Project management & leadership | October 28, 2021

Agile Methodologies in Software Development

Agile project management has grown in importance since its emergence in the IT world. Despite increasing adoption in software development projects, the concept is surrounded by many misconceptions. Read on to find out what agile means and what are different agile methodologies in software development.

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What is Agile in simple terms?

The Agile project management is one of the main trends in software development. The Agile principles are included in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development (Agile Manifesto). In simple terms, Agile development is an approach in which self-organizing and cross-functional teams deliver functional products.

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The adoption of Agile

The pandemic brought an enormous acceleration of Agile methodologies adoption both in software development teams, and non-IT departments (e.g., back-office). Companies needed to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and respond to changes swiftly. As per the annual 15th State of Agile Report, in 2021, the adoption of Agile equaled to:

  • 37% to 84% in software development teams.
  • 26% to 60%, in non-IT departments.

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Agile values and principles

People and interactions over processes and tools

The Agile version of outsourcing stresses the role of transparent communication, as cooperation in this model calls for a high level of mutual trust. Outsourced employees delegated to the client want to be self-reliant, their ideas to be respected and to have a say in the decision-making processes. The client, though, expects professional service, effects and the fulfillment of his business needs. Both employee and client requirements complement each other, but only open and swift cooperation guarantees that they will not clash during the project. 

Working software over comprehensive documentation

The aim of outsourcing services is to deliver particular business benefits. Creating thorough documentation is of course relevant from the project perspective, but it will never be more relevant than delivering functioning solutions, resolving occurring issues or adjusting the project to changing needs. 

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Instead of creating contracts based on lists of detailed requirements, it is better to ask the outsourcing partner for the suggested means of product delivery and negotiate contract conditions afterwards. This is a very good starting point for creating a contract in Agile outsourcing, which should not be considered as a rigid plan for project realization. A well-designed outsourcing contract will allow both parties to act in a flexible manner, assuring business deals between both interested parties on a basic level. 

Responding to change over following the plan

“The only thing that lasts is change“. This saying is very true also in the context of software development projects. Rather than sticking to plan, Agile teams try to adapt to changing circumstances, by acting flexibly.

What are the methodologies in software development projects?

Kanban

Kanban is widely used in the software development process. At JCommerce we use Kanban methodology in our e-commerce project for Boozt. The client himself has said that it helped to improve work on the project: “We have daily stand-ups and a Kanban setup where deploys are done multiple times per day. We quickly gave deployment rights to the team so as to not slow them down and we have never regretted it.”  

Extreme programming (XP)

Extreme Programming is one of the Agile software development frameworks. XP aims to develop high-quality digital products while responding to dynamically changing customer requirements. The core values of XP are communication, simplicity, feedback, courage, and respect.

Scrum

It is the most often used Agile framework. It is A flexible and proactive approach to project management. Scrum is one of the most popular Agile approaches. Scrum development teams are cross-functional, consisting of a Scrum Master, Product Owner and Development Team. Team members have all the competences required to deliver the product to the client.

The work is divided into so-called sprints. Sprint is a period of time during which specific work has to be completed and made ready for review. The length of the Sprint is fixed and chosen at the start of the project – for example, 1 or 2 weeks. Then, at the beginning of each Sprint, the Agile development team sets goals (what they want to implement and function). After the sprint, that part is ready. After the Sprint they can evaluate the current state of the product, and redefine priorities or even the design of the developed application. Each Sprint is designed to have relatively small, but fully working functionality added or modified.

Thus team members make use of Agile methodology to maintain the flexibility to make changes after each Sprint. There is freedom for the client to make changes during the development to react to the market, user opinions or changing business priorities. Changes can be made at the beginning of the Sprint (planning phase) but not during the Sprint itself (development phase).

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Scrumban

Scrumban is a fairly new methodology that allows you to combine the flexibility of Kanban with the potential of Scrum. Scrumban teams use visualization but are not obligated to attend recurring meetings and do not include responsibilities of a Scrum Master or Product Owner. Thanks to its intuitiveness, Scrumban can be employed in any project, depending of course on the needs and the agile maturity of the team. Find out more: Scrumban.

Scrum Master’s role in Agile project management

Scrum Master supports the team in the software development process. This helps determine what needs to be done so that it was possible to achieve the goal of the Sprint. By asking the appropriate questions, the Scrum Master checks whether everything is understandable for team members.

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Tester’s role in Agile development methodology

Many people wonder what is the tester’s role in Agile Teams. The agile tester also contributes to the proper planning of the team’s work. Within the Scrum Team, the tester’s role includes e.g. mastering the Product Backlog, estimation, creating the Definition of Ready and Definition of Done.

Scrum Development Team

The Scrum team is responsible for executing the Product Owner’s vision and requirements. This team creates the technical architecture for the application, implements it, and tests it. The Scrum team is in constant communication with the Product Owner during development. At the beginning of the sprint, the Product Owner is responsible for selecting the most important tasks to implement, and the team is responsible for estimating how many of those tasks they are able to do within the confines of this sprint. They consult on the details of requirements with the team owner throughout the sprint process, and the results of their work is tested, then submitted for review at the end of each sprint.

Depending on the cooperation model, the entire team (except the Product Owner) can be from the service provider, or composed from among both the client’s and service provider’s specialists.

Product Owner in the Agile development model

The Product Owner represents requirements in terms of software development. The client should select a single person for this role, who will be the main point of contact responsible for providing a vision of the product from the client’s side, for cooperating with the team which will transform this vision into the product design process, and then for implementing this design. The Product Owner is not responsible for the technical details of implementation (unless the client so desires). Product Owner is responsible for understanding target audiences and desired functionalities and answering questions about projects, and the ongoing process of selecting the priorities for the next sprint.

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The PO doesn’t need to have programming experience, but it’s good if he has some understanding of the market, knowledge of similar solutions and possibilities, as well as a basic level of technical knowledge. The Product Owner should have enough time to be available for communication with the development team throughout the process.

Agile team setup

Setting up the team can be done after defining the requirements and scope of the project, as well as defining the expected deadlines for project development. The typical composition of such a team is as follows (example of a mobile application development project):

Native development

  • Team leader / Scrum Master – responsible for managing the team, tasks, and overseeing development
  • iOS/Android/Windows Phone developer(s) – at least one developer for each platform, responsible for the implementation of mobile apps
  • Server developer(s) – responsible for integrating existing data sources or creating new ones
  • Testers – responsible for testing the app, finding and reporting quality issues

Cross-platform development

  • Team leader / Scrum Master – responsible for managing the team, tasks, and overseeing development
  • Front-End HTML / JS developer(s) – responsible for the implementation of the mobile app for all platforms
  • Server developer(s– responsible for integrating existing data sources or creating new ones
  • Testers – responsible for testing the app, finding and reporting quality issues

The exact size of the team depends on the scope and complexity of the application, as well as deadlines, and should be determined after consultation with the service provider. Setting the requirements and the final team are important when starting a project. After that, the next step is to set the testing strategy.

Summary

Agility is about the adequate mindset, at the heart of which are openness, flexibility, and trust that the development team will do their best to get the job done.

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