The most popular software development methodology in use today is the Agile method, which focuses on creating customer satisfaction through non-stop end-user input during the entire software development life cycle. Nearshore software outsourcing firms are among the top users of the Agile methodology since it allows them to create high-quality, well-received software with great chances of success. This article will help managers understand the software development life cycle, how the Agile methodology works, why it is so valuable, and which particular Agile approach is right for their next project.
Software Development Life Cycle
Before diving too deeply into the Agile software development methodology, it is important to cultivate a solid understanding of the software development life cycle (SDLC) and how developers, project managers, executives, and nearshore software development firms alike fit into the process. The SDLC begins by identifying a customer pain point. This is referred to as the conceptualization and planning stage, where senior management, stakeholders, and the development team meet to figure out what problem is being addressed, how the software will solve that particular challenge, and how the development process itself will be structured.
Once the strategy and overall structure have been defined, it is time for the engineering staff to begin the design phase, where the bulk of the coding is completed. Flexible software development methodologies like Agile typically focus on creating a basic prototype early in the process so that the software can be released to a limited group of consumers and rigorously tested before too many resources have been invested. This cycle of continuous input ensures that any flaws or major issues are identified early on and that the software adequately addresses the customer’s pain point.
Finally, the SDLC cycle will conclude with testing, deploying, and maintenance phases. During the testing phase, the software undergoes rigorous testing from manual testers, software developer engineers in test (often brought in by a trusted nearshore development service), and a select group of end users. Only once extensive this is completed and the product is free of bugs will it be deployed to a larger audience. A select group of developers will be responsible for maintaining the software, releasing updates, and responding to new end-user reports.
Agile Development Methodology
The set of frameworks and practices known as the Agile development methodology was originally explained in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, first compiled in 2001. Since that time, this approach to software development has seen widespread use in every industry that produces custom software, as well as throughout the nearshore software outsourcing field, and is now one of the most commonly used software development methods in the United States.
The main goal of the Agile method is to create custom software that solves a customer pain point while avoiding much of the risk that is inherent in traditional, linear development models. This is accomplished by creating a minimum viable product, or prototype, early on in the development cycle. A select group of end users is invited to use this early iteration and to provide feedback to the development team, allowing the programming group to gain invaluable information before too much time or resources are invested in unnecessary features.
The Agile methodology is, therefore, an excellent option for startups, innovative software with no clear vision, for nearshore development services, and for companies with limited development budgets. It allows firms to produce a prototype to solicit feedback and determine market viability early on, a crucial benefit for companies of all sizes. Each of the following Agile software development approaches has been used extensively in the tech world and are suitable for most software development projects.
This lightweight Agile-based project framework represents the best principles of the Agile methodology in action. The Agile Manifesto, drafted by 17 of the world’s top software engineers in 2001, sparked a movement that sought to overturn the ideas of the linear-based software methodologies that had dominated the technology industry since its founding. This was accomplished through a system that focused on producing bare-bones software prototypes which could be released to end users as soon as possible, allowing companies to test what does and does not work early in the development project. The results were stunning: the Agile framework allows companies to produce high-quality software that addresses customer needs, avoids unnecessary features, and introduces increased efficiency into the entire process.
However, while the Agile methodology provides the framework, it does not provide a set of clear steps detailing how to accomplish these goals in a real-world development project. The Scrum method was created in order to provide a set of concrete steps that managers can use to organize their next development initiative. The Scrum method defines clear roles for the product owner, scrum master, and the development team itself. Each team is responsible for independently developing a different feature, while the product owner is the glue that keeps all of the teams coordinating together towards a single vision.
One of the difficulties associated with the Scrum method is the vast amount of independence provided to each team. This flexible arrangement means that each feature team must organize itself and assign team members to coordinate their work and progress with other features teams. The exclusion of a traditional project manager also means that the product owner takes on increased responsibility for the overall success of the software development cycle.
The Lean software development model did not originate in the technology industry, rather it emerged from the Toyota Production System, a set of principles and rules created by the Toyota Corporation to increase efficiency and reduce waste. This approach was adopted by the information technology industry in 2003 after the popular book Lean Software Development was published. The system increases efficiency through the seven following rules:
Decide as Late as Possible
Deliver as Fast as Possible
Empower the Team
See the Whole
Like other Agile methods, the Lean approach focuses on breaking up a large-scale software development project into several manageable components. Lean development teams work hard to produce a minimum viable product as soon as possible, allowing them to solicit end-user feedback early, with a particular focus on identifying the features that are most important to consumers. This constant stream of feedback allows development groups to concentrate resources and time on the most important features and to create the most efficient development workflows as possible.
This approach is in direct contrast to linear-based methodologies which attempt to create a finalized product before releasing the software to end users. The Lean method is particularly useful for startups and for companies intent on creating truly original software without a precedent. The Lean approach allows these firms to test brand new features and ideas without investing much capital in the UX or UI, expensive components that should only be focused on once the main features are built-out.
DSDM, which stands for dynamic systems development method, has been around for several decades and actually predates the term Agile (with DSDM originating in 1994). However, despite its age, the methodology is still used widely today and is an excellent option for companies in every industry. This project delivery framework focuses on breaking a software development project into smaller components that represent each of the software’s end user requirements. Engineers are expected to develop each component according to the end users’ needs, while also focusing on delivering the product on-time and under-budget.
For a mobile application like Spotify, the earliest iteration focused on music streaming and allowing users to quickly and effortlessly stream any song in the catalog at the touch of a button. Later iterations of the software would build on this foundation by offering genre-specific playlists, user personalized playlists, offline accessible content, and so on. However, the initial development and first prototype always focuses on the most important component of the software.
First-time project managers can prioritize their software’s individual components using the 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
This set of rules allows software engineers to prioritize the features in any given piece of software. Must have requirements are the foundation of a piece of software. For a company like Uber, the must-have requirement is connecting a driver with a single passenger to travel to a specific location. Things like car options, carpooling, and user rating systems cleanly fit into the other categories of features that are nice but unnecessary.
Every manager can benefit by considering one of the three main Agile methodologies for their next software development project. These approaches to the SDLC ensure that customer feedback is at the forefront of their development team’s minds, and that the software they produce has a higher chance of addressing consumer needs and gaining traction in the marketplace. Speak with your nearshore software outsourcing partner today to learn how your company can use an Agile methodology to successfully develop its custom software.