Every piece of software follows a process, from conception to release and beyond. Teams around the world have used Agile software development methods to improve the speed, efficiency, and effectiveness of their development life cycles.
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Trying to work in an Agile way with tools that aren’t Agile can feel like swimming against the current. If you’d like to improve your software development life cycle and are familiar with Agile development practices, the next step might be to invest in a purpose-built Agile tool.
Purpose-built Agile software can bring your process to life through effective visualization, collaboration capabilities, and metrics that are meaningful and useful to furthering your Agile journey.
But choosing the right Agile tool, like any software buying decision, can be tricky. There are several methodologies within Agile that might influence how a piece of software is designed to be used. It’s also important to consider how the Agile software you select will integrate with other tools in your teams’ stack, and in your organization’s bigger technology footprint.
Aligning your goals, the specific Agile methodology your team follows, and the features and functionality of any Agile tool you’re considering is key to success.
Agile Software Development Methodology
First, let’s discuss what exactly the Agile development methodology is, as well as the types of Agile methodologies that exist within the broader umbrella of “Agile software development” – because understanding this can help you to make an informed software buying decision.
Agile software development is a set of guiding principles and values that teams around the world use to improve their software development processes.
The core values of Agile, as expressed in the Agile Manifesto, include:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools: The Agile software development methodology emphasizes effective collaboration between competent people over overly complex processes and tools.
- Working software over comprehensive documentation: A key element of Agile is frequent, iterative development – planning and producing work in small batches, and then testing that work in the market. As such, Agile methodology values working software – software that can be delivered to the market – over comprehensive documentation. Agile thinking is that good documentation is useful in helping people understand how a piece of software was built and how to use it, but ultimately the purpose of development is to create software (or in other disciplines, a functional product or service), not documentation.
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation: What determines whether a product or service is successful? Ultimately, it’s whether the product or service meets the customer’s needs. Agile methodology engages the voice of the customer in the development of products. It values active, frequent collaboration with customers to develop work that truly addresses real needs.
- Responding to change over following a plan: Agile development methodology allows teams to deliver in small batches, frequently, with short planning cycles – so as plans change, teams can change with it.
There are many benefits to using the Agile software development process, which explains why the methodology is so popular. Agile teams have been found to deliver higher-quality products, faster, with greater predictability. Having the right Agile tool can help to ensure that your team maximizes these benefits.
The importance your methodology plays when choosing Agile software
We’ve shared that the term ‘Agile’ is an umbrella term which describes many practices, principles, and values used in software development and beyond. You might be familiar with team-level Agile methods such as Scrum, Kanban, etc.
Agile has evolved from software development to be a team-level methodology and a big-picture organizational strategy.
Agile Program Management is a term you might be familiar with, which describes the application of Agile practices and principles to planning and executing initiatives in teams of teams. With the growth of Agile Program Management, has come a host of Agile software designed to facilitate Agile Program Management and even Enterprise Agile Planning, an approach that involved planning, funding and managing delivery from the portfolio, down to the Agile teams.
Although you might be in the market for this (now or in the future), it’s also possible that software with Agile portfolio management capabilities might be overkill for your team’s needs.
So, in addition to understanding what type of Agile your team practices, when looking at Agile tools, it’s important to consider what scale of Agile you are looking to practice.
Like with any software buying decision, when you’re looking for Agile software, you’ll likely follow this process:
1) Identify the key attributes that define the software category.
2) Research which capabilities are essential in a possible solution.
3) Make a list of the questions you need to ask vendors to ensure a good fit.
Types of Agile methodologies
There are a variety of Agile development methodologies, including, but not limited to:
- Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD)
- Adaptive Software Development
- Extreme Programming (XP)
- Dynamic Systems Development (DSDM)
- Feature Driven Development
- Lean Software Development
The overall goal of each of these Agile methodologies is to adapt to change and deliver working software as quickly as possible. However, each methodology has slight variations in the way it defines the phases of software development.
Furthermore, even though the goal is the same, each team’s process flow may vary depending on the specific project or situation. Most Agile teams follow a software development life cycle that includes a step to plan, design, develop, test, and evaluate their software. Another commonality between most versions of Agile methodologies is that teams plan and execute in sprints, iterations that are usually two or four weeks in duration. This is distinctly different from traditional workflow management methods which might have indefinite timelines.
What is the Agile Software Development Life Cycle?
The term ‘Agile software development life cycle’ describes the process of applying Agile practices to the development of software, from conception to release and beyond.
The Agile software development life cycle includes the following steps:
Typically, Agile teams follow this life cycle in two-week sprints, or iterations. Assessing your needs for each of these steps can be a valuable exercise as you shop for the right Agile tool for your team.
During the planning phase of the Agile software development life cycle, the objective is to establish the goals for the work. This is also a time to collect feedback from stakeholders, plan around your team’s current capacity, and define the goals and objectives of the work.
You’ll want to make sure your Agile tool has the capabilities to manage this step of the planning process.
Key Agile software capabilities: visual management
Many Agile tools include visual management functionality, often in the form of Kanban boards. Kanban boards give the flexibility to easily model any workflow process, regardless of complexity or methodology, during the planning stage and beyond.
The Design step of the Agile software development process is where the team dives into the specific design requirements of the project. This can include defining the:
- Architecture (programming language, industry practices, overall design)
- User interface design
- Programming (programming language, methods of solving problems and performing tasks in the application)
- Communications (how the application might communicate with other assets, such as a central server or other instances of the application)
- Security (might include SSL traffic encryption, password protection, and secure storage of user information)
Key Agile software capabilities: integrations
The design stage of the Agile software development life cycle highlights the need for seamless integrations with other tools in your teams’ stack. The right Agile software will integrate with the tools you already use, drive team collaboration, and deliver enterprise-class security.
The development stage of the Agile software development life cycle is where the magic happens! This is when the hard work of planning and designing gets brought to life, and includes development and troubleshooting errors along the way.
Development teams need to be able to stay aligned and connected throughout this process, communicating about any bugs, roadblocks, or changes in requirements as well as providing status updates to key stakeholders within the organization.
Key Agile software capabilities: real-time collaboration
Real-time collaboration and communication functionalities should be a must-have on your list of requirements for Agile tools.
After development, the product is ready to be tested. During the testing stage, the quality assurance (QA) team performs tests to ensure that the software is fully functional and meets the outlined requirements. If bugs or defects are detected, the developers will address them swiftly. User training will also take place during this stage, which will require documentation.
After the testing stage is complete, the product’s final iteration can be released to production.
Key Agile software capabilities: risk identification
Swift, clear risk identification and communication is critical during the testing stage. The right Agile software will allow you to visually communicate blocked work and identify process bottlenecks to ensure that risks to delivery are addressed as quickly as possible.
Once the product is released, its journey is not finished: Although it is available to customers, it is not “done” – this iteration has simply been released. The evaluation stage is the time to collect user feedback, analyze data, generate ideas for improvement, and host retrospectives with the team to learn as much as possible from this sprint.
After the initial evaluation stage, teams can shift from ‘evaluation’ to ‘maintenance’ – constant, ongoing support of the product – and move onto the next iteration or a different functionality.
Key Agile software capabilities: Lean and Agile metrics
The evaluation stage of the Agile software development life cycle provides teams with an opportunity to reflect and learn from their performance. Lean and Agile metrics can help teams track and measure how quickly work moves through the process to identify opportunities for meaningful improvement.
How the Right Agile Software Can Improve Development Life Cycle
Managing the complexity of software development while keeping teams aligned and on track and maintaining flexibility can be tricky – especially without the right tools to manage the process.
Having the right Agile software can drastically improve every stage of the Agile development life cycle.
A purpose-built Agile tool can bring your process to life through effective visualization, collaboration tools, and metrics that are actually meaningful to your Agile journey – from planning to release and beyond.
There are several ways to approach the process of selecting an Agile tool for your team or organization. It’s easy to get overwhelmed considering how many Agile and Agile-adjacent tools there are on the market.
Keep your decision-making process simple by focusing on the key functionalities you need from your Agile software in each of the stages of the development life cycle: Planning, Design, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.
Starting with the Planning stage, visual management is key. The right Agile tool will allow you to brainstorm, document, share, and prioritize your ideas all in one place – ideally, in an intuitive, collaborative Kanban format.
Seamless integration with the rest of your stack is also a critical consideration for making sure that your Agile teams can work efficiently. Also crucial: Real-time collaboration and communication functionalities, including swift, clear risk identification and communication.
Finally, Lean and Agile metrics can help teams track and measure how quickly work moves through the process to identify opportunities for meaningful improvement.
What To Do Next
Ready to learn more about how to use Agile software to improve your organization beyond just software development?
Whether you are just starting your Agile journey at the team level, scaling Agile and implementing Agile Program Management at the program level, or stepping up your portfolio practices with a Lean approach, download The Complete Agile Software Buying Guide as a smart next step.
This guide provides the basic selection criteria to help your organization understand what it needs to grow and thrive at each stage of the journey. You’ll learn what to consider when adopting Lean and Agile practices and how to determine the right solution for your organization.