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Agile Guide

The most profitable facts about the Agile methodology, its benefits, and prospects to businesses

Agile is a software development methodology and approach to project management that is based on delivering software in small working parts and introducing changes if needed. The requirements and results can be evaluated and corrected during the development process, which allows the team to deliver exactly the software that the customer wants.

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Agile Tutorials

Article

Agile Manifesto

The Agile Manifesto: the Past, Present, and Future

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Article

Kata

Learn more about Toyota’s concept for Lean continuous improvement and coaching success.

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Article

Sprints

Timeboxed iterations of a continuous development cycle.

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Sprint Planning

How to define or select sprint goals and create a sprint backlog during Sprint Planning?

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Article

Scrum Ceremonies

Scrum ceremonies that meant to provide a seamless cycle of successful sprints.

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Product Backlog

Product backlog in Scrum: what we should know about it.

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Backlog Grooming

What makes backlog grooming an important Scrum practice?

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Article

Sprint Reviews

Everything you need to know about Sprint Reviews in Scrum

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Article

Daily Stand Up

A complete guide to impressive daily Stand Up meetings

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Article

Scrum Master

All about Scrum Masters and their career growth opportunities

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Article

Retrospective Meeting

What is the Agile Retrospective meeting in Scrum and how to make it effective?

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Article

Distributed Scrum Team

What is a distributed Scrum team and how to lead it to success?

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Scrum Roles

What are the main Scrum roles and their professional responsibilities?

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Article

Scrum of Scrums

How to work together with several Scrum teams.

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Article

Scrum Artifacts

Exploring the role and power of the key Scrum artifacts

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Article

Scrumban

The combination of Scrum and Kanban that contains the best rules and practices of both methods.

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Article

Kanban Boards

The overview of Kanban boards, their functions, features, and when you should use them.

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Kanban Board Examples

Visualize the workflow, fragmenting large processes into smaller parts with powerful Kanban board examples

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Kanban Metrics

What are the powerful Kanban reporting metrics and when to use them?

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WIP Limits

Why is limiting work in progress so important in the Kanban methodology?

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Kanban vs Scrum

Comparing two powerful methodologies for your projects

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Article

Kanban Meetings

Everything you need to know about the fun and useful daily Kanban meeting

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Kanplan

How to plan Kanban with Kanplan

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Article

Kanban Cards

What are Kanban cards and how do they work in project management?

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Article

Project Plan

What are the rules of creating a powerful project plan?

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Article

Agile Program Management

What is the role of program management in the Agile environment?

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Article

Project Dependencies

Everything you need to know about managing dependencies in Agile projects

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Article

Agile Workflow

The rules of creating a healthy workflow for Agile projects

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Article

Agile Stories, Epics, Initiatives, And Themes

Comparing user stories, epics, initiatives, and themes in Agile projects

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Article

Agile Epics

An ultimate guide about Agile epics: everything you need to know

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Article

User Stories

How do user stories help to make better products?

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Article

Story Points Estimation

The principles of using story points estimation in Agile projects

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Article

Agile Metrics

How to apply the best Agile metrics to measure your project efficiency?

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Article

Gantt Charts

Using handy Gantt charts to improve managing Agile projects

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Article

Project Portfolio Management

Everything you should know about project portfolio management in one place.

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Article

Product Strategy

Reliable ways and tips to set your strategic vision for the product offering.

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Product Planning

How does the planning process affect how you drive your product development?

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Product Roadmap

A visual source of truth that outlines the vision, direction, and progress of your product over time.

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Product Manager

An ultimate guide to the core aspects of the product manager job.

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Article

Product Requirements Documents

A quick guide about how to write a product requirements document.

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Product Features Prioritization

How you can use product features and prioritization techniques to develop and launch truly efficient products.

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Article

Net Promoter Score

Measuring customer experience and predicting business growth with the help of NPS - Net Promoter Score

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Article

Product Analytics

What product teams need to know about product analytics

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Article

Idea Management

What is idea management and how to make the process of ideation more effective?

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Article

Remote Product Manager

Why product management can be even more effective when done remotely.

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Article

Lean Project Management

Why apply Lean in project management.

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Article

Agile Portfolio Management

Learn common rules and practices of Agile portfolio management.

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Article

Lean Portfolio Management

The ultimate guide to Lean portfolio management.

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Article

OKRs

The OKRs framework: a summary of what you need to know.

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Article

Agile Project Planning

Effective Agile planning: a beginner’s guide to planning and executing iterative projects.

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Article

SAFe

A reliable method of adapting Lean-Agile practices to large-scale projects.

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Article

ART

What are the steps to lay the tracks for your Agile Release Train (ART)?

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Article

Spotify Model

Everything we should know about the Spotify scaling Agile model.

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Scrum at Scale

What is the power of [email protected] in an organization?

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Agile Triangle

What is the path from Iron Triangle to Agile Triangle?

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Article

Agile vs Waterfall

Everything you should know about the benefits and drawbacks of Agile and traditional Waterfall methodologies.

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[Continued]

Unlike traditional approaches to software development, Agile provides ways to adapt to changes fast and this way benefits stakeholders and developers alike. Agile best practices allow teams to achieve higher product quality through collaboration, communication, trust, and constant alignment with the changing business needs. You can find a slightly different Agile definition, yet, the key is that Agile helps teams to avoid unneeded processes and focus on work and customer feedback.
What is Agile
Agile values people more than processes, collaboration more than preset arrangements, and delivery of a working software more than creating precise documentation.

How was it before Agile development?

Agile vs Waterfall

To understand why the Agile methodology became so popular, let’s go back to the Waterfall times.

Much time was wasted on documentation

The software development process required detailed documentation before developers could start coding. The traditional development process can be briefly explained the following way:

  • First, Business analysts collaborated with stakeholders and elaborated a business requirements document. These documents contained detailed and comprehensive information about the software, including the strategy, functional specifications, and UI designs.
  • Second, the Tech team created a technical requirements document based on the business requirements document. The tech version of the customer’s requirements contained the info about the software architecture, data structures, object-oriented functional designs, and user interfaces.
  • Finally, developers could start coding, integrating, and testing.

As a result, the traditional development process could last for several years.

It was much harder for developers to introduce changes

Many development tools required additional training, there were no reusable parts, such as open-source components, APIs, or web services, and the communication tools were very limited. All this led to a big headcount in development teams and poor collaboration between members. That is why the specification document was the key element in the development process, and all developers were supposed to know it precisely (even though sometimes it could contain hundreds of pages). Any change had to go through a long review process and hence was very hard to introduce.

Stakeholders were blind until the very end of development

Lower-level parts of the architecture were developed first and followed by dependent artifacts. For example, database engineers delivered their piece of software, then developers added business logic, and after that, the UI was introduced. Stakeholders had to wait for months until they could finally try a working software. By that time, stakeholders could find what was inconvenient or unnecessary in their initial requirements. Some features became outdated, some required tweaks to resist the growing load. All these weaknesses developers and stakeholders found out only after a long development cycle.

What has Agile project management changed?

The Agile project management methodology became so popular with software developers for the flexibility and adaptivity it brought to the project. Agile proclaims close collaboration within the team and with stakeholders, continuous improvement, openness to changes, and development in short-term cycles. Agile rests on applying 4 values and 12 principles that are stated in the Agile Manifesto (read more about it here).

If a team follows Agile, they use the next six concepts every sprint.

  • Product vision statement: a concise summary of the project’s goals.
  • Product roadmap: an overview of all the requirements that are implied in the product vision.
  • Product backlog: a list of all project tasks ordered by priority.
  • Release plan: a schedule that specifies when a working product will be rolled out.
  • Sprint backlog: the goals and tasks (user stories) that should be achieved in the current sprint.
  • Increment: a complete product or functionality that the team delivers to the customer at the end of the sprint.

The scheme below shows how software development happens according to Agile.Agile development schemeThough Agile principles are stated in the Agile manifesto, different companies apply them to their particular requirements, teams, and situations. Hence many Agile frameworks appeared to cover specific development cases. Frameworks illustrate specific approaches to software development, provide certain tools and terminology.

What advantages can you get with Agile?

Agile brings benefits to all the parties involved in software development, including customers, vendors, developers, product managers, and stakeholders.

Customers

Customers can be sure that the vendor will precisely meet their needs. Customers avoid developing unnecessary functionality, have complete control over the development process, and see the results much faster than if they followed the Waterfall model.

Vendors

Vendors can focus on delivering high-value features, reduce unnecessary efforts and overhead, increase efficiency, and speed up the development process. They also get more satisfied customers and hence more recommendations.

Developers

Developers can avoid boring and unproductive work, and focus on development. They can see that their competencies grow and their work is valuable. Customer satisfaction and participation in successful projects motivate and inspire them.

Product Managers

Product managers or Product owners are mediators between the development team and customers who ensure that customers will get what they want. Agile frameworks help managers to achieve this alignment much easier, effectively prioritize work, and react to feedback.

Project Managers

Project Managers who work with the Agile methodology can enjoy easier and more accurate planning and monitoring than if they follow the Waterfall model. They are constantly aware of the project state and can quickly resolve any problems.

Executives

Executives and stakeholders get full visibility into the state of the project and can plan their actions and develop strategies more accurately.

Benefits of AgileWhat are the key figures in the Agile environment?

Three main roles are typically involved in Agile processes.

User

Agile is focused on customers, therefore developers create several user personas that represent various types of users. These user personas help developers check how the software workflows correspond to customer needs.

Product owner

The product owner is the person who gathers all the ideas and creates a coherent product vision. It is a short and accurate description of the product, consisting of the description of the end customer, their needs, and ways to cover those needs.

For example, the product vision for Google could be “an easy access over the Internet to the most suitable webpages through a keyword-driven interface and a ranking algorithm organizing search results by relevance.”

The product owner splits the product vision into:

  • user stories that show how particular features satisfy specific needs of the end user;
  • and technical stories that describe crucial functionality needed to support user-facing features.

The product owner defines the acceptance criteria for the solution, prioritizes user stories, and checks that all team members understand their parts of the work.

Software development team

In agile, the development team and its members’ responsibilities differ from those in traditional software development.

The software development team comprises members with diverse skills. Developers come up with their part of the application, be it a database, business logic, or a part of the UI, and show it in a demo. Collaboration happens daily and all team members have up-to-date information about the progress of the team. The team can also include designers, analysts, and QA engineers if the project requires this.

You can get a more detailed overview of Agile roles in this video:

What are Agile methodology tips and best practices?

Though successful implementation of the Agile methodology depends on many factors, there are at least 7 rules that will help you to achieve greater results.

1. Collaboration with clients

The Agile Manifesto proclaimed a customer-centric approach to software development projects. This is not just a principle, this is rather actionable advice on how to maximize customer satisfaction with the product. Continuous communication and regular feedback help the team to ensure that the customer is aware of what is going on and how this or that idea transforms into a working feature.

2. User Stories

User stories show how the feature or software should work for end-users. These are simplified descriptions of software requirements in the format of: As a [role], I want [feature], because [reason]. User stories help developers to quickly understand Who will use the feature and What for. User stories are much easier to understand than long requirements.

3. Continuous Integration

Continuous Integration (CI) is about keeping the software in a potentially deployable state all the time. Developers check that the code is clean and integrate parts as they are ready. The aim of continuous integration is to minimize the time that each integration takes. Continuous integration is more applicable to small tools and apps consisting of minor parts that can bring value independently.

4. Automated tests

Automated regression testing allows the team to track how the code changes affect the performance of the software. Manual regression testing can be too time-consuming, that is why it is better to automate the process to allocate time for other QA processes and prevent errors.

5. Pair programming

Pairs programming is an Agile programming practice that is focused on improving the functionality and design, minimizing bugs, and exchanging expertise and tips within the team. One programmer is operating the keyboard, while the other team member watches, learns, and provides feedback. Programmers change roles from time to time.

6. Test-driven development (TDD)

TDD is the development style that focuses on simple designs. Development happens in short cycles and is based on passing unit tests. Developers create unit tests that should fail because the software doesn’t have a particular feature. Then they write code and refactor it to make sure that they have used the simplest code to enable a feature and pass the test.

7. Burndown charts

A burndown chart is used to visually compare how many tasks, or user stories, and how much time is left. Burndown charts help developers to tell more accurately when the work will be over.

What are Agile frameworks?

If the Manifesto states overall principles of Agile development, specific Agile frameworks guide development teams on how to apply Agile to a particular project at each step of the software development life cycle. The two most popular Agile frameworks are Scrum and Kanban.

Scrum

Scrum development processScrum is a time-tested and perhaps the most well-known Agile framework that is perfect for managing complex software development. This framework introduces new concepts to the development process, Scrum events, Scrum artifacts, and Scrum Roles.

  • Scrum events. Sprints, sprint planning, daily scrums, sprint review, and sprint retrospective are called Scrum events. The development process is structured in sprints, each of which ends with a demo call or meeting. Meetings include planning sprint priorities, stating the amount of work for a sprint, and checking the work status daily. At the meeting, the team can show the results of their work to the product owner and discuss what can be improved.
  • Scrum artifacts. The requirements are gathered in the Backlog, and features are usually described as either user stories or use cases. The product backlog and sprint backlogs are Scrum artifacts.
  • Scrum roles include a product owner, the development team, and a ScrumMaster. The ScrumMaster shows other team members and stakeholders how to use Scrum for software development, keeps track of the project progress, analyzes issues, and finds ways to keep to the pace. ScrumMasters don’t assign the tasks directly to team members, they help team members to develop problem-solving skills.

As one of the most popular Agile frameworks, Scrum helps companies to accommodate changes much faster and evolve in line with the business.

Kanban

Kanban is an Agile project management concept that provides a clear picture of the workflows when certain processes should start and stop, and allows the team to identify weaknesses, issues, and deliver better software. Kanban includes 6 core practices:

  • Visualization
  • Work in progress limits (WIP limits)
  • Flow management
  • Explicit policies
  • Feedback loops
  • Improvement through collaboration and evolution with experiments

If a company applies Kanban principles, they start using Kanban boards, Kanban cards, and WIP limits to organize work.

  • A Kanban board is a physical or digital visualization of the development process that can be equally perfect for individuals and teams. It includes Cards, Columns, Swimlanes, and WIP Limits to help teams manage their processes effectively.

  • Kanban cards show the work in progress and contain such valuable info as status, assignee, priorities, subtasks, and deadlines. Cards provide visibility into how many tasks are in progress and how the work goes on.
  • Kanban Swimlanes are used to separate different kinds of activities on a board, say, task blockers, tasks and bugs, backlog, or teams.
  • Work in progress limits (WIP limits) are used to define the maximum workload at different stages of the workflow. WIP limits let teams detect issues early, avoid excessive workload, and complete tasks faster.

Takeaways

Introduced 20 years ago, Agile methodology is still an effective software development methodology. Though frameworks and approaches can differ, they are all based on Agile principles, collaboration with stakeholders, teamwork, adoption of changes, and focus on quality and customer satisfaction.  The flexibility and quality that it brings let Agile go further than software development and enter other industries.

Do you want to share how Agile helped your team? Feel free to leave comments!