Agile Development: Principles, Practice, Progress
Is your software development project pushing you over budget every day? Have you spent so much time down the rabbit hole of software that you are ready to give up?
Don’t give up quite yet. Your struggles most likely come from the structure (or lack thereof) of your development process. But how do you solve it?
Here at SolutionStream, we have a solution for that.
Agile is a development methodology which represents a new way engineers engage with internal and external stakeholders on any given project. By following Agile, teams engage in an iterative process that breaks development into manageable pieces through a series of repeating, manageable sprints.
The Agile methodology was initially created as a tool for developing software meant to aid teams and individuals with project management and production. The core values of Agile are quality of the process, deliverable products, and a team’s ability to change or customize the process toward different customers.
Too often, software development gets stuck in a loop of ideation and testing—beating a product into eventual submission rather than analyzing the process and changing. With Agile, SolutionStream found (through years of diverse processes) greater quality and success in our products.
Make it Your Own
Possibly the greatest benefit of Agile is that while there are 12 core processes, this method is flexible enough for each company to decide which methods work best with their teams. While initially created to improve software development, many businesses have utilized principles from Agile for other project management goals.
Consider how you might use this methodology to maximize daily tasks according to your company objectives.
For example, SolutionStream utilizes Agile for every project and customizes minute processes to the client and product involved. Our project managers say that Agile, “helps us as a team to stay focused and moving in the correct direction, as well as help the client know where we are at and where the development is going.”
At SolutionStream, we focus on a handful of key Agile components. These act as our foundation for every project.
Customer Satisfaction is The Priority
Using Agile introduces a core priority that is all too easy to forget: when technical talk overrides accessibility, your customer suffers. Because Agile is so agile, it can successfully integrate into client guidelines for an easy and manageable collaboration.
This is especially important for consultants like SolutionStream. We work with new clients on a regular basis. When we approach our customers, we introduce them to the Agile system and utilize effective communication to integrate their priorities with our process.
Working Software is the Primary Measure of Progress and Success
When all is said and done, software has to work.
Imagine this scenario (though maybe you don’t have to imagine): you’re on a project with a quick deadline. The scope has changed once already and meetings leave you with whiplash as features are changed or added last minute.
According to this Agile principle, your focus should be to make it work.
In moments of conflict or confusion, focusing on making sure the software works peels away any unnecessary elements that aren’t related to the core function of your product.
We Build to Learn and Adapt
In the famous Agile Manifesto, it states that “we have come to value...responding to change over following a plan.”
At SolutionStream, we take this to heart and we think you should too. The ability to adapt and change is a learned skill. When you can master this skill (or even become somewhat decent at it), you can increase creativity, productivity, and accessibility.
The point of building our software isn’t to simply get it done. We build to learn something that we apply to future projects. We adapt to find solutions that address our client’s needs rather than just our own.
We Deliver Value Early and Test Often
When a product needs to be done and working, it is too late to deliver pieces to be tested.
Agile encourages frequent delivery in smaller tasks at the end of each sprint. This way, code can be tested and designs can be analyzed before you reach the end and find that it doesn’t work for the client. Focusing on delivery keeps teams relying on a solid, tangible goal rather than simply working into a void.
Avoid the (often hurtful) stereotype of code monkeys. Instead, give your team a holistic view by planning for small-scale deliverables to test each function as it appears.
What It Looks Like
There are many tools out there to help your team adhere to Agile principles. How you use these tools is entirely up to you. However, there are some standard practices that have helped us to utilize iterative tasks and practice transparent communication:
Sprints are a flagship tool of the Agile development process. Broken up into either weekly or bi-weekly sprints, it is a way to organize tasks and keep teams on track. This encourages open communication as employees collaborate on deliverable items.
Retrospectives happen at the end of sprints with project managers and team members. They are used to discuss past performance, goals, and actionable steps for the future. This is an opportunity for managers to work with their team to analyze productivity and make any necessary changes.
Every day, SolutionStream team managers ask employees to stand up and deliver an accountability report. What was accomplished the day before? What will be accomplished today?
Agile is not always the answer to every problem. The best way to approach it is to make it work for you. If your process ends up being Agile or even Agile-ish, you might find that the increased focus and product delivery drives your company to its own best practice.