There is no doubt now that Agile is not just a buzzword, but a really working methodology that takes software development to the next level.
Starting as an approach to improving the product development process, Agile has gone far beyond that and evolved into a kind of philosophy or mindset that can transform processes not just in product development, but in the whole organization.
So, what makes it so special? How does it differ from the traditional approach to product development? Are there any disadvantages of the Agile methodology? Read further to find out the answers.
Overview of Traditional SDLC vs Agile Approach
Basically, Agile appeared as an alternative to the traditional methodology of software development, so let’s outline the main characteristics of these approaches and how they differ from each other.
SDLC (software development life cycle) is a sequential approach to software development. It can be represented as a series of the following phases: planning, design, development, testing, implementation, and maintenance of a product. The main idea behind this approach is that the output of one phase becomes the input for the next one.
SDLC has a clear structure of the whole development process, unchanged requirements, detailed documentation; requires careful planning, and is generally easy to manage.
However, this methodology has certain limitations that can make product development less efficient, e.g.:
- longer time for product delivery: the testing phase comes late in SDLC, which can cause serious delays in case there are some mistakes made at the beginning that require rework,
- lack of flexibility: customers can change their minds regarding the initial requirements to a product, but the methodology doesn’t allow changes to be made,
- limited customer involvement: there is no opportunity to receive their constant feedback as to the product’s functionality.
As an approach to product development, Agile can be defined as a set of practices used by teams to deliver more user-centric products. It allows companies to deliver output under conditions of frequent change and uncertainty, so that they can easily adapt to them when necessary.
In contrast to SDLC, Agile methodology involves iterative planning and testing and accepts changing requirements, which makes it possible to deliver a product that meets customers’ needs to the full. This is achieved thanks to Agile principles and values established in the Agile Manifesto.
There are several frameworks of Agile methodology: Scrum, Kanban, Scrumban, Lean, XP, and more. Each of them has certain peculiarities, so development teams can choose the one that works best for them.
One more distinctive feature of Agile methodology is its focus on collaboration and self-organizing cross-functional teams. That doesn’t mean that Agile teams don’t need a manager, but that they have more freedom in making certain decisions.
So, the main difference between Agile and traditional development is that SDLC is a sequential process, while Agile is iterative. The table below presents their distinctions in more detail.
|Linear sequential product development methodology.
|Continuous iteration of development and testing in the process of software development.
|Detailed planning at the very beginning of a project.
|Iterative planning throughout the whole development process.
|Requirements are gathered once at the beginning.
|Requirements are prepared every day.
|Changes to the scope are avoided.
|Changes to the scope are allowed.
|There is a single testing phase in the whole development process.
|Testing is performed concurrently with product development.
Consequently, the Agile approach makes it possible to create a product in close interaction with customers and improve it simultaneously with the development process.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the Agile product development process itself.
Phases of Agile Product Development Process
The Agile product development is based on iterations – standard time frames during which Agile teams deliver certain value. They usually last from 1 to 4 weeks. The very first iteration aims to deliver a product with basic functionality, and the rest of the features will be added during next iterations. The structure of each iteration can be represented as follows.
The iterative development process consists of the following phases.
- Defining requirements.
These requirements are based on the feedback of customers and business owners.
- Product development.
The team works on delivering a certain part of the future software (a feature, functionality, etc.) in accordance with previously defined requirements.
This phase involves the testing of the delivered piece of software by QA engineers, creating corresponding documentation, and fixing bugs before releasing this deliverable to customers.
Finally, the developed piece of software can be deployed by users, and corresponding technical support is provided.
Gathering users’ feedback is important in Agile software development: it will become the basis for requirements for the next iteration and make it possible to deliver the most user-centric product.
These iterations will be repeated again and again until all the requirements are met and the final product can be delivered to customers.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Agile Product Development
The popularity of the Agile methodology and its expansion to business processes speak for themselves: under the right circumstances, it has proved its effectiveness. And here are the reasons for that.
- Focus on users and business value.
The features added to the product are based on real users’ needs and their feedback obtained during each iteration. Similarly, this contributes to satisfying customers’ business needs as well as higher customer satisfaction.
- Early delivery.
Working in iterations (or sprints as their variants) allows the team to deliver certain features to customers regularly.
- Better quality of a product.
Frequent testing and reviews as well as breaking down the whole development process into smaller parts make it possible to improve the quality of a product being developed.
Present-day business environment is surrounded by uncertainty and changes, therefore customer behavior and requirements tend to change as well. With the flexible methodology, the development teams can deliver a product that corresponds to these changing conditions.
At the same time, Agile is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and its effectiveness will be determined by certain circumstances. Below are some limitations of the methodology.
- Lack of detailed documentation.
This may result in misinterpretations of the requirements to the product in development or even confusion among the team members. In addition, if new members join the team, it will be difficult for them to make sense of the work the rest of the team is doing.
- Higher probability of scope creep.
As long as customers’ requirements often change, and the initial planning is not that detailed, it may be rather difficult to keep the development process on track and avoid scope creep.
- Low predictability of the final outcome.
It can be difficult to assess the efforts and time required for certain deliverables. Changing requirements and lack of detailed planning add to poor predictability of the final outcomes. Also, as long as there is no strict schedule, finishing the development project on time may require additional efforts.
It’s also important to note that the success of Agile product development depends on certain factors: team members’ capability and training, organization culture, communication between the participants, the effectiveness of project management, and more .
So it’s up to an organization to weigh all the pros and cons when choosing the best working software development methodology.
As a conclusion, let’s highlight the most important points of the article.
- The Agile methodology was initially created for the software development teams dealing with changing requirements and uncertainty, but over time, it has transformed into a mindset that helps whole organizations run their processes under conditions of change and uncertainty.
- Having compared SDLC vs Agile methodology, we can conclude that the first methodology involves a sequential development process, while the second one – iterative.
- Agile product development comes down to the following phases: identifying requirements, product development, testing, delivery, and feedback that will become the basis for the next iteration’s requirements.
- The Agile methodology is not a silver bullet, and as any other methodology has certain drawbacks. The success of Agile product development depends on a number of factors: organization culture, communication, team members’ capabilities, and more.
Finally, no matter what methodology you choose, the product development process can be significantly improved with an effective project/resource management software. Epicflow is a powerful and flexible multi-project resource management solution that allows you to manage multiple projects running concurrently and achieve better outcomes thanks to smart resource and task management functionality as well as predictive analytics capabilities. In addition, it has its own approach to managing tasks and projects, which works well with any product development or project management methodology. Please, contact us if you’d like to learn more about our product.
- Aldahmash, A., Gravell, Andy M., & Howard, Y. (2017). A Review on the Critical Success Factors of Agile Software Development. European Conference on Software Process Improvement. University of Southampton.