Agile development is a term that gets thrown around in the software world on a regular basis. Not only does it sound spiffy, it also provides fertile ground for co-operation between a software house and its clients. Some may be apprehensive with the concept, thinking that this development model is like the Wild West, where people do whatever pleases them and the end product will be available whenever, maybe. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Agile development specifically makes the development process more efficient. It also provides more assurances that the end product’s quality meets the client’s expectations.
Software development has traditionally followed the so-called ‘waterfall model’ where development and production happen in a set chronological order that is not to be messed with. These types of projects are marked by emphasis on scheduling and budget, which puts the end product’s quality at risk from the word go. The goals and wishes laid out at the beginning will inevitably change along the way, but rarely has enough time or money been allocated to accommodate for these changes.
Agile development keeps the door open for innovation as it allows for changes to be made more flexibly while the goals and needs of the project become clearer. If the entirety of a software development project is set in stone from the start, it is very likely that problems in scheduling and budgeting will arise.
Agile development focuses on the end product and on the client receiving the highest possible value for their investment. The role of the client in agile development is elevated, giving them much more say on the development project. In this model, the client and the development team are truly on the same side. After all, the end goal for both parties is to have software that is fit for purpose. Agile development avoids the pitfalls of finger-pointing and probing when it’s not clear if changes to the software constitute whole new purchase orders or simply updates. This is because in the agile model, development is incremental which makes adapting to changes easier.
Quality is made of short sprints
In agile software development the project is divided into sprints that usually last from one to four weeks. During each sprint, a pre-determined part of the project is completed. After a sprint, the next steps in the project are charted. Each sprint has its own schedule and budget which makes the model, by its name, very agile and flexible. The client has true agency in deciding where to allocate resources, which features of the software to prioritise, and what the end result will be.
The shorter sprints allow for flexible administering of budgets and time to the most relevant aspects of a project. This boosts the entire development process. The smaller segments developed during the sprints will eventually make up a piece of functional software. Agile development emphasises the uniqueness of each project and the fact that there is not one right way of reaching a goal.
Agile development highlights quality and added value
From a client perspective, one of the best features of agile software development is the focus on quality. Carrying out a project in sprints and keeping a constant eye on achieved goals ensures that problems are caught early and dealt with faster than with traditional models. The earlier in development issues are handled, the better the completed software will be.
Modern end-users demand products that are both high-end and reliable. The agile development model has no trouble in keeping up with today’s lightning-fast technological progress. When in the past a piece of software may have been given a second or even a third chance despite obvious usability flaws, these days software has to either convince its user immediately or make way for an alternative. In traditional development models, testing is done at the tail end of a project and scheduling may not allow for fixes to be implemented. In the agile model, software is tested during different stages of development which allows for a multitude of issues to be caught and fixed for final release. The end result is a high-end piece of software that is more reliable than one developed with a more traditional model.
Cost-effective software projects
A question in every client’s mind when considering a software project has to do with money. How much does a software project cost? How to make sure that the allotted budget can buy software that does what it needs to? Agile software development makes sure that money is spent on things that matter. Working closely with the client, continuous testing, and well-defined sprints allow for budgets to be allocated on key aspects throughout the whole project. This way, money isn’t wasted on ironing out superfluous features and the project stays on track, avoiding expensive course corrections later.
Agile software development enables time, money, and other resources to be allotted on areas that benefit the buyer the most. In this type of software development, focus is placed on features and functionality that have the highest priority. In traditional development models, a project is seen more as a singular whole, where individual parts are not prioritised. This carries the danger of easily implemented features taking priority, with the more challenging and issue-prone features not receiving the attention they call for or getting done in a hurry at the tail end of the project. In order to assess their effects on the project – its scheduling, budgeting, and the end product – the more challenging parts should be tackled first.
The agile model boosts production processes and communication
We’re all familiar with procrastination. The night before a deadline isn’t always spent soundly sleeping even if there was enough time to finish things way earlier. With smaller goals getting reached in shorter intervals, the sprints employed in agile software development help in segmenting rush periods better than the traditional models. Compared to crunching, this is a more efficient way of getting things done and meeting deadlines.
An issue that has plagued many software development projects is the replacement of key people halfway through a project. When this happens, some information will inevitably not be passed on to new people in charge. This can impact a project’s success. The sprint model of agile software development ensures more close-knit interaction between the client and the development team. This way all stakeholders are on the same page. Compared to a traditional development model, the agile model also places more emphasis on the development team. Agile development is rarely a solo effort, and an entire development project isn’t simply pushed on to a single person.
Any type of development can take advantage of the agile model, not just software development. Key features of the model are high quality of the end result, tight co-operation with the client, and the ability to react to changes on short notice. Speed, communication, and flexibility are at the forefront of the agile model. The model works especially well in situations where all the requirements and specifications aren’t clear at the start of a project. The agile model is also well cut out for projects that call for dynamically changing specification based on user feedback collected during development.
It’s important to keep in mind that software projects are inherently never really finished. There’s always something that can be improved or revised. With the agile model, a first release version can be finished quickly, after which it can be easily and cost-effectively developed further!
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