What is Agile?

Agile is an iterative software development methodology with a goal centered around collaboration among self-organizing and cross-functional teams.

Processes used during agile typically employ disciplined and iterative project management practices in order to encourage frequent adaptation, engineering best practices, teamwork, and an alignment of goals. But perhaps the most-important advantage of agile is that it delivers value to customers faster. Projects are completed by combining smaller teams into cross-functional teams for open communication, collaboration, trust, and adaptation, reducing friction, breaking down silos, and facilitating shorter turnaround times.

In short, Agile empowers development teams with the ability to act and respond promptly, providing a better service to customers and a more-efficient and responsive solution for their organization.

Customer benefits

Teams are more responsive to customer needs and requests. They have the ability to provide high-value features to better the customer experience, and they can deliver in quick, short, iterative cycles.

Vendor benefits

Efficiency increases, and there tends to be a focus on the development of high-value features and services. Overhead is decreased and there is a reduction in wasteful effort and time.

Development team benefits

Work from development teams is highly valued and frequently used, which can give the development teams a sense of ownership and enjoyment in the work. Non-productive work is reduced to keep things focused and efficient.

Product manager benefits

Customers are generally happier when product managers ensure that the development work is aligned with customer needs—alignment comes from frequent prioritization of work through the agile process, which maximizes delivery.

Project manager benefits

Tracking projects is easier than a standard waterfall project management model, as project managers can use agile tools like Burndown Charts, task-level tracking, and daily Scrum meetings to monitor a project, catch issues, and address them quickly.

Executive and C-suite benefits

Agile project managers provide substantial visibility into development projects each day—this visibility helps stakeholders and executives adjust strategies based on immediately available information and not speculation about the state of the project.

Graphic outlining the benefits of Agile for various roles.

Kanban is a framework widely used by agile and DevOps for the implementation of software development. It utilizes real-time communication of full transparency of work with work items being represented on a kanban board, which helps team members have a visual understanding of a piece of work and its where it is along the process.

A kanban board not only provides transparency and visibility, but it provides an idea of whether or not there are roadblocks to be resolved, or dependencies that are preventing something from moving to the next step. Each kanban board has a series of cards that represent a different work item, which contain critical information about the work item, a description of what needs to be done, the estimated time to completion, who is responsible for the item, etc.

Kanban provides more flexibility in planning, shorter time cycles, fewer bottlenecks, continuous delivery, and visual metrics.

DevOps is a software development methodology that combines development teams and information technology operations teams—it fosters collaboration to prevent the two teams from working in their own silos. Software is developed, tested, and released more quickly and efficiently. The benefits include continuous integration, continuous deployment, transparency, and automated testing.

Agile is more focused on combining smaller teams to collaborate in order to react quickly to ever-changing needs, whereas DevOps is more focused on the collaboration between development and IT operations roles. Agile sprints can run from days to months, while DevOps is meant to focus on short-term releases that may include several per day.

Both methodologies can work in tandem, as they are complementary processes. An agile methodology helps teams tackle projects rapidly while adapting to changes, and DevOps promotes automated and continuous integration for frequent releases. Both can work to develop and implement technology with great speed while emphasizing customer needs.

There are two questions that must be asked before agile metrics are reported: will the metric accelerate value delivery, and will it enhance trust? There are three types of metrics that are worth measuring:

Operational

  • Burndown charts
  • Cycle time
  • Lead time

Output

  • Technical quality
  • Defect measurements
  • Code coverage
  • Number of features
  • Throughput

Outcome

  • Business value
  • Team morale
  • Customer satisfaction

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a solution to the issue of scaling of agile methodologies to medium and larger businesses. SAFe provides structured guidance on roles, values to uphold, and how to plan and manage the work. The end result is that enterprise businesses are able to employ Agile development at scale. The core values include:

  • Alignment: Companies should plan and reflect at all levels in the organization to help everyone understand the current state of the business, how to move together, and how to achieve the goals. The synchronization of activities and people help information flow up and down the organization chain, which improves communication and avoids traditional top-down command structures
  • Built-in quality: Teams at every level get to define the parameters of the project and integrate quality development into each agreement. There are five dimensions for built-in quality: architecture and design quality, code quality, release quality, system quality, and flow.
  • Leadership: Lean-agile behavior is necessary to help leaders change the system and build an environment that can help workers embrace the core values of SAFe.
  • Program execution: It’s necessary for teams and programs to deliver quality software and business value regularly.
  • Transparency: Work must be planned in smaller quantities so that any issues can be identified sooner, which encourages real-time visibility into backlog processes

Quicker delivery with more accurate planning

Delivery and time to value can accelerate with more accurate planning.

Immediate work level forecasting

Resources are optimized by gauging and forecasting work levels for future project velocities.

Friendly user interface

Easily managed stories across sprints, backlogs, and epics with an accessible UI.

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