development Method)
DSDM is a method that focuses on continuous customer participation and frequent deliveries. DSDM is particularly suitable for projects with tight deadlines. Birmingham City Council (UK) has successfully used DSDM to modernize its information systems and improve efficiency.
Advantages: DSDM results in high software quality and customer satisfaction.
Disadvantages: However, it requires prior training and a significant commitment from all parties involved.
8. ASD (Adaptive Software Development)
ASD is an iterative and collaborative approach that adapts to frequent changes in the project. ASD is particularly useful in high-change business environments. Emerging technology company Moonpig is an example of a company that has successfully implemented ASD, enabling it to adapt quickly to changes in the market.
Advantages: ASD offers high flexibility and adaptability, making it ideal for uncertain or constantly evolving projects.
Disadvantages: However, it can be difficult to document and plan properly.
What are the advantages of the Agile methodology?
Looking for a working model that brings your company closer to technical excellence? Agile methodologies bring advantages to companies looking for a more efficient and adaptable approach to agile project development.
Development teams can work more collaboratively and flexibly, with constant deliveries and direct adjustments to the process. This allows for greater alignment with customer and market needs, as well as reducing the risks of unforeseen events and project failures.
Another advantage is improved communication between teams and clients; and transparency of project stages, ensuring more efficient monitoring and a reduction in "rework".
The focus on quick deliveries promotes constant feedback cycles, allowing continuous improvements and adaptations to be made to the project requirements in good time.
An example of a company that has benefited from using agile methodologies is Spotify, which adopted the Scrum model and managed to reduce the time taken to launch new features in its software by up to 75%, as well as increasing the quality of the product and promoting a culture of collaboration among its employees.
Agile vs. traditional methods: the differences
There are significant differences in their processes, approaches and results. Traditional methodologies have the following characteristics:
- The definition of a plan at the beginning of the project, with little room for adaptation;
- Linear management, where work is divided into sequential phases;
- And a focus on compliance with the plan to the detriment of the customer's needs.
In contrast to the traditional method (or traditional management), the agile methodology is more flexible, comprehensive and customer-centric, offering more room for change and adaptation throughout the software development process. It is based on an iterative and incremental process, with deliverables being created in small cycles and continually reviewed and tested.
Remember that, when it comes to management, traditional methodologies are more suitable for a project with high predictability and stability, while agile methodologies are more effective in complex environments or those with frequent changes.
Agile Methodology Requirements
Do you want to implement an agile method in your company and offer more to your customers?
First and foremost, it is essential to have a multidisciplinary, collaborative and customer-focused team. Remember that it will be necessary to establish a clear and constant line of communication between all team members, including developers and the client.
Another important requirement is frequent iterations and constant deliveries, with the aim of obtaining feedback from users and adjusting the project path as necessary. In this way, the final quality of the software can be guaranteed, reducing development time.
All these requirements are crucial to the success of the process:
- A multidisciplinary team ensures that the different perspectives of the product are considered during development, increasing the likelihood of finding creative and effective solutions;
- Permanent collaboration establishes an environment of mutual respect and trust, allowing the team to work together and achieve its objectives in an integrated manner;
- Clear communication prevents misunderstandings and enables problems to be identified quickly, facilitating decision-making and the resolution of issues;
- Focusing on the customer, in turn, ensures that the product is tailored to their needs and prioritizes the satisfaction of those who matter, at the end of the day.
Which areas use the Agile Methodology the most?
It's not just in programming or for development companies: in addition to startups and technology companies dedicated to agile software development, other sectors have also benefited from Agile Methods. Take, for example, the management of development and construction projects by Skanska and DPR Construction; and what financial services companies such as VISA and American Express have done.
In the automotive industry, the Toyota production system has been recognized for its agile product development approach. And several companies in the games sector, such as Ubisoft and Electronic Arts, are known to have gained a competitive edge thanks to agile methodologies for managing multidisciplinary teams in project development and new products.
Agile Methodology - Implementation Guide
Agile transformation is a huge task that involves changing processes, sustainably developing new skills and altering attitudes and behaviors in your organization. It's not something that can be done overnight - but if done well, it can bring huge benefits in terms of efficiency, quality of work, customer and employee satisfaction.
Here is a step-by-step guide to implementing the Agile methodology in your company, on any project:
1. understanding the method
The first step is to understand what the concept of Agile Methodology really is. Remember that Agile methodology is a form of project management that allows for a faster and more flexible response to change.
It includes various techniques and processes, such as Scrum, Kanban, XP (eXtreme Programming), among others. It's important to realize that this process is not a rigid set of rules, but rather a set of principles and values that guide the way a company works - towards continuous improvement.
2. Assessing the Company's Readiness
Before implementing Agile, it is essential to assess your company's ability to respond. This includes understanding the company's current culture, the attitude of employees towards change and the ability to adapt new processes.
In addition, it is crucial to identify the obstacles that can prevent the successful implementation of Agile, such as resistance to change, lack of knowledge of the new processes and/or competencies, or inadequate infrastructure.
3. Define the Scope of the Transformation
Decide what the scope of the Agile transformation will be: are you going to implement Agile Methods across the whole company at once or start with one team or department? The answer to this question will depend on several factors, including the size and complexity of your company, the willingness of resources to change and the resources at your disposal.
4. Training and Education
Training is a crucial element in this implementation process. It can consist of a formal training process in Agile Methods, as well as training in related skills such as team leadership, change management and conflict resolution. Remember that, alongside the whole process, it will be important to promote a mindset of continuous learning - because Agile is about constant adaptation and improvement.
5. Implementing Agile
Once the training is complete, it's time to start implementing the Agile Methodology. This usually starts with the formation of Agile teams - which are small, self-managed teams that work in "sprints" or work cycles.
Agile teams use a variety of tools and techniques to plan, organize and monitor their work, such as Kanban boards , daily stand-ups, and retrospectives at the end of each sprint or work cycle.
6. Monitoring and adjusting
The implementation of Agile Methods is not a linear process, but an iterative process of experimentation, learning and adjustment. This means that it is essential to monitor the progress of the operation, gather feedback and make adjustments as necessary. Remember to celebrate victories, no matter how small, to maintain motivation and momentum!
7. Scaling Agile
Once you have successfully implemented Agile Methodologies in one team or department, the next step is to scale up to the rest of the company and implement an Agile culture. The process may involve forming more Agile teams, introducing new tools and processes and adapting the organizational structure to support a more Agile way of working, in order to increase performance.
FAQ - Agile Methodologies
- What is an iteration?
Iteration, in the context of Agile, is a complete development cycle for a product or service that takes place over a defined period of time - usually between one and four weeks. This cycle - or iteration - includes all the stages of development, from the conception of an idea or project to the delivery of a functional product.
The concept is a central component in all agile methodologies. Each uses it in a slightly different way, but all emphasize working in repetitive and incremental cycles to allow for flexibility and continuous improvement. For example:
- In Scrum, each iteration is called a "Sprint" and lasts between one and four weeks. Each Sprint begins with a planning meeting and ends with a review and retrospective. During the Sprint, the team works to complete a specific set of tasks from the product backlog;
- In Extreme Programming (XP), iterations are just as fundamental. XP uses short iterations, lasting one to two weeks. Each iteration begins with a planning meeting where the team and the client agree on what user feedback to implement in the iteration.
What makes iteration so important in Agile is its adaptive nature. Instead of following a rigid development plan, the Agile team channels its efforts into evaluating and reassessing its progress at the end of each iteration. This policy allows adjustments to be made as necessary, ensuring that the final product meets the client's needs in the best possible way.
By using the iteration concept, Agile teams are better equipped to deal with change. If new information or a change in scope occurs, the team maintains performance levels and can adapt quickly and incorporate these changes into the next iteration.
- What is agile management?
Agile management is an approach to project management that takes advantage of the practices and principles of agile methodologies. Traditionally, projects were managed through fairly rigid and sequential processes, where everything was planned out in advance - and changes were minimized and seen as a sign of trouble.
For managers, agile management has changed this paradigm: instead of resisting change, agile management embraces it and recognizes that, in a rapidly changing world, it is impossible to predict all the variables and obstacles that a project may encounter. So instead of trying to create a perfect plan from the outset, agile management advocates the idea of planning incrementally and iteratively.
- What is a life cycle?
The life cycle of a project is the set of phases that the project goes through, from its conception to its completion. In traditional project management approaches, this life cycle is usually linear and sequential - it starts with a definition and planning phase, moves on to execution and finally enters the completion phase.
However, in the agile methodology, the project life cycle is conceived differently. Instead of being linear, the lifecycle is iterative and incremental. This means that the project is divided into small parts or iterations, each of which goes through all the phases of the lifecycle - from planning to evaluation. This cycle is repeated over time, allowing the team to learn from each iteration and make adjustments as necessary.
- What are architectures?
When we talk about "architectures", we are referring to system structures that not only meet customer requirements, but are also flexible enough to adapt to changes that may occur in the future. At the heart of agile methodologies is acceptance of and adaptation to change - and software architecture is no exception.
The best architectures" are, by nature, evolutionary. They are developed and improved iteratively, as the project progresses and new needs or challenges arise. They are the result of a collective effort, with the whole team contributing to their construction and evolution.
A good architecture is not seen as something that is defined in detail at the start of a project and followed rigidly. Instead, it is something that emerges and evolves as the team gains a deeper understanding of the system and the users' needs.
- What is a development cycle?
The development cycle, often known as the software development lifecycle, describes the path a piece of software takes from its initial conception to its implementation and subsequent maintenance. This cycle includes phases such as:
When applying agile methodologies in software development or other sectors, the cycle is characteristically iterative and incremental: instead of each phase being completed sequentially, once, the team goes through the development cycle several times, in small iterations. Each iteration results in a functional version of the software which is then tested, evaluated and improved in the next iteration.
- What are stories?
Stories or user stories, as they are also known, are a concise way of describing a requirement or functionality from the user's point of view. A typical story is formulated as follows: "As [type of user], I want [some action] so that I can get [some benefit or result]".
These stories are a fundamental tool in agile methodologies, as they help the team to focus on the value that is being created for the user. Instead of getting lost in technical details, stories allow the team to concentrate on what's really important: what the user needs and why.
Stories are developed and implemented in iterations: small units of time in which the team commits to delivering certain project requirements. With each iteration, new stories are worked on, tested and improved, making development more flexible and adaptable to change.
So when we talk about "stories" in agile methodologies, we're referring to a concept that puts the user at the center of development. Stories are a way for the team to maintain a clear focus on the value being created, allowing a more effective response to the real needs of users.
For any project, implementing Agile is a complex and challenging journey that requires a strategic approach and a long-term commitment. However, with careful planning, the right training, and a willingness to experiment and learn, you can transform the way your company works and reap the benefits of Agile - in your organization too!