What is the Agile Methodology in Software Development?
The agile methodology has become a staple in many organizations as the preferred method of creating software. Even with its popularity, not many companies are fully aware of what exactly is the agile software development methodology and what are its biggest advantages. In this article, we will describe what the agile methodology is and why so many companies prefer it over everything else.
What is Agile Methodology in Software Development?
The agile methodology is a family of approaches to software development where the requirements and solutions morph via a collaborative effort of cross-functioning teams and the customer(s). There are four main principles of agile:
- Individuals and interactions are more important than the processes and tools
- Properly functioning software is more important than documentation
- Ongoing communication with the customer is more important than contracts
- Being responsive to changes instead of rigidly staying the course
Before agile software engineering came along, there was the Waterfall method. This process involved having all of the necessary documentation already in place before any actual coding could begin. This document included all the business requirements an application should have, and it was comprehensive to include everything from the functionality to the way the interface will look and everything in between.
This meant that there could be 300 pages of documentation that outlined all of the functional and nonfunctional aspects of the app and the developers had to know what was written on page 86, for example, and if they did it wrong they were chastised for it. However, life was simpler before agile. There were not many development tools that require any sort of specialized knowledge, there were no APIs or web components that we have today.
Advantages of Agile Development
The agile definition implies a more adaptive and flexible approach to software development. The agile development process allows teams to take a problem and break it up into manageable units that you can develop and test. If you notice during the testing process that something is not working the way you would like, you can make changes quickly and continue working as opposed to going back and starting from square one like you would with Waterfall. While there are different types of agile methodologies, all of them require each individual team member to take more responsibility and ownership of their work.
One of the agile features that allow it to better provide business software solutions is its emphasis on constant improvement. Imagine what would’ve happened if Apple stopped improving iOS software 10 years ago. The iterative nature of agile promotes an environment of continuous improvement where developers can take the feedback they obtained from previous iterations and incorporate it right away. This makes agile more suited for modern operating conditions. Today, it is more important to work smarter not harder and by emphasizing the importance of producing software that works the way it is supposed to and building in iterations allows software development companies that employ the agile methodology to keep up with the times and stay ahead of the competition.
In today’s fast and ever-evolving IT landscape, you need a software development methodology that allows you the flexibility to incorporate change. This change does not necessarily have to come from the customer. It could merely be an early decision that turned out to be incorrect and now it is wreaking havoc. Since it would be very expensive and time-consuming to dismantle everything and start over anew, be flexible enough to learn from your mistakes that you avoid critical errors.
Also, so far we have talked about the technical benefits, but there are many business benefits as well. For example, with agile, you can foresee and plan for any unexpected costs, scheduling errors and scope creep. This way you will be able to handle all of the business pitfalls effectively without delaying or even scrapping your project.