What is Agile methodology?
For the purpose of this article, we will be looking at agile from a software development point of view. It is important to note that the Agile process is one that lends itself well to many industries. We will also allude to SCRUM where required, for examples.
The agile process is one by which a team successfully delivers a high-quality product that meets the changing requirements of clients, by
1. Breaking the project deliverables into several incremental stages (also referred to as sprints)
2. Constantly collaborating with stakeholders and prioritising teamwork
3. Continuously improving and working on feedback
4. Measuring deliverables against a definition of done
The process begins with creating a backlog with the product requirements. Requirements are generally written in the form of user stories which take the form of the who, what, and why of a requirement? For example: As an employee, I want to report time spent on tasks, to create a monthly timesheet. These backlog items are then estimated and prioritised. Then we factor in capacity and velocity (if known) of our team, and separate backlog items into the different iterations.
In contrast to traditional methods like waterwall, which has each stage of the project complete a single process (i.e., planning, design, development, testing, etc), each iteration of agile is focused on producing a valuable part of the project. A simple example would be if you were building a 10-page website, each iteration maybe focused on developing 2 pages which can be released for public consumption. In theory the time taken to deliver the project remains the same, however using agile we are also factoring in that the project requirements will change over the course of the project and each following iteration can bring in these changes.
How does Agile help small businesses?
Small business owners have to compete with larger entities using smaller teams and less resources. By switching to an agile process, they can perform better and utilise their teams more efficiently, increasing productivity and quality.
Agile stresses on the importance of collaboration between stakeholders. Unlike traditional methods which focus on collaboration at the start and end of projects, all stakeholders are complicit in the successful delivery of the project. Meeting up and sharing thoughts during each iteration. This ensures that the product is going in the right direction and makes it nearly impossible to build the wrong thing, as product owners have seen each feature as it is developed.
Improved product quality
Each iteration of agile has to meet a definition of done (DoD). This DoD is set at project initiation and has to me met for an iteration to be completed successfully. This can include peer review for code, automated testing, functionality fit, and customer/product owner review. In addition, agile teams are cross functional, meaning developers will be working alongside UX and testers, to ensure that each discipline brings in their expertise to the product at each stage.
Increased flexibility and change adaptation.
One of the main understandings of agile is that requirements change over the course of a project. By trying to hold on to initial requirements, we end up building a product that is no longer viable for the end-user. Agile focuses on bringing in these changes to the development process and ensuring that the end product is one that fully meets customer requirements.
As each iteration attempts to create a set of features, it is inherently possible to release the product feature wise to consumers, although in some cases we need to wait for an MVP. This gives us the additional benefit of knowing that the developed features are working as designed and meet the end-user’s expectation.
Last bur not least, lets take a look at the financial benefits of an agile approach for small businesses. Some of these maybe readily apparent: Agile focuses on delivering just enough, to meet the requirement. Meaning your team does not spend time and resources developing unnecessary bloat code that will ultimately be discarded and cause cost overruns. Given the working software over comprehensive documentation aspect of agile, your team spends more time developing an actual software than churning out massive amounts of documentation at great cost. Mind, this does not mean that agile despises documentation, au contraire, once again it creates just enough to meet the requirement. Collaboration, iterative quality management, and constant improvement during cycles means that your product while being built to the up-to-date requirements is also ensured not to fail due to quality mishaps. Both of these directly reduce if not eliminate the need to redo work, saving both time and money for you.
The agile process is an exciting and beneficial way for small businesses to stand out in their field. By bringing in customers and stakeholders into the development process, they can ensure high quality development, which meets customer expectations, and are done on time and efficiently. It also improves collaboration between the clients and the team and helps to work with a one team mentality improving morale and understanding. Partner with us to find out how you can also lever the benefits of being agile.