What is Agile Methodology

What is Agile Methodology: From Words to Deeds

22/09/2022

Digital technologies are increasingly penetrating our lives. And they give us new services and opportunities in the Internet and telecommunications. For new services, online stores, CRM systems, mobile applications, messengers, essay services like PaperHelp, and other digital platforms to best meet users’ needs, you have to think not only about the technical part. And not only on the development methods but also on such global things as philosophy.

So, from the IT sphere, we came to the philosophy of Agile, the main principles of which are quite suitable for many other spheres. What is this philosophy, and where can it be useful? That’s what today’s article is about.

What is Agile: A Little Bit of History

A simple mechanical translation of the word “agile” is unlikely to reveal the complete picture of what it is. Google Translate translates “agile” as “flexible,” but when you translate it back, it immediately offers an entirely different word, “flexible,” which also means “agile.

Perhaps the difference here is that “flexible” implies mechanical flexibility, while the term “agile” is much broader and implies mental or if you like, mental flexibility. Depending on the context, “agile” can be understood as “responsive”, “agile”, “nimble”, “agile”.

If you try to imagine all of the above at once, this will be an adequate understanding of “agile.” What, then, does philosophy have to do with it? The History of Agile Manifesto Creation” will help us to understand it.

To begin with, in a nutshell, what is the Agile Manifesto? It is a document that enshrines the basic principles and values that should be adhered to when developing a software product. Next, we will talk about the Manifesto in more detail, but now, as promised, we will focus on the issue’s history.

As IT technologies develop more and more, and under these conditions, it becomes harder and harder to formulate precise requirements specifications (TOR). Customers often do not entirely understand what they need. And even if there were a magic button, “Make everything good,” many would have difficulty explaining what “everything good” means to them and what precisely this wonder button should produce when pressed.

Developers began to encounter situations where strict adherence to the TOR never guarantees that the client will be satisfied. At the same time, if it suddenly occurs to the client that he asked for something wrong and should have asked for something else, changes to the ToR will take some time.

And they will also require compliance with certain formalities because the developers have begun to insure themselves against possible dissatisfaction of customers by fixing all the requirements in the form of a contract. In addition, it remains unclear what to do in this case with the already completed scope of work and achieved results if they “do not fit” in the new concept.

It has become clear that it is necessary to “handle” the situation at the level of the general approach, not just a local operational solution to problems that arise during a particular project. Considering that the status became quite serious, and many practicing developers were interested in its resolution, at the beginning of the “zero” decade, a heated discussion on the subject was held in IT circles.

The result was the Agile Manifesto, compiled by 17 main initiators of the discussion, who united in the Agile Alliance. The final details of the Agile Manifesto were finalized during a live meeting at a Utah ski resort in February 2001. The final document was signed on February 13, 2001. What does it represent? Let’s take a look at it.

The Agile Manifesto: 12 Principles and 4 Values

So the Agile Manifesto captures the core values to be followed in software development and communication with customers and the guiding principles to be followed in the process. So what importance does the Agile Manifesto preach?

4 Agile Values:

  • A person is more important than a process and/or a tool.
  • A functioning product is more important than the documentation that describes it.
  • Collaboration is more important than negotiating a contract.
  • Willingness to change and change is more important than the original TOR.

As aptly noted by the Manifesto’s authors, “while understanding the importance of what is written on the right, what is written on the left is more important.” In a nutshell, it can all be presented as follows: the human being is primary, and what is in the computer is secondary. Therefore, it is necessary to solve the problem with the customer first and then to do something at the development level, i.e., “in the computer.” This is what the basic principles of Agile point to, which we will present in brief.

12 Agile principles:

  • The highest priority is customer satisfaction.
  • Changes are permitted at any stage.
  • New functional products should be released as often as possible.
  • Developers and customers must work together during the project.
  • Conditions should be created for professionals, support should be provided, and their professionalism should be trusted.
  • The best way of communication is direct communication.
  • If the product works, that is the main indicator of the right direction of the effort.
  • Investors, developers, and users must be able to maintain a steady, steady rhythm.
  • There must be a constant focus on quality and improvement.
  • Simplicity, as the art of minimizing unnecessary work, is essential to achieving results.
  • The best requirements and architectural and technical solutions are born in a team capable of self-organization.
  • The team should constantly look for ways to improve efficiency.

Thus, the Agile Manifesto states an iterative approach to software development. The work process goes in parallel with a permanent analysis of the results obtained and the adjustment of subsequent phases of work. Each step of the project is a repetitive sequence of PDCA activities:

  • Plan.
  • Do.
  • Check.
  • Act cycle (adjustments when necessary and subsequent action cycle).

Agile development is an agile approach to problem-solving and focuses on the customer and their needs as a fundamental factor. One way or another, this path should be followed by all areas of business interested in improving service and customer care.

In some sense, Agile philosophy is the philosophy of business. In such a purely applied sphere as business, one can talk about philosophy only in combination with specific methods by which the Agile project is implemented.

Agile Methods and Agile Management

It is most reasonable to separate Agile as a generality of agile methods or approaches and Agile philosophy as such. Let us consider the leading strategies and techniques used in Agile projects.

The Main Methods of Agile:

  • Scrum.
  • Kanban.
  • eXtreme Programming (XP).
  • DSDM.
  • FDD.

Advantages of Agile

The main advantage of Agile is the ability to react quickly to changes, which is a lot in the modern world. The digital world, one way or another, is a reflection of the real world. Changes are happening all the time.

The optimal variant of Agile application is small development teams where employees occupy the same room, and companies-customers, where one person makes decisions.

The main advantages of Agile-development:

  • A high level of involvement in the process from all stakeholders eliminates miscommunication and procrastination.
  • Fast and predictable development timeframes.
  • The ability to immediately fix things that don’t work or don’t work as expected.
  • Focus on results and business value without the risk of descending into “art for art’s sake.

And of course, speaking of the advantages, it is necessary to mention the disadvantages.

Disadvantages of Agile

It should be said from the start that, speaking of flaws, we will focus only on the weaknesses of the methods because the Agile philosophy, which implies customer focus and a flexible approach to solving problems, can hardly be considered irrational.

And the disadvantage of Agile methods is probably the only one: weak applicability for big projects and organizations with complex hierarchies. To put it simply, if every “move” has to be coordinated first with the marketing department, with the brand manager, then with the PR director, then with the CEO of the client company, and after that, you have to wait until everything is approved at a monthly board meeting, none of Agile-methods will work here.

In addition, implementing Agile methods requires the joint work of the whole team, constant live communication, as well as the frequent personal presence of the customer, so the use of Agile methods in conditions of remote work is problematic. However, heads of IT companies find a lot of arguments “Why it is better and more efficient to work from the office” as it were.

Sometimes the disadvantages of Agile development include the probability of never releasing the final version of the software because Agile involves constantly adjusting plans and improving the result, which increases the risk of the excessive pursuit of perfectionism at the expense of deadlines.

These concerns are, to some extent, far-fetched. Suppose the business goal, product requirements, and development criteria are clearly defined from the outset. In that case, perfectionism is unlikely to threaten anyone, and customers will be pretty satisfied with a working product that “covers” their “pains” and needs the project was conceived.

Note that “the principle of minimum readiness” is always helpful when one wants to be ahead of competitors and launch the product the market has been waiting for. And this is precisely what the Agile philosophy and all Agile methods are aimed at.

Anyway, the advantages of Agile outweigh the disadvantages. The scope of Agile application has long ago moved beyond the IT sphere, and now “Agile methods” are widely used in developing manufacturing equipment, industrial machines, and even consumer goods. 

As the saying goes, “be flexible, or your business dies.” We wish your business to be immortal, unsinkable, and, of course, flexible and adaptable to all changes.

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