12 Principles of Agile Development

12 Principles of Agile Development

Agile is a term used to describe software development approaches that employ continual planning, learning, improvement, team collaboration, evolutionary development, and early delivery. Unlike the traditional ‘waterfall’ method, Agile development focuses on small, iterative steps at each step of development. This encourages flexible responses to change. Instead of betting everything on a straight start-to-finish kind of approach, an Agile team delivers work in small, but consumable, increments. Requirements, plans, and results are evaluated continuously at each step so that teams can respond to change quickly.

The dictionary defines agile as ‘someone who is able to move quickly but decisively, to react to changing situations with speed and grace, to change direction while maintaining his or her balance and poise.’ One of the most crucial differences between a traditional approach and Agile development is that in straight development, whether goals are really achieved or not is determined only at the end of the project. More often than not, and especially in huge software projects like ERP or Payroll or HR, the customer’s goals are not achieved by using traditional software development method, leaving them skeptical and disgruntled about the benefits of automation. The Agile methods treat change as an equal partner in the project. Change is welcomed to the table and dealt with immediately throughout the project. The traditional methods treat change as an enemy. They accept that it cannot be avoided, so they spend significant effort to control it and mitigate its effects. Using agile techniques in software development improves its chances of success. Regretfully, complex projects with changing goals more often than not, do not see the light of the day if they are implemented in rigid, traditional way. This leaves all the stakeholders unhappy – the owners, the development company and the coders. With Agile coding, the chances of success for complex projects is very high.

Agile has secured its place within the software development community where it originated and evolved. However, it is pertinent to note here that agile development is not restricted to software; there are scores of organizations that have improved their flexibility and delivery speed with an Agile mindset, and many have successfully scaled Agile through every department. The tenets of Agile are spreading into many other areas of the professional workplace, where its embrace of adaptive feedback can help businesses thrive. Many corporate are seeing that a more iterative approach allows them the flexibility to adjust to the changing needs of customers and the continuous churning of market conditions. Many others would like to apply Agile effectively because they are hearing it from all corners of their professional life. The Agile methodology is already widely used successfully in marketing, education, and even in the manufacturing sector.

Agile Manifesto
Agile was formally defined by a meeting of seventeen signatories at Snowbird, Utah in February 2001. The problem, they agreed, was that companies were so focused on excessively planning and documenting their software development cycles that they lost sight of what really mattered—pleasing their customers. While the participants didn’t often agree, they did find consensus around four core values. The Agile Manifesto provides a good focal point for examining the Agile methods and understanding the basis on which they were built. They adopted a formal document that identified 4 key values and 12 principles that they believed would improve the process of software development and should be used to guide their work. Each Agile method addresses items like processes, tools, documentation, and plans (with the exception of contracts) and specifies how they should be managed and used.

Four values of Agile
The four core values of Agile software development as stated by the Agile Manifesto are:

  • individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • working software over comprehensive documentation
  • customer collaboration over contract negotiation; and
  • responding to change over following a plan

Twelve Principles of Agile Software
[source: https://www.agilealliance.org/agile101/12-principles-behind-the-agile-manifesto/]

In addition to the four core values, the participants also agreed upon the following points; popularly called as the twelve principles of Agile software development:

  • Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  • Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  • Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  • Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  • Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  • Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  • Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential.
  • The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

At its heart, Agile is a set of methods and methodologies that help teams work coherently, work more efficiently, and work in tandem with the client’s requirements. The Agile methodology addresses all of the areas of traditional software engineering, including project management, software design and architecture, and process improvement. In particular, Agile presents a methodical yet adaptable approach toward development, advocates a framework which makes the users happy, and provides better customer as well as employee engagement. As far as Agile software development is concerned, the code built by agile teams is well constructed and highly maintainable, which makes the maintenance team happy. Agile is appreciated because most Agile projects are delivered on time, which is great for teams that have struggled with projects delivered very late and are way over the original budget.