Making the Case for Agile Software Development in 2021

Every business wants to be agile. The current environment of a pandemic and economic changes paints the picture for this in an obvious way. Priorities are shifting. Your employees and customers are encountering new challenges. The case for being agile has never been stronger. But don’t think agile is just a buzzword or an abstract aspiration. Agile is a revolution, especially in the world of software development.

Agile software development is, in fact, not simply a methodology. It’s much more than that. Being agile in software development is no longer something nice to have. It may just be the defining element for those companies that come out the other side reslience.

Why Agile Is NOT Just a Methodology

Agility means flexibility and dexterity. It’s the way modern businesses pivots. It’s not a methodology because it avoids traditional frameworks. It fits the development model of not having all the answers. Not every development project has 100% accurate estimates, plans, and projections. The basis of agile came to be in 2001 with The Agile Manifesto. A group of software developers coined it based on some assumptions about project management that were wrong. It began with four principles:

  • Individuals and interactions vs. processes and tools.

  • Working software vs. comprehensive documentation (But agile doesn’t mean NO documentation).

  • Customer collaboration vs. contract negotiation

  • Responding to change vs. following a set plan.

What do those principles from almost two decades ago mean now?

The Evolution of Agile

Since the creation of those four guiding statements, they have evolved into 12 more specific agile values. They include sentiments about satisfying the customer, welcoming change, greater collaboration, simplicity, and a focus on working software. These 12 principles outline a framework for an agile software development approach. They invite disruption and sustainability and champion smaller and distributed teams. That doesn’t mean they don’t work for mid-market enterprises. The “small” really means identifying the right decision-makers and collaborators.

Benefits of Agile Software Development

Agile software development can offer your business many benefits. The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred many businesses to rethink so much about their operations, including software development. You’re probably already familiar with some of these principles of agile, but let’s look at them in the context of 2020.

Working software delivered early and often

Agile sprints produce working software. It’s an accelerated process that goes much faster and has fewer restraints than the waterfall process. Waterfall project management maps out projects into sequential phases, and one phase cannot begin until its predecessor is complete. It’s a traditional and rigid way to manage software development—one that offers little flexibility. Waterfalls also don’t provide this almost real-time access. Projects such as this can involve a year of code writing that never has any feedback until the end. It could be completely off the mark. Agile software development is a place for instant feedback and tweaking. That’s the kind of “control” you need in a time of uncertainty. Your needs and objectives could change dramatically in the next few months.

Transparency in the process

Transparency in processes is crucial for companies that want to get things done. Developers in agile are delivering working software and daily updates. This means your team has full visibility into what is happening and its possible impact on task completion. Being able to ensure transparency also brings clarity to processes, role, and responsibilities.

Adapt in the moment

You can only have immediate adaptations with agile software development. Traditional methods do not provide this advantage. You can react because you have working software to assess. You can quickly identify components that aren’t working or compensate for changes. Adaptability in the moment is a survival mantra for business in 2020. For example, look at the shifting world of healthcare data and interoperability. New rules were announced by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to address interoperability, striving to standardize information exchange and APIs. This happened in early March. Soon after, the country was in the throes of a pandemic, made more complicated because of data sharing challenges. If you’re in healthcare right now and trying to comply and innovate, adaptability is critical.

Agility boosts engagement

Collaboration is a foundation of the agile software development approach. There are more intimate conversations than waterfall methodology. Product owners, end users, and developers are communicating and engaging from the beginning. The short sprints also encourage more engagement. Quick turns mean that stakeholders can’t “forget” or “ignore” what’s happening because there is always something new to discuss.

Quality assurance built-in

Developers are testers in this system, meaning quality assurance is a constant. Since the delivery is working software, then testing is rigorous and thorough. This detail is happening at every sprint. Features are not complete without this level of QA. You’ll find this an even greater advantage if you’re dealing with software that addresses many different workflows. Every workflow will experience testing, not just the central one.

Costs are more predictable

Your business always has to be cost-conscious. In a time of flux and a recession, budgets aren’t necessarily as expansive as before. Agile projects start and end at specific intervals. Teams define sprints at the beginning, so resources are established. With these parameters, you can predict costs better than with other methods.

Why Tech Leaders Are Leaning on Agile Software Development in 2020

The current environment means that teams are more distributed. Meetings can be throwaways in the urgency to reframe operations. They are leaning more on an agile approach, looking at sprint velocity and commitment vs. delivery. The focus is much more on quality—what can be fixed and resolved during that sprint.

As technology leaders turn toward agility, it’s important to clear up the fallacy that agility is documentation free. The reality is that it’s more concise and developed to drive business value. It ties the technical speak with the business requirement.

Agile still has a cycle and uses common project management methods like Scrum. It’s not chaos. Tech leaders recognize how it can serve them better in their current atmosphere. That is even more true for those with a growth mindset. Growth is still possible right now. There are many opportunities because new problems have arisen. To capitalize on these, using an agile method can drive faster results.

In education, for example, there is a massive shift in motion. With almost no preparation or support, the education sector had to evolve into a virtual setting overnight supported by technology. Lots of educators, school districts, and universities use technology platforms to manage a variety of tasks. These were built with in-person teaching in mind. Now that software needs an update. With an agile approach to software development, it’s possible to make meaningful changes faster to accommodate new situations.

Exploring Agile

Is an agile approach right for your business? It provides significant benefits, some of which are even more important now. Embracing this method of software development could be a turning point for your business and its long-term growth. As experts in agile software development, we’re ready to help. Let’s talk about how to make it work for you.