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What is Agile development and its evolution?



The traditional software process models, such as the waterfall model assume that each requirement of the project must be identified before the actual design and implementation of the project begins. Failure of clear understanding of requirements means ending up developing a piece of software that has less relevance to the actual needs of the customer. For example, designing a weak user interface with less interactivity may add no value to the business needs.

Consider if all the project requirements are clearly understood by the team at the beginning of the project. Still, the time taken to create the software project is increased, which may make the final product irrelevant, due to changing business needs. Such a scenario leads to a company spending time and money on a project which is of no use to it.

Thus, to overcome some of the constraints seen in traditional process models, Agile development methods are followed by businesses today. Agile is the solution for all the eager business communities asking for lightweight, fast, and easy-to-understand development processes. Some of the fast-growing businesses, such as the mobile app development industry and Web-based applications accessed on the Internet, whose needs are changing drastically can follow an Agile approach to reduce both development cost and time.

In the words of Goldman (1995), agility in business terms is defined as: "Agility is dynamic, context-specific, aggressively change-embracing, and growth-oriented". It is not about improving efficiency, cutting costs, or battening down the business hatches to ride out fearsome competitive 'storms.' It is about succeeding and about winning, i.e. succeeding in emerging competitive areas, and winning profits, market share, and customers in the very center of the competitive storms many companies now fear.

Agile in software development terminology is a style of adapting a process model that combines philosophy and a set of development guidelines to ensure fast delivery of software with more simplicity in the overall development of the project.

Evolution of Agile

Agile methodologies are made up of several management, customer, and engineering practices, many of which have been around for decades. These practices put together, guide teams through the process OT rapidly planning and delivering finished software products.

Even though many of the practices associated with Agile development have been around for years now, the average software development team has yet to embrace many of its principles and practices. Ine average software team does not iterate, does not deliver software incrementally, nor does it practice continuous planning or automate testing. During the last several years, this trend seems to be rapidly changing, now the Agile practices have been combined in a way that can more easily be understood and adopted.

Agile development methodologies provide opportunities to continuously assess the direction of a project throughout the development life cycle. This is accomplished through periodic iterations, at the end of which teams must have a product increment ready. Agile methodology is described as "iterative" and "incremental' given the repeated short work cycles and the functional product they yield. When using the waterfall model, development teams have only one chance to get each aspect of a project right In an Agile paradigm, each aspect of development is continually revisited throughout the life cycle. The team stops and re-evaluates the direction of a project periodically, and if required changes the direction.

The 'inspect-and-adapt' approach in Agile development reduces to a great extent both development costs and time to market. With this model, as teams can develop software and gather requirements simultaneously, the 'analysis paralysis' phenomenon is less likely to deter a team from advancing. Also, because the work cycle is limited to two weeks, stakeholders have repeated opportunities to improve the releases. Agile methodology empowers teams to continuously reassess their release to optimize its value throughout development, thereby allowing them to be as competitive as possible in the marketplace. Using Agile methodology, one protects a product's critical market relevance and also ensures a team's work never goes unreleased.

Agile SDLC

Agile SDLC

Agile SDLC development follows the principle of increments and iterations to deliver software products. This method breaks tasks into small increments with minimal planning. Iterations are of short time frames known as time-boxes which are of a certain duration.

An iterative approach is taken to build software that can be delivered in each iteration. Each iteration adds or increments the software with the features laid by the customer.

The final product created by following the Agile SDLC approach provided all the working features in the project.

1. Key Features of Agile SDLC

The key features of Agile software development are:

  • Iterative: The entire application is divided into incremental units, each of which is called an 'iteration'. Each iteration is a mini-increment of the functionality and is built on top of the previous iteration. The development time of each of the iterations is small, fixed, and strictly followed.

  • Active customer involvement: There is a lot of client involvement and face-to-face interaction involved in Agile development. Each iteration is tested and approved by the client. The feedback obtained from the client is implemented in successive iterations; thus reducing the risk and ensuring higher client satisfaction.

  • Feature-driven: In Agile projects, more stress is laid on providing the required features in the application. The 80/20 rule is applied to decide the 20% features that would be used 80% of the time.

  • Fixed time: There is a fixed period for each of the iteration in which it is delivered.

  • Priority-based delivery: Features are prioritized based on client requirements, development risk, and so on. Features with high priority are developed first. The project priorities are re-evaluated after each iteration.

  • Adaptive: Agile methodology is very adaptive. Hence, the developed application can accommodate the inflow of new requirements throughout its development with ease. The goal is to adapt to the changing needs, and not to remove the uncertainty in the very beginning.

  • Empowered teams: The project teams in an Agile environment are usually small and hence the interactivity and communication level are generally signs. As the entire team is actively involved it is empowered to make decisions. As a result, there is no separate team to manage the project.

  • People-centric: In an Agile project, there is more emphasis on using suitably skilled people to do the development than on following the processes. Documentation and other non-development activities are reduced and more time is dedicated to development and testing.

  • Rapid development: Agile projects use lightweight development technologies to complete the development rapidly.

  • Discipline: Agile projects involve a lot of teamwork and self-discipline as the deliverables have to be rapidly and accurately delivered. This requires highly organized and skilled team members.

  • Simplicity: In Agile projects, the emphasis is on being open to change and keeping things as simple as possible.

2. Comparing Agile with Traditional SDLC Models

The differences between traditional software Development and Agile:

Agile and traditional sdlc models

Agile is based on adaptive software development methods whereas traditional SDLC process models are based on a predictive approach. Predictive teams plan well in advance and have a complete schedule of the tasks and features to be delivered during the product life cycle. These teams depend entirely on the planning and requirement analysis done at the beginning of the project. Any changes that come up in the later stages go through strict prioritization and change control management stages.

Agile projects use an adaptive approach which means that there is no planning and there is clarity only on the features that need to be developed. There is feature-driven development and the team adapts to the changing product requirements dynamically. The release iterations ensure frequent testing of the product, which minimizes the risk of any major failures in the future.

Open communication, customer interaction, and minimum documentation are the typical features of an Agile development environment. Agile teams work in close collaboration with each other and are mostly located in the same geographical location.

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