The dictionary (well, Google) describes the term “Agile” as “able to move quickly and easily.” That’s true, even in the context of tech. But it’s also more than that. In the world of a software developer, “Agile” refers to a project management approach, and it’s a pretty common one.
The idea behind “Agile” development is that you build a framework nimble enough (agile enough) to adjust to changing demands. It’s probably one of the simplest yet most effective ways to turn a vision into something real. Plus, it’s quick. And there’s less risk. Instead of spending precious time and valuable money in the development phase of a product you have yet to find a market for, it gets broken up into the smallest, most basic version of your idea- the “minimum viable product.”
This flexi-methodology emerged as a solution to the shortcomings of waterfall- a different (more expensive) way of finding a product-market fit. There’s only so many times you can afford to scrap and rebuild your product, and the time it takes to go through another product iteration in waterfall puts you at a disadvantage. Competition is rife in the Saas side of town.
It’s a continuous process, but don’t be fooled- Agile is anything but boring. The iterations are done in sprints, typically 4-6 weeks with a presentation to the client at the end. Then, repeat. Doing it this way replaces high-level design with frequent redesign. Plus, it allows you to test the application in real time, learn from your mistakes, and adjust the development strategy accordingly.
- There’s transparency between all parties, and at all points- users and clients included. Why? Because of the ongoing iterations. This makes having a shared vision easy, even in the face of unforeseen changes.
- Quality? Check. Breaking your project up into iterations means you’re able to focus on specifics. And because you’re constantly testing and iterating, your product gets updated and upgraded all the time.
- Early release. Remember that “minimum viable product?” It goes to market before the final product is ready. So identifying your product’s weaknesses and strengths becomes easy, and correcting them? Even easier.
- Costs are predictable. Because of the fixed sprints, the project can be well budgeted for. That’s the dream, right? And, because of the sprints, the project can also be frozen if necessary- something that’s not possible with waterfall.
- Changes can be made, and made often. Because your product is constantly evolving, you have ample opportunity to tweak things.
- When do you stop improving your product? With Agile development, you don’t. Okay, you do. But it’s hard to. The desire to make endless changes can lead to a deadlock.
- Working in short-term iterations can hamper your long-term progress. And since it’s hard to tell what the end product is going to look like, it becomes difficult to predict the time, cost and effort it’s going to take to get there.
- Hard to maintain. Why? Because the level of collaboration is pretty high.
Even though the pros outweigh the cons, Agile isn’t for everyone. And if it isn’t for you, no worries. There are loads of different alternatives. Like waterfall, scrum or DevOps.
The Waterfall model is the earliest approach ever used in software development. And honestly? It makes sense. It’s the most logical. Seriously, the name is even sensible- progress flows towards the end goal, like a waterfall. So if you’re someone who likes structure, order and tick boxes, this traditional methodology’s for you.
Not a fan of Waterfall? Take a look at Scrum. It’s similar to Agile in terms of the sprints and MVPs, but it’s not the same. Everyday you attend a brief meeting chaired by the “Scrum Master.” Fun, right? This is essentially to touch-base with your team. There’s also a product backlog, so a complete list of functionality yet to be added to the product. The best way to create a product backlog? Populate it with short descriptions from the perspective of your users. It helps if you do this on the first day of your sprints.
Option 3? Merge two fields together- software development and information technology. Using this approach gets you a fast release. How? Through the use of automation, constant interaction, and a continuous workflow- also known as a DevOps process; a 7-part operation. Plus, efforts are made to get everyone familiar with each step. Not pros, but familiar.
Us? We’re Agile fans.
It’s a win-win. An Agile approach provides better opportunities for both the client and the agency. Deliberately learning from your mistakes allows you to tighten your feedback loop. And when you tighten your feedback loop, you speed up your product. The best part? Because of this to-and-fro cycle, you’re not just getting a flexible product, but a durable one too.
Need help with Agile Software Development? Check out this manifesto.