The Agile methodology in custom development

In software development, project management plays a crucial role in the quality standards of the result. There are many methodologies available for PMs and teams to adopt, among which the most common are Waterfall and Agile. And while Waterfall has served people in the industry for years, the time has come for it to retire and make way for a methodology that is way more beneficial both for developers and clients: Agile.

What is Agile methodology?

This way of working has become increasingly popular in the past years and for good reason. It provides people in the project with more flexibility, allows for constant testing throughout the development cycle and, thus, guarantees better results. So, if you are considering the Agile method of management for your projects, keep in mind that it can only be applied to projects that can unfold in an iterative and incremental way. The focus is on helping teams react faster in an evolving business landscape while keeping an eye on rapid delivery and business value. The most popular frameworks are Scrum, XP and Kanban, and are all based on the same principles: continuous improvement, constant feedback from cross-functional teams, recurrent testing and the delivery of qualitative products.

Agile methodology vs. Traditional development

Years ago, the traditional method in software development was the Waterfall methodology. This model is very different from Agile, as it is not iterative but rather segmented on project stages: you can see the progress through different phases, which can no longer be adjusted by the end of the project. Basically, we are talking about a sequential way of working involving requirement analysis, design, implementation, testing, and deployment followed by maintenance. Agile, on the other hand, is favorable to visibility, adaptability and value from the beginning of the project, which diminishes risks and ensures the most efficient result.

If you choose Agile for your software development project, you will be encouraged to be involved from its early stages and you will notice the development team is really focused on your business needs. You will have a transparent view of everything, with constant project updates and the possibility to re-plan certain aspects if you think there is room for improvement. If you require a change, which is actually quite common in software development, programmers will be able to adapt to these new demands, without having to rewrite big fractions of the code.

Here are some of the main, concrete, benefits of Agile methodology, which make it the ideal choice for your custom software development projects:

Higher customer satisfaction through transparency and constant feedback
If you start a project using the Agile methodology, you allow customers to be involved and oversee, step by step, the development process. Clients will be able to prioritize features, supervise planning and review requirements by adding new features in the early stages of the development project. An important thing to do when starting to develop through Agile is to make sure customers are aware that what they will see during the first weeks or even months is a work in progress and the final product will live up to their expectations.

Efficient delivery and high product quality
Agile methodology allows you to reach the end of the project early and ensure qualitative deployment. Since testing is integrated during the cycle, you will be able to check the product regularly and make sure the solution is working for your company, from the initial stages. Through well-defined, fixed Sprint meetings of 1-4 weeks, the development company can deliver new features quickly and frequently, at a pre-defined pace of deployment. This means that you will be able to release a beta version of the software or invest resources in early user testing if you consider it necessary before the final release of the solution.

Better budget planning and cost control, with faster ROI
Since each Sprint meeting has a pre-defined time and duration, the costs are predictable and limited to the amount of work the development team can perform within the scheduled timeframe. This, together with the estimates provided by the developer at the beginning of the project, makes it easier for customers to control the budget and understand the approximate amount of resources necessary for each feature. As a result, the client can make informed decisions when it comes to priorities and additional requirements.

Flexibility in terms of requirements
Agile methodology allows for changes when the customer or development team consider them necessary for a better outcome. It is true that the developers must stay focused and deliver the agreed features with regularity, but sometimes, the initial planning needs to be refined on the go – and Agile provides this flexibility. New or changed requirements can be planned for the next iteration, enabling changes to be introduced within a few weeks.

Focus on users’ experience and increased project control
User stories with business-focused approval criteria are frequently used in Agile to design product features. This way, each addition to initial requirements becomes more than an IT component. The changes are elements that really add value to the solution, with a strong focus on the end user’s experience. This also allows you to beta test software after each Sprint, allowing you to get useful input early on in the project and make changes as needed.

Agile is a powerful tool for software development, not only providing benefits to the development team but also providing several important business benefits to the client. Agile helps project teams deal with many of the most common project pitfalls (such as cost, schedule predictability and scope creep) in a more controlled manner. By reorganizing and re-envisioning the activities involved in custom software development, Agile achieves those same objectives in a leaner and more business-focused way.