What is Agile [Guide]

[ Introduction ]

What is Agile?

More and more teams are embracing Agile to survive in dynamic markets, and be better prepared for  unprecedented challenges. Welcome to the age of Agile.

Piyasi Mitra

May 14, 2021


Imagine you were a chef, and a restaurateur approaches you to curate a sumptuous seven course gourmet dinner meal for an upcoming food festival. You get an idea of the owner’s requirements, proceed to prepare the menu, and present the first batch of items for taste-testing. He tastes each item, and asks you to come up with necessary adjustments in presentation, flavor, and texture. Next, you incorporate his suggestions, present the items again, and wait for approval. There may or may not be further changes in the menu, depending on the restaurateur’s preference.

What if you’d had a couple of sessions with the restaurateur about his requirements first? That way, you could get precise details about what he wants for each item in the menu, prepare and present the dishes, and subsequently, secure his final approval. Once his preferences were clear, you could go ahead with the preparation and afterward, finalize the menu. No wastage of time, resources and effort, and desired outcome delivered right.

That is the essence of Agile.



What is Agile?

Thanks to its iterative approach to project management and software development, Agile innovation is helping teams across industries deliver value to their customers faster, and with fewer glitches.

One of the core elements of Agile is continuous evaluation. Assessing deliverables, plans, and results regularly helps businesses develop a ‘coping mechanism’ of sorts that empowers teams to adapt to changes quickly. This is one of the prime reasons the methodology is being considered as the password for modern organizations to cope with today’s volatile, rapidly evolving, customer-driven industries.

By perfecting the technique of continuous change, Agile teams master the strategy of surviving in the face of  market challenges.


What is the Agile Manifesto?

Think of some qualities you would usually associate with the word Agile: Nimble? Dexterous? Quick-moving? No prizes for guessing why the proponents of Agile Manifesto named it so, as the word represents rapid response to change.

In 2001, a group of pro software developers got together and brainstormed a method of software development which was distinguishably differently from ‘waterfall’-a conventional methodology characterized by  unvarying management practices. This group, which included brilliant programmers like Kent Beck, Martin Fowler, Ron Jeffries, Ken Schwaber, Jeff Sutherland, et al framed the Agile Manifesto, and documented their collective thoughts on modern software development operations for  better outcomes.

Comprising 4 foundational values and 12 key principles, the Agile manifesto paves the way for better software development by providing an objective, transparent and measurable structure that promotes iterative development, team collaboration, and flexibility to change.

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The 12 Agile principles

  • Customer-centric approach: High customer satisfaction through early and continuous delivery of software
  • Flexibility in operations: Accommodate changing requirements throughout the development process to give customers a competitive advantage
  • Frequent delivery:  Aiming for a briefer timescale
  • Collaboration: Seamless coordination between business stakeholders and developers throughout the project
  • Motivation is key: Support, trust, and encourage team members to perform in a goal-oriented manner
  • Face-to-face interaction: An effective method of conveying information to and within a development team
  • Working software: It is the primary measure of progress
  • Sustainable development: Agile processes to support a constant development pace amongst sponsors, developers, and users
  • Technical agility: Attention to technical precision and design enhances agility
  • Simplicity: The art of maximizing the amount of work not done is essential
  • Self-organizing teams: Encourages great architectures, requirements and designs
  • Regular reflections: Teams focus on how to become more effective and then adjust its behavior accordingly.

What is Agile software development?

Agile software development is an umbrella term for a set of frameworks and practices focused on values and principles expressed in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.

In Agile, solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing cross-functional teams utilizing appropriate practices. Continuous integration and code reviews help prevent glitches like bugs, poor customer satisfaction, etc.

One  misconception is that Agile is recipe for instant success, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. If you’ve embarked on your Agile journey, expect desired outcomes to be achieved only by sustainable development.

Aspiring to go Agile ? Remember that your organizational climate and culture should be conducive to the transformation. Once the decision-makers are convinced that quality should be prioritized over schedule, teams already have an advantage in their Agile journey.


Benefits of Agile teams

What is Agile methodology?

The Agile methodology is all about breaking down one big problem into multiple smaller problems. This involves constant collaboration with team members and stakeholders and continuous improvement at every stage. Once the work begins, teams cycle through a process of planning, execution and evaluation.


The four Agile values:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Adopting Agile

The following steps will help you understand how teams create products and deliver better customer experiences with Agile innovation:

STEP 1: The first step in Agile product methodology is project initiation. In this phase, team members discuss the product’s key features and ROI justification. A vision statement is documented based on the scope of problems, opportunities, etc. Additionally, ‘users’ are also defined at this stage. The product owner  documents everything systematically and proceeds to collaborate with multidisciplinary teams for delivering on the vision. As per Scaled Agile Framework ®, the Product Owner is a member of the Agile team responsible for defining Stories and prioritizing the Team Backlog to streamline the execution of program priorities while maintaining the conceptual and technical integrity of the Features or components for the team.

STEP 2: Backlogs in product development refer to the list of work-in order of priority- that are pending completion. This step is conducted with a view to help teams make necessary adjustments to their scope of work, make budget estimates, and schedule tasks for team members. As the product life cycle continues, backlogs are subjected to change, depending on the time interval between sprints or evaluations.

STEP 3: This involves establishing Sprints for software development. Instead of delivering the whole backlog at the end of the product release, project managers break up the product into smaller deliverables until all backlogs are cleared. Usually, Sprints have smaller time frames that may last from one to four weeks – depending on the project complexity or expertise of team members. During this stage, the product development team works through a full development cycle to accomplish one milestone.

STEP 4: At this stage, Agile product development focuses on delivering high-quality products in incremental phases. They start building the first iteration of a product with the goal of having a usable product at the end of a predetermined number of Sprints. Teams usually deliver these sprints by collaboration, and adhering to priorities, scope, budget and schedule of the project. The goal is to deliver a certain number of working products at the end of the Sprint. The testing team also conducts tests after each cycle, and final testing is conducted by a quality assurance expert to check for bugs.

STEP 5: Agile empowers teams by enabling them to launch the product in the market as early as possible. After initial development and testing, the product is deployed, and it is used by final end-users.

Customer feedback is monitored meticulously during the early stages, and attention is paid to detect any defect in the system, or fix bugs missed during the testing phase.

Research Speak

Key takeaways from Verison One’s State of Agile Report 2020 reveal:

  • 95% of respondents report their organizations practise Agile development methods
  • 81% of attendees said their organization has Agile teams where the members of the same team do not all work in the same location (i.e. not co-located)
  • 71% of respondents said their organization practises Agile with multiple co-located teams collaborating across geographic boundaries

What is Agile Project Management?

Software teams that embrace Agile Project Management methodologies enjoy better prospects of speedy development, better collaboration, and enhanced ability to respond to market fluctuations.

Agile Project Management emphasizes collaboration, flexibility, continuous improvement, and impressive results. There are many such methods with different approaches, including Scrum, Kanban, Lean Development, etc.


Agile vs Waterfall

In contrast to  Agile, the conventional waterfall methodology is one in which each phase of a product’s life cycle occurs sequentially, so that progress cascades through the phases-like a waterfall. Let us check out some basic differences between the two approaches.

Waterfall Agile
Product development flows
sequentially from
one point to another
Incremental and iterative approach
Customers will see the product
only at the end of the project
Takes continuous feedback from
product owner & stakeholders.
Customer is kept in loop constantly.
Errors are tested only when
the whole product is ready
Saves time and money by
reviewing regular sprints
in the development process
Helps complete one single project Breaks down one big problem
into smaller problems
Project mindset with a focus
on successful project delivery
A product mindset with
a focus on customer satisfaction
Requirements are
prepared once at the start
Requirements are
prepared everyday
Testing process starts
once development is over
Performs testing concurrently
with software development



Does your business need Agile?

  • Does your organization prioritise people and interactions over processes and tools?
  • Is your business being digitized aggressively?
  • Does your workplace focus on having efficient software or other outcomes over contract, negotiation or paperwork?
  • Does your team work on building innovative, futuristic products?
  • Do customer preferences and solution options change frequently in your industry?
  • Does your team need to get projects delivered within a short time frame?

If the answer to 3 or more of the above questions is ‘yes’, it’s time to adopt Agile.
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Statistics reveal…

  • Capterra states that 71% of companies are implementing Agile
  • Harvard Business Review declares that 60% of companies experience revenue growth and profits increase after using an Agile approach.
  • Standish Group Chaos Study reports the Agile success rate is 42%, as compared to Waterfall’s success rate of 26%. This means Agile is 1.5x more successful than the Waterfall model.

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