One of the most popular practices used in software development is the Agile development methodology. The agile development methodology and approach is used to foster creativity, productivity and ultimately delivery of a range of products including web applications, mobile apps, websites, software, and product support best practices.
With a flexible approach to development, planning, testing, and delivery, teams within companies are able to better respond to client and market demands. An approach that encourages focusing on the immediate task at hand and fixing or solving this immediate problem, allows all members of the agile team (developers, testers, product management, and technical writers) work cohesively to quickly deliver a solution.
Gone are the days of three to six-month development cycles that often resulted in inactivity in the first month and then culminated with panicked development, last-minute testing and documentation and finally delivering a product rife with bugs and problems.
We’re going to dig a bit deeper into agile software development and highlight what we think are the top five benefits of agile development.
The Client Comes First
With agile development, teams within the company are working in very short cycles or sprints, typically two weeks long. This ensures that they are focused only on what product management has determined is the immediate client need. The ability to respond quickly and correctly to client demands and requests, ensures that the product continues to be a must-have for the client and it allows the teams to actively participate in solving client problems. This responsiveness and fast delivery model gives the client confidence in the company’s desire and ability to solve client problems and helps to foster a longer lasting working relationship.
Your Team is Invested
When your agile team knows and understands why the client wants a specific feature or improvement, it helps to motivate and inspire the team to work at their best. With agile practices, the entire team from product management, development, user interface design, testing, documentation and delivery is connected and focused on solving the client’s immediate problem. This kind of agile teamwork fosters creativity, productive risk-taking, and ultimately a stronger and better deliverable. The team takes pride in the work they’re doing because they know that there are real people out there (the client) who want and need this work to be completed. The days of developing a new feature or product and not knowing if anyone wants or needs it are in the past – now your entire team knows they’re ultimately working for the client to meet their immediate needs.
Costs can be Controlled and Measured
When working in small compact teams that are focused on one common goal, it’s very easy for management to identify any problems within a team. With a short and focused development cycle, the team is not able to run over budget. Each sprint starts with an estimate by the team of how many days each feature or other development item will take. Product management is checking in regularly with the team to make sure they’re on track and if an item of work is taking longer than expected, adjustments can be made to the team or other planned work. This development approach also allows management to assess the productivity of a team, making sure that everyone on the team is actively involved and contributing.
Quality is Front and Center
Because the very nature of agile development is to respond and react to client demands and requests, the quality of the deliverable must be very high. In a two-week development and testing sprint, there is no room for error or to hide bugs with future patches. In fact, when agile development is done well, the need for patching software and providing interim releases is no longer needed. A level of deliverable quality is determined and the entire team is working to achieving this. With the daily communication amongst team members and with product management, everyone is kept up-to-date with any problems or expected issues. (For bigger projects of which there are a number of unknowns, teams my hold special spikes, that allow them time to plan, research, and prototype solutions.)
Perhaps this should really be the number one benefit of agile development. As you know, when your employees are happy, they’re more productive, innovative, and committed to the company and projects. Because agile development gets everyone involved from the outset, each team member has an opportunity to speak up and discuss the best way to approach the sprint. This is a chance for the user interface experts to get more involved and really see their ideas and suggestions come to fruition. For testing, there are opportunities to constantly refine and improve the quality assurance process to make it more efficient. The technical writer is actively involved from the beginning through to the end of the sprint, attending the daily stand-up to stay up-to-date with the new feature or improvements and working closely with development and testing to ensure the documentation is correct and gives the client what they need.
Extra Bonus Benefit
One often overlooked benefit of agile development that we really want to highlight for you, is the flexibility it gives your company. Agile software can be utilized to manage the entire development process, making it much easier for stakeholders to see where the process is at all times. Also, because agile development teams typically use tools and apps such as Slack, Asana, Basecamp, Trello, etc. to collaborate and communicate, it’s much easier for you to have a remote and outsourced team. With a remote and outsourced team, you’re better able to take advantage of cost-saving benefits, employee job satisfaction, and hire the best talent regardless of location. This flexibility has a tremendous trickle-down effect to the top five benefits of agile development – from client satisfaction (diverse time zones allow for constant productivity), to cost controls (savings on office space and travel) to having happy employees (if your employees can work-from-home or are not forced to relocate, they can and will be more productive). Learn more about the tools and applications remote and agile teams are using to communicate, collaborate, and ultimately meet product deliverables.
Whether you’re new to or experienced with agile development, it can always be useful to revisit why you’re using this development process. Agile development methodology has been proven to allow companies to be more productive, cohesive, creative, and ultimately more successful. As well, because agile is by its very nature flexible, you can mold the agile development methodology to work for your company and team – there is not one approach to this development process. By keeping in focus your company goals, you’ll develop and foster an agile approach that works for your company and clients.
To learn more about agile development, you might want to read one of the many books written on Agile development.