By Siddharth Wadehra, Head of Research
There are discussions brewing in the tech community regarding Agile Manifesto principles not being relevant anymore. Skeptics believe that there are increasing classes of projects (including projects around Enterprise Data) for which the agile methodology might be counterproductive or might not be relevant, which necessarily might not be accurate. However, at the very core of the criticism is the fact that Agile methodologies are not the issue but the human behavior that drives it.
At its core, Agile is a methodology that prioritizes individuals and interactions over processes and tools. Instead of worshipping documentation, the emphasis is on creating working software. It’s a responsive, flexible, and agile approach to building digital products.
Needless to suggest, Agile is a powerful tool for software development. It does not only provide process and efficiency benefits to the development team, but also bring several important business benefits to the organization as a whole. Agile helps product teams deal with many of the most common project pitfalls, such as cost, schedule predictability and scope creep, in a more controlled manner. By reorganizing and re-envisioning the activities involved in custom software development, Agile achieves those same objectives in a leaner and more business-focused way.
This article compiles some of the potential reasons why Agile is still relevant in 2021 and would continue to be a raging force in the future as well.
1. Improved quality. One of the greatest benefits of an Agile framework is improved product quality. By breaking down the project into manageable units, the project team can focus on high-quality development, testing, and collaboration. Also, by producing frequent builds and conducting testing and reviews during each iteration, quality is improved by finding and fixing defects quickly and identifying expectation mismatches early.
By adopting Agile software development practices, organizations can deliver solutions on time and with a higher degree of client and customer satisfaction. By incorporating the ability to change, they are better able to incorporate feedback from demos, usability testing, and customers into the product.
2. Focus on Business Value. Another massive value which Agile provides is an increased focus on delivering strategic business value by involving business stakeholders in the development process. By doing so, the team understands what’s most important and can deliver the features that provide the most business value to their organization. This ensures customer centricity of the products is while being developed and the fact that all the important features are prioritized during the development process.
3. Focus on Users. Agile development uses user stories with business-focused acceptance criteria to define product features. By focusing features on the needs of real users, each feature incrementally delivers value and is not just another IT component. This also provides the opportunity to beta test software after each Sprint, gaining valuable feedback early in the project and providing the ability to make the changes as needed.
4. Stakeholder Engagement. An Agile process provides multiple opportunities for stakeholder and team engagement – before, during, and after each sprint. By involving the different types of stakeholders in every step of the project, there is a high degree of collaboration between teams. This provides more opportunities for the team to truly understand the business vision, deliver working software early, and frequently increases stakeholders’ trust. Stakeholders are encouraged to be more deeply engaged in a project since trust has been established in the team’s ability to deliver high-quality working software.
5. Transparency. Another benefit of Agile software development in the modern software development ecosystem is that it provides a unique opportunity for clients or customers to be involved throughout the project. This can include prioritizing features, iteration planning and review sessions, or frequent software builds containing new features. However, this also requires customers to understand that they are seeing a work in progress in exchange for this added benefit of transparency.
6. Early and Predictable Delivery (Costs and Schedule). By using time-boxed, fixed schedule Sprints of 1-4 weeks, new features are delivered quickly and frequently, with a high level of predictability. This also provides the opportunity to release or beta test the software earlier than planned if there is sufficient business value.
Since each Sprint is a fixed duration, the cost is predictable and limited to the amount of work that can be performed by the team in the fixed-schedule time box. Combined with the estimates provided prior to each Sprint, the company can more readily understand the approximate cost of each feature, which improves decision making about the priority of features and the need for additional iterations.
7. Allows for Change. One of the key benefit of agile methodology is that, unlike a Waterfall model, it allows for change. While the team needs to stay focused on delivering an agreed-to subset of the product’s features during each iteration, there is an opportunity to constantly refine and reprioritize the overall product backlog. New or changed backlog items can be planned for the next iteration, providing the opportunity to introduce changes within a few weeks.
Things to keep in mind while adopting the Agile methodologies
While Agile is still relevant in 2021 and would be the case many years into the future, there are some aspects which one needs to be careful of while adopting Agile methodologies. Carefully keeping tabs on these pointers would ensure that the development teams will be able to take advantage of the benefits which the concepts listed in the Agile methodologies have to provide.
1. Behavioral change. Changing the way people work is difficult — the habits and culture of a large development organization are typically deeply ingrained. People naturally resist change, and when confronted with an Agile transformation, teams might initially find it difficult to adapt. It’s easy for people to keep their old behaviors and processes—unless there is an exceptionally good reason to make a change.
2. Relevant for cross functional teams. The language used in the principles behind the Agile Manifesto—which refer to the technical members of the Agile team as ‘developers’—has led many to think that only developers, or what many people think of as ‘coders,’ are needed within an Agile team. However, the Manifesto’s guidelines use the word developer to mean ‘product developer’—any cross-functional role that helps the team deliver the product. According to the Scrum Guide, a cross-functional team is a team that is organized around customer value stream mapping and must include all competencies needed to accomplish their work without depending on others that are not part of the team.
These teams deliver products iteratively and incrementally, maximizing opportunities for feedback and ensuring a potentially useful version of working product is always available. Unless carefully planned, it’s easy to lose sight of having insights from cross-functional teams aid the product development process.
Agile in 2021 and beyond
Innovation is what agile is all about. Although the method is less useful in routine operations and processes, these days most companies operate in highly dynamic and high-velocity environments. They need not just new products and services but also innovation in functional processes, particularly given the rapid spread of new software tools. Companies that create an environment in which agile flourishes find that teams can churn out innovations faster in both those categories.
One of the reasons why the Agile methodologies would continue to remain important going into the future is primarily because its most effective to implement under conditions commonly found in modern day software product engineering:
The problem to be solved is complex
Solutions are initially unknown
Product requirements will most likely change
Work can be modularized
Close collaboration with end users (and rapid feedback from them) is feasible
Creative teams will typically outperform command-and-control groups
In our experience, these conditions exist for many product development functions, marketing projects, strategic-planning activities, supply-chain challenges, and resource allocation decisions. They are less common in routine operations such as plant maintenance, purchasing, sales calls, and accounting. And because agile requires training, behavioral change, and often new information technologies, executives must decide whether the anticipated payoffs will justify the effort and expense of a transition.
BlastAsia: The Agile Approach to Software Product Engineering Success
Keeping in mind the reasons listed above, the Agile methodologies would continue to remain central to any new product engineering initiative going into the future. They would remain critical to building customer centric products in dynamic and high velocity business environments.
BlastAsia prides itself of having 12+ years of experience in agile product engineering practice which makes it one of the preferred outsourcing partners for clients all over the world. For the last 20 years, BlastAsia has been actively working with companies all over the world, delivering world class products actively using the principles laid out in the Agile manifesto.
Still curious how Agile might impact your products and how it impacts customer experience? Need help with product engineering using the Agile methodology?