12 Principals of Agile Software Development

A recent VersionOne survey revealed that 76% of distributed teams are using the Agile methodology – a number that will likely grow higher as more and more IT organizations seek to improve their operations. Even with these incredibly high usage statistics, however, some organizations are still skeptical about Agile and its purported benefits. So today we're going to break down the framework, revealing the 12 principles of Agile software Development as defined by the Agile Manifesto.

The Agile Manifesto is the definitive guide on Agile. Released out of the DSDM Consortium in 1994, it reveals the 12 key principles of Agile development, which are as follows:

#1) Early and Continuous Delivery of Valuable Software to Satisfy the Customer

The Agile methodology emphasizes customer satisfaction, and for good reason: organizations can't expect to produce a successful software unless the end-user is completely happy and satisfied with it. If the end-user dislikes the software, the organization's sales will suffer. This is why early and continuous delivery of valuable software to satisfy the customer is one of the dozen principles on which Agile was founded.

#2) Welcomes Changing Requirements, Regardless of Development Stage.

Whether it's the beginning, middle or late stage, Agile supports the use of immediate changes throughout all stages of the software development process. This is in stark contrast to other software development methodologies, which typically restrict stages in which developers and teams can change the product. By allowing, or rather encouraging, changes, Agile allows for a fast and smooth development cycle that overcomes many of the burdens associated with traditional methodologies.

#3) Deliver Functional, Working Software Frequently

Agile aims to eliminate many of the time-consuming steps associated with older and more archaic software development strategies. As explained in this HubSpot article, previous methods were loaded with tons of documentation. So at the end of a project, there was an unnecessarily large amount of documentation with little actual product. The Agile methodology overcomes this obstacle by encouraging organizations to launch ready-to-use products more quickly.

#4) Close Collaboration Between Business People and Product Developers

Arguably, one of the most important principles of Agile is close collaboration between business people and product developers. When the barriers of communication are broken down between the actual developers and executives (or other 'business' people) who run the company, it slows down the development cycle.

#5) Build Projects Around Motivated, Trustworthy People

Lack of motivation is the killer of productivity, and software development is no exception. Following the Agile method involves building projects around developers and team members who are both motivated and trustworthy. If you have just one unmotivated person on your team, it can negatively affect the entire project.

#6) Opt for Face-to-Face Communications

Even with Skype, GoToMeeting and similar communications platforms, Agile encourages development teams to choose face-to-face communication when given the opportunity. There's a good reason for this: it takes less time to ask a question to another team member in person as opposed to sending him or her an email and waiting for a reply. Granted, face-to-face communication isn't always an option. But when it is, you should opt for this method of communication.

#7) Working Software is the Principle Measure of Progress

Want to know the single most effective metric when measuring a project's progress? It's working software. Regardless of how many hours and sleepless nights have been invested into the project, it's all for nothing unless it actually works. Development teams must overcome bugs, compatibility errors and other problems to develop a working product.

#8) Develop Software at a Sustainable Pace

This Agile principle is self-explanatory: IT organizations and teams must develop software at a consistent, sustainable pace. It's not uncommon for teams to become burned out when working on the same product for a long period of time. To help overcome this, Agile encourages teams to work at a pace that is sustainable for their developers.

#9) Emphasize Technical Excellence and Good Design

Technical glitches and bugs can prove disastrous for a new software product. Rather than waiting until the product has been developed to identify and troubleshoot bugs, developers should clean up the product's code during each iteration. Of course, this is a task in which scrum can prove helpful, as it embraces the use of short work sessions known as sprints. It's easier and more cost effective to troubleshoot bugs and clean code while the product is being developed instead of waiting until its launch date.

#10) Maximize Work with Simplicity

The tenth principle of the Agile methodology involves simplifying the development process for the purpose of maximizing the amount of work accomplished. This doesn't mean that workers perform more work when it's simple. Rather, they work more efficiently when the development process is simplified. If a certain task has no real benefit or value to the project, skip it and move on to the next task.

#11) Use Self-Organizing Teams

Self-organizing teams are the backbone behind any Agile-driven project. In previous development methods, developers and other team members would have to wait for instructions from their superior before beginning a new task. With Agile, developers and team members take a proactive approach by tackling problems head-on, without waiting on specific instructions.

#12) Reflect on How to Become More Effective Regularly

Last but not least, Agile encourages team members to stop and reflect on how they can become more effective at regular intervals. Even if a project is coming along according to schedule, chances are there's still room for improvement – there's always room for improvement. Development teams should discuss among themselves ways to improve efficiency and productivity throughout various stages of the development cycle, implementing these changes when deemed appropriate.

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