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Agile

Remember the saying “Too many cooks spoil the broth”? How we were taught that it is good to do ‘one thing at a time’? Well, real life does not allow us the luxury. No one has the patience to wait for you to complete a task the way you want to, neither is it wise to let the another take on the task once you complete your part of it. Work these days demands ‘many cooks’ to work simultaneously and also forcing you to do ‘many things’ at any time! So how do you manage?Welcome to the saviour called “Agile”, a methodology that not only allows many cooks to work on the broth at a given time, but actually enables them to serve a damn good broth on the table in the most efficient time and manner possible!

Agile is all about streamlining processes and doing the right thing at the right time. It allows you to re visit and re examine past issues even though the project has moved on. It also encourages collaboration between stakeholders. In fact, people interaction is the major focus of Agile, the success on one person is dependent on the other. So if one wins, everyone wins and if one loses, everyone helps him win! Agile ensures there are no losers and there are no losses!

Agile is an umbrella term that encompasses other processes, such as Scrum, Extreme Programming, Adaptive System Development, DSDM, Feature Driven Development, Kanban, Crystal and more. Agile processes can be easily customized to better fit your specific requirements. You can choose to primarily use Scrum, for instance, but also incorporate some of the desirable features of the other Agile processes such as Kanban if need be.

For example, many teams that use Scrum also employ test-driven development and pair programming, both of which are components of Extreme Programming. The flexibility of the Agile process is a large part of its appeal.

How will Agile help?

Transitioning to a new process is hard. The benefits of doing so must outweigh the cost. Organizations that have made the switch to the Agile processes report the following benefits, all of which are related and build on each other:

  • Higher productivity
  • Higher quality
  • Reduced time-to-market
  • Improved stakeholder satisfaction
  • Increased job satisfaction
  • More engaged employees

What is Agile about?

If whatever process you’re using today is working, by all means stick with it. Keep in mind, though, that the rate of change in the world has accelerated dramatically over the past 30 years and especially over the past 10. Product development cycles that were acceptable 10 years ago would be laughable now.

There is no reason not to expect this quickening trend to continue. Today’s “fast enough” will likely not be fast enough tomorrow. In order to remain competitive, companies and individuals need an Agile process that can help them keep up with the accelerating rate of change.

A few of the main Agile development methodology are:

Scrum

Scrum is a lightweight Agile project management framework with broad applicability for managing and controlling iterative and incremental projects of all types. It has garnered increasing popularity in the due to its simplicity, proven productivity, and ability to act as a wrapper for various product development practices promoted by other Agile methodologies.

With Scrum methodology, the “Product Owner” works closely with the team to identify and prioritize system functionality in form of a “Product Backlog”. The Product Backlog consists of features, bug fixes, non-functional requirements, etc. – whatever needs to be done in order to successfully deliver a working system. With priorities driven by the Product Owner, cross-functional teams estimate and sign-up to deliver “potentially shippable increments” of the product during successive meetings called “Sprints”, typically lasting 30 days. Once a Sprint’s Product Backlog is committed, no additional functionality can be added to the Sprint except by the team. Once a Sprint has been delivered, the Product Backlog is analyzed and reprioritized, if necessary, and the next set of functionality is selected for the next Sprint.

Lean and Kanban Development

Lean Software Development is an iterative Agile methodology originally developed by Mary and Tom Poppendieck. Lean Software Development owes much of its principles and practices to the Lean Enterprise movement, and the practices of companies like Toyota. Lean Software Development focuses the team on delivering Value to the customer, and on the efficiency of the “Value Stream,” the mechanisms that deliver that Value. The main principles of Lean methodology include:

  • Eliminating Waste
  • Amplifying Learning
  • Deciding as Late as Possible
  • Delivering as Fast as Possible
  • Empowering the Team
  • Building Integrity In
  • Seeing the Whole

Lean methodology eliminates waste through such practices as selecting only the truly valuable features for a system, prioritizing those selected, and delivering them in small batches. It emphasizes the speed and efficiency of development workflow, and relies on rapid and reliable feedback between programmers and customers. Lean uses the idea of work product being “pulled” via customer request. It focuses decision-making authority and ability on individuals and small teams, since research shows this to be faster and more efficient than hierarchical flow of control. Lean also concentrates on the efficiency of the use of team resources, trying to ensure that everyone is productive as much of the time as possible. It concentrates on concurrent work and the fewest possible intra-team workflow dependencies. Lean also strongly recommends that automated unit tests be written at the same time the code is written.

The Kanban Method

Kanban is used by organizations to manage the creation of products with an emphasis on continual delivery while not overburdening the development team. Like Scrum, Kanban is a process designed to help teams work together more effectively.

Kanban is based on 3 basic principles:

  • Visualize what you do today (workflow): seeing all the items in context of each other can be very informative
  • Limit the amount of work in progress (WIP): this helps balance the flow-based approach so teams don ‘t start and commit to too much work at once
  • Enhance flow: when something is finished, the next highest thing from the backlog is pulled into play

Kanban promotes continuous collaboration and encourages active, ongoing learning and improving by defining the best possible team workflow.

Extreme Programming (XP)

XP, originally described by Kent Beck, has emerged as one of the most popular and controversial agile methodologies. XP is a disciplined approach to delivering high-quality software quickly and continuously. It promotes high customer involvement, rapid feedback loops, continuous testing, continuous planning, and close teamwork to deliver working software at very frequent intervals, typically every 1-3 weeks.
The original XP recipe is based on four simple values: Simplicity, Communication, Feedback, and Courage and twelve supporting practices:

  • Planning Game
  • Small Releases
  • Customer Acceptance Tests
  • Simple Design
  • Pair Programming
  • Test-Driven Development
  • Refactoring
  • Continuous Integration
  • Collective Code Ownership
  • Coding Standards
  • Metaphor
  • Sustainable Pace

In XP, the “Customer” works very closely with the development team to define and prioritize granular units of functionality referred to as “User Stories”. The development team estimates, plans, and delivers the highest priority user stories in the form of working, tested software on an iteration-by-iteration basis. In order to maximize productivity, the practices provide a supportive, lightweight framework to guide a team and ensure high-quality software.

Crystal

The Crystal methodology is one of the most lightweight, adaptable approaches to software development. Crystal is actually comprised of a family of agile methodologies such as Crystal Clear, Crystal Yellow, Crystal Orange and others, whose unique characteristics are driven by several factors such as team size, system criticality, and project priorities. This Crystal family addresses the realization that each project may require a slightly tailored set of policies, practices, and processes in order to meet the project ‘s unique characteristics.
Several of the key tenets of Crystal include teamwork, communication, and simplicity, as well as reflection to frequently adjust and improve the process. Like other agile process methodologies, Crystal promotes early, frequent delivery of working software, high user involvement, adaptability, and the removal of bureaucracy or distractions.

Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)

DSDM methodology provide a comprehensive foundation for planning, managing, executing, and scaling agile process and iterative software development projects.

DSDM is based on nine key principles that primarily revolve around business needs/value, active user involvement, empowered teams, frequent delivery, integrated testing, and stakeholder collaboration. DSDM specifically calls out “fitness for business purpose” as the primary criteria for delivery and acceptance of a system, focusing on the useful 80% of the system that can be deployed in 20% of the time.

Requirements are baselined at a high level early in the project. Rework is built into the process, and all development changes must be reversible. Requirements are planned and delivered in short, fixed-length time-boxes, also referred to as iterations, and requirements for DSDM projects are prioritized using MoSCoW Rules:

M – Must have requirements
S – Should have if at all possible
C – Could have but not critical
W – Won ‘t have this time, but potentially later

All critical work must be completed in a DSDM project. It is also important that not every requirement in a project or time-box is considered critical. Within each time-box, less critical items are included so that if necessary, they can be removed to keep from impacting higher priority requirements on the schedule.
The DSDM project framework is independent of, and can be implemented in conjunction with, other iterative methodologies such as Extreme Programming and the Rational Unified Process.

Feature-Driven Development (FDD)

The FDD variant of Agile methodology begins with establishing an overall model shape. Then it continues with a series of two-week “design by feature, build by feature” iterations. The features are small, “useful in the eyes of the client” results. FDD designs the rest of the development process around feature delivery using the following eight practices:

  • Domain Object Modeling
  • Developing by Feature
  • Component/Class Ownership
  • Feature Teams
  • Inspections
  • Configuration Management
  • Regular Builds
  • Visibility of progress and results

FDD recommends specific programmer practices such as “Regular Builds” and “Component/Class Ownership”. FDD’s proponents claim that it scales more straightforwardly than other approaches, and is better suited to larger teams. Unlike other agile methods, FDD describes specific, very short phases of work, which are to be accomplished separately per feature. These include Domain Walkthrough, Design, Design Inspection, Code, Code Inspection, and Promote to Build.

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