New to agile? This article will introduce you to agile development, a quick history of agile, common agile frameworks, what agile is, and what agile isn’t.

You may hear the term agile circulating the office or popping up in emails. If you’ve never had the opportunity to participate in an agile project, you may not be familiar with the benefits. The agile approach has been proven to provide significant gains. The 12th Annual State of Agile Report provides in-depth research about the agile approach. In fact, 98 percent of study participants reported success with an agile project, citing such benefits as

  • Improved ability to manage changing priorities
  • Protection of visibility
  • Better alignment of business/IT
  • Increased time to market
  • Boosted team productivity and morale

Use our agile beginner’s guide to get started.

What is Agile?

Agile is a great many things, but the simple definition of agile is a set of ideas used to guide the development of high-quality software through continually adaptive measures and minimal processes. The word “agile” was selected by the creators because it encompasses the true flexible nature of the process. Agile is achieved by adherence to strict project management best practices which promotes a quick and successful time to market.

On a simple level, agile is a philosophy with guiding principles, rather than a list of prescribed instructions. Although originally intended for software development, many agile approaches can be modified to suit projects in various other industries.

What really sets agile apart from other methodologies is a significant focus on trust in team members and the ability to determine amongst themselves how responsibilities should be delegated. Other project management approaches require more involvement in the allocation and oversight of tasks.

Common agile frameworks

The agile methodology has given rise to several frameworks to help govern successful projects. The following are common agile frameworks.

  • Crystal: Crystal actually involves a whole family of agile methodologies:
    • Crystal Clear
    • Crystal Yellow
    • Crystal Orange
    • Crystal Orange Web
    • Crystal Red
    • Crystal Maroon
    • Crystal Diamond
    • Crystal Sapphire

This approach focuses on people, rather than process or workflow. This adaptive, lightweight framework views software development as a human activity. The above methods vary based on team size and project environment.

  • Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM): DSDM focuses on the project lifecycle, placing emphasis on strategic planning and alignment with business goals. As with other approaches, DSDM values quality, quick delivery and iterative development.
  • Extreme Programming (XP): This agile framework relies on guiding principles such as communication, teamwork, feedback and respect. XP prioritizes customer satisfaction and therefore relies heavily on changes, regardless of phase of development. There is a strong focus on team collaboration and respecting the input of all team members.
  • Feature-Driven-Development (FDD): FDD is a client-centric approach which uses features as its guiding motivation. This approach begins with an overall model and then identifies those features most desired by customers. Development is then centered around those features.
  • Kanban: This methodology is all about optimization and transparency. Kanban focuses on visual representations of the work process to identify potential bottlenecks. The goal is to identify and remove obstructions to promote cost savings and reduce time. Hailing from a Japanese Toyota plant, the ultimate goal is efficiency of process. Workflows are visualized through what is known as a Kanban Board.
  • Scrum: Scrum is the most widely adopted agile framework. It focuses on minimalism and can be applied to a wide variety of projects, not just software development (which largely accounts for its widespread popularity). The process consists of a scrum team with four possible roles:
    • Product owner
    • Scrum master
    • Development team
    • Subject matter expert

Every team member adheres strictly to the parameters of their role within the team. Scrum relies largely on team collaboration with minimal oversight.

There are various other agile approaches that are not as popular or are more specialized. This list is by no means comprehensive. One of the great things about the agile philosophy is the ability to modify approaches based on your organization’s values and objectives.

A Little Agile History

People who are good at their craft often engage in analysis to see where improvements can be made. In 2001, a group of 17 software developers decided it was time to exactly that. Despite their sometimes radical differences, they all were able to agree that the ever-evolving nature of technology was making it difficult to formulate a consistent approach to software development. What occurred as a result was a meeting of the minds punctuated by some skiing and eating.

The group met at a ski resort in Utah and set out to iron out the wrinkles. They all compared notes and identified the key elements for success. The result was the Agile Manifesto. The manifesto provides the guiding ideals for successful projects.

The Power of an Agile Business

Agile businesses have a powerful advantage over others, both from the customer side and the business side. Using the agile approach, organizations often see significant gains. Among other benefits, the 12th Annual State of Agile reports the following stats regarding the success of agile initiatives:

  • Customer/user satisfaction (57%)
  • On-time delivery (55%)
  • Business value (53%)
  • Quality (47%)
  • Productivity (31%)

Agile businesses are iterative which leads to high customer or user satisfaction. When you anticipate the need for changes, you reduce backups that can come about with unexpected late-game modifications. Agile businesses are more efficient with higher cost savings and faster time to market. There is also a higher rate of satisfaction among employees at agile businesses because of the boost in productivity and team morale.

Ready to try agile? Review our practices for an agile transformation to find out if you’re ready to make the change.

What Agile Is

Agile is:

  • Flexible from conception to delivery
  • Driven by customer satisfaction
  • Trusting in your team members
  • Constant face-to-face interactions with team
  • Removal of distractions and non-essential elements

What Agile Is Not

Agile is not:

  • An inability to make late-game modifications to adhere to an ideal of the end product
  • Driven by managers or executive leadership
  • Micromanagement
  • Teams members working separately from task lists
  • Splitting your focus on multiple projects simultaneously

Interested in learning more? Read here to find out more about agile user stories.

Think your organization is ready for agile? Let’s talk!