There has been a growing trend in the number of organisations that practice an Agile methodology. 94% of organisations in the UK are now using Agile. This is a huge increase from 78% since the previous year, according to the Annual State of Agile Report.
The concepts of Agile are changing the organisational structures of business.
What is an Agile Methodology?
The term ‘Agile’ was coined in 2001 in the Agile Manifesto:, a document written by seventeen experts. It is used to describe approaches to software development that emphasize collaboration over documentation, self-organisation rather than fixed management practices, and the ability to manage constant change.
The Agile method relies on four major principles:
- individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- working software over comprehensive documentation
- customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- responding to change over following a plan.
What an Agile Approach Implies
Agile methodology is built on the acknowledgement that customers’ expectations are mutable and so are competitors’ offerings. An Agile approach minimises the risks caused by this scenario, by helping the team to collaborate, interact with the client and adapt to actions with the new needs. This is supported by stand up meetings, open and constant communication, and critical feedback.
Agile teams are multidisciplinary, composed of a diverse group of people with the skills to get the job done. The team members have to collaborate on what and how they are developing and, in order to do that, they meet frequently to make sure everyone is aligned on who is doing what, and how the software is actually being developed.
It is crucial for Testers, following an Agile methodology, to stay in close contact with developers in order to collaborate on testing throughout the entire software development lifecycle.
Every organisation faces different internal and external factors. To help meet the variegated possibilities, the Agile methodologies can assume several shapes. The most popular Agile methodologies are: Scrum and Kanban.
Scrum is the most widely-used subset of Agile.
It is a lightweight process framework, and is focused on a delivery cadence which includes; ‘sprints’, planning, commitment and meeting structures including daily standup meetings.
The features of the Scrum process are:
- Specific concepts and practices (Roles, Artifacts, and Time Boxes)
- Significant productivity
- Ability to adjust the organisation smoothly to rapidly-changing requirements
- Production of products that meet evolving business goals.
The Phases of Agile Delivery
An Agile software development process starts with analysis and planning. This is called the ‘Discovery’ phase. It is about defining the user personas, identifying goals, researching user needs, understanding what to measure, drafting a roadmap and considering any potential impacts of technology or policy.
After the Discovery phase, the Agile process enters a cycle of critique feedback, designing and testing. This cycle is articulated in the ‘Alpha’ and ‘Beta’ phases. The role of interactions and testing is critical.
The ‘Alpha’ phase is focused on exploring possible solutions, creating a working prototype and obtaining user feedback in order to respond to new issues, and solve problems early.
The ‘Beta’ phase is to do with the release of the project and is aimed testing a full end-to-end service, with real users in preparation for live launch.
The last phase of Agile is ‘Live’. This involves creating a scalable, resilient service that is capable of ongoing development and improvement. In this phase, developers maintain and meet security and performance standards, and measure the success of the project against KPIs defined earlier on.
The Benefits of Agile
The core concept of the Agile mindset is to break any problems into smaller components and develop and test them during the process, not only at the end. If something is not working well or as expected, the team can re-orientate the efforts.
Execution and Delivery
It promotes a business approach that aligns development with customer needs and company goals, a leadership philosophy that encourages teamwork, self-organization and accountability, a disciplined project management process that encourages frequent inspection and adaptation, and a set of engineering best practices to develop high-quality software.
Agile lets each team member contribute to the solution, and it requires that each member takes personal responsibility for his or her work. The collaboration with stakeholders, the advantage to share knowledge and the capacity to intervene when problems or new customer’s requests come up, disclose a more relaxed atmosphere in the workspace and guarantee customers satisfaction as well as higher level of efficiency.
All this encourages an ongoing process of improvement. The teams are more productive and feel happier since they are a part of the whole process, can engage with the client and are not disconnected from the flow.