When it comes to software development, teams today are required to move fast and produce quality deliverables that satisfy requirements from a number of different stakeholders as well as the end-user. This type of stress can wreak havoc on a dev team that does not have a suitable process in place to facilitate these necessary concerns.
Luckily, the agile development methodology solves for all of these issues, allowing software development teams to produce smaller chunks of functional software faster and with more feedback from all stakeholders compared to traditional project management methods like waterfall.
Learn why your software development team should considering adopting an agile software development methodology today with help from 16 agile experts.
16 Reasons You Should Choose Agile Development
The inherent problem with defined process control approaches like waterfall in the AppDev space is that the solution can’t be anticipated well upfront. People may understand their particular problem, but nobody knows the best way to solve it because no one’s solved it before.
That issue is complicated when you consider that we’re trying to deliver solutions into dynamic environments, which means needs may shift dramatically before we’re done because the market or the world moved in the interim.
Agile frameworks like scrum are innately more suited to these kinds of elaborative endeavors because they’re rooted in empirical process control. We try a small part of an intended solution, show it to the people we want to use it, and then we can ask them: did we solve your problem yet?
If they say yes, then we’re done; if the say not yet, we try another small experiment and come back again. This pattern means that agile approaches speed up return on investment because we can start delivering some part of the solution much sooner.
It also means we can have greater transparency because we are constantly delivering functional slices of the product, and we can have significantly lower ambient risk because the bets are smaller: continual feedback means we can only go so far in the wrong direction before discovering that we need to something else.
That’s why we see results like the Standish Group’s CHAOS Study, which has repeatedly surveyed software project outcomes over the years: for application development, agile frameworks outperform waterfall on every criterion.
– Dr. Patrick McConnell, Chief Instructor, NextUp Solutions
The agile software development methodology offers a more fast-paced, flexible, less expensive, and more precision-driven development process. The primary focus of this approach is to ensure the rapid delivery of the software product without compromising quality and performance parameters.
Some of the most evident benefits of agile development processes are:
- Rapid Development and Faster Time to Market: Accomplishing several tasks in a collaborative environment ensures rapid development and relatively faster time to market.
- Customer-Centric: By getting customer feedback at every stage, agile software development methodology ensures a highly customer-centric product.
That’s not to say that agile is without its flaws, however. Some cons of agile are:
- Problematic for Some Customers: Agile development needs a lot of involvement throughout the project lifecycle, which may not be feasible for someone who is looking for a finished product.
– Jimmy Kamboj, Founder, Imenso Software
Agile frameworks of software development are centered around the idea that the product and the people developing it, rather than a set project, should take center stage. Because we live in a business world that is constantly evolving, with technological transformation being particularly rapid, more static approaches risk becoming redundant within the development timeframe. If your project structure – the goal, the methods, the roles of individuals driving it – are too rigid, it can be difficult to adjust to market changes as they happen.
In essence, society is driven forward by creative destruction (new technologies and innovations thrive by supplanting the old). The winners are those that can adapt, and that’s exactly what agile frameworks are built to facilitate. Rather than creating a set process that is followed to a tee, agile frameworks such as scrum involve an adaptive approach. Quick rollout of products is facilitated by team members shifting resources to where they’re needed, continuous improvement, and constant revaluation of goals.
This represents part of a broader shift in business paradigm, one that Thomas Malone described as a shift from command-and-control to coordinate-and-cultivate. Generally, project structures are less siloed, and management is a lot more fluid and less rigidly hierarchical. This can be hugely beneficial to businesses that are following a wider agile approach (beyond just in software development). If your business model is agile and constantly evolving to meet market shifts, your software development needs to keep pace. It needs to be fluid, and able to shift gears at a moment’s notice.
On the other hand, for businesses that follow a more traditional model, that is, strict managerial hierarchies and siloed project structures, this is likely to be problematic. While it’s fairly easy for startups to maintain an agile approach, larger businesses with entrenched legacy structures may struggle to keep up. This can lead to scheduling going out the window, managerial disputes, and problems with accountability.
In summary, successful agile software development generally requires that the business has a wider agile company culture and approach, or requires the organizational structure to shift in line with it. While this may prove challenging, it also creates a business that is more likely to thrive on disruption and use it as an opportunity, rather than seeing change as a threat.
– Sam Maley, Head of Growth, Bailey & Associates
Businesses should use agile software development practices because they are far more likely to be successful than traditional waterfall projects. According to recent research, agile projects are 4 times more likely to be successful than traditional ones. This performance gap increases along with the size of the project.
Agile projects are more successful because they foster close collaboration between business and technology teams. Agile requests that business people embed with their development teams, which breaks down the traditional organizational silos.
Agile teams generally deliver increments of working software every 2-weeks or less. This provides value to the customers and allows the business and the team to receive valuable feedback. With these short delivery cycles, agile teams can quickly respond to changing business environments and priorities.
Agile is a mindset and represents a new way of working. For companies with traditional management cultures, this may pose a threat to the status quo. Leaders embarking on an agile journey should recognize that being agile requires a commitment to change in how their business operates, impacting both business and technology teams.
– Alan Zucker, Founding Principle, Project Management Essentials
There is one popular misconception when it comes to agile software development: agile is not faster than waterfall. It is just more flexible. Hence, it is more likely to meet user requirements in the end. If you already know exactly what your users want: stick to waterfall.
Agile has a drawback: more time is spent on communication and alignment. Especially in the first agile projects you tun, many issues and tensions have to be mitigated. A study by B. Alleman and Michael Henderson indicated that productivity in agile projects follows an s-shaped path: low productivity at the beginning followed by very high productivity once effective communication is established. A similar scientific man-hour comparison between agile and waterfall came to the conclusion that as long as less than ten percent of development is reworked during the project, waterfall is more productive. Consider these studies before making your choice.
– Daniel Herrmann, betasphere.de
Our company, Full HP, used standard waterfall management for 3 years. In those two years, the company released one game and started to develop a second one.
In 2018 we implemented agile in an adaptive form to fit all of our goals. The production process became more iterative and carefully planned. This approach helped us to increase the company’s performance and release 3 more games in the next 2 years.
With that being said, pure agile has some downfalls. It’s a more time-consuming planning process and an unpredictable roadmap. So, the best solution is to modify agile according to your specific goals and create a personalized approach to the development of your products.
As for our company, we’ve created an agile-fall technique called SPAS (Stuff Personal Achievement System) based on personal performance and careful planning. It works well for a small company like ours. Agile sets the pace of development and keeps employees engaged.
– Murad Musakaev, Project and Business Development Manager, Full HP Ltd
The main reason why software development teams should choose the agile methodology is to mitigate uncertainty and risk.
To make sure you’re building software that the users would actually use and find valuable, you have to get feedback from your users. Just asking “Would you use it if we built it?” is not going to give you an accurate answer. Real feedback comes when the users are actually using the software and paying for it.
Building a product with frequent releases and short iterations enables you to get more frequency feedback from your users and steer the product in the right direction with each iteration. Each release is an opportunity to learn something about your users’ needs and real problems in the industry and adjust the course of your product
That being said, there are certainly drawbacks to agile software development. For example, shipping large functionality that requires months of development is going to be hard. Sometimes it’s very hard to slice large functionality into shippable iterations. This kind of feature slicing creates an overhead and takes more time overall; however, I still strongly recommend spending that extra time and being agile, because you want to get concrete and measurable feedback that you’re building something that is truly valuable and useful.
– Erkki Muuga, Founder, WebinarSoftware
You have a choice: you run the software development or the software development runs over you.
If you have a small project (less than 200 hours), you can get away with going with an ad-hoc or waterfall process. That’s only if you have done software development before.
Anything bigger than that (and most projects are), generally calls for a software development life cycle (SDLC) that provides the decision-makers insight that the goals you want to achieve are progressing. You also want to know that your projects will not double or triple in size. Agile is a very good way to do this.
You are developing in shorter cycles (called sprints). Each sprint finishes pieces of work with development, QA, and the product owner all signing off.
The problem one runs into without a good SDLC is that developers get stuck at 90% complete. A common story is a developer takes 2 weeks to get to 75% complete of a piece of work, then spends 3 weeks stuck at 90% done. It gets very frustrating for managers who want to see predictable progress. Agile is a very good answer to avoiding the 90% problem.
With that being said, there are some drawbacks. Having a daily scrum and two-week sprints is better than a waterfall SDLC, but it is not going to satisfy the agile purist. It does take a commitment to understanding from management to use agile: training, new terminology, daily meetings, weekly meetings, and tasks for everyone to do. A company cannot declare we are now agile and be done with it. It becomes an investment.
– David Moise, Founder, Decide Consulting
We use agile software development and release new code every 2 weeks. What’s great about agile is that we are always working on the next top priority.
Often times, when you have large release cycles, some features that are released do not provide the most value for the time spent. Agile also supports consistency, meaning, we have a fairly good idea of how much work can get done in a sprint (2-week iteration).
I will agree though that agile might not be the best methodology for all startups. It depends on the scope and complexity of the project. For us, it is working well though.
– Brian Redd, Creator, Avem
According to The Agile Manifesto, the top priority of the agile method is “to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.” Although agile methodologies include numerous frameworks, such as scrum, extreme programming, crystal, and lean software development, they all share the same core principles of emphasizing people over tools, flexibility over a pre-established plan, and collaboration and feedback over strict contracts and duties.
Compared to waterfall project management, where a set of discrete, linear processes are followed sequentially, agile methodologies allows for change “even late in development.” As Agile methodologies were created with software development in mind, they are prepared to deal with the rapidly evolving marketplace in a way that is unmatched by fixed waterfall methods.
– Catalina Bonacossa, Marketing Analyst, Santex
Agile software development practices work best for products and services that are easy to change, such as apps and SaaS solutions. Agile is built on iterative development: build something quick, test it, and demo it, then improve it in the next iteration based on this fast feedback. App developers can take this to the next level: release a lightweight “minimum viable product” and then update the MVP with bug fixes, enhancements, and features, as you learn more about your customers’ behavior in your app. The faster you can spin an iteration, the faster you can learn.
However, if you’re not making that type of software or if your software is going into a device like a pacemaker that cannot be easily updated, for example, iterative development practices don’t work as well. Your cost-of-change is a lot higher and customers are not as tolerant of a buggy “version 1.0” or frequent updates. Teams like this achieve agility not by using pure agile, but rather instead, they focus on optimizing their processes for validation and testing so that teams can get faster feedback while structuring their work in a more traditional manner.
– Katherine Radeka, Founder and Executive Director, Rapid Learning Cycles Institute
Fundamentally, agile provides stakeholders the opportunity to make major decisions as a project progresses, rather than attempting the difficult task of making all decisions upfront before a project starts, and before any user, business, or market feedback has been gathered.
On top of this major advantage, agile projects also benefit from faster speed to market, increased flexibility, less technical debt, and seamless change management.
Additionally, an agile engagement can kickoff almost immediately, instead of after months spent developing functional specifications and mockups (both of which require all major decisions to be made upfront).
Agile can, of course, have its limitations including less predictability around long-term cost, but these are largely outweighed by its advantages.
– Brady Brim-DeForest, CEO, Theorem, LLC
There are three reasons why I think all software development should be done in agile:
- Transparency: One of the core principles of agile is transparency. The development team knows why they’re doing something and have seen other potential options or ideas and has had a hand in choosing what’s queued up to be released. Whether successful or not, they will know what worked and what didn’t. Stand-ups, retrospectives, and sprint reviews as well as revenue dashboards all help accomplish this. The more aligned you are with your development team, the better the product and features released.
- Collaboration: A core tenet of agile is collaboration. Collaboration between stakeholders, the development team, and management is essential to making good products. The concept of agile teams being co-located and having osmotic communication helps team members learn from each other, work with each other, and can also help avoid gaps in manpower and skills.
- Reviewing and Retrospective: Probably the most important thing that agile re-enforces is the need for continual growth and efficiency. In every sprint or cycle, you’ll be able to preview what’s to come and look retrospectively at what has passed. In my experience, these retrospectives are where you really grow your agile team, because it’s an open dialogue between the product owner, the scrum master, and the development team.
Overall, traditional or predictive project management CAN build successful products and maintain them; however, I believe agile to be the stronger of the two because of the reasons above!
– William Chin, Web Consultant, PickFu.com
Approximately 66% of businesses today rely solely or primarily on agile software development, and this statistic reflects far more than a passing tech fad. Businesses looking to develop an app or software generally will benefit most from utilizing agile software development strategies as opposed to the older waterfall methodologies.
Agile software development projects often take less time, require fewer technological infrastructure changes, and are on average 28% more successful than projects utilizing other tactics.
One benefit of using agile software development is that the process is centered upon the target user’s needs. This means that there are fewer unnecessary or bloated pieces within either the software infrastructure or interface.
Agile software development is far more collaborative and flexible than other methods in which developers are tied to a rigid tech infrastructure. The constant communication between all the developers usually leads to a more efficient end product, as each team member has remained aware of everyone else’s evolving roles and responsibilities
The final products created through agile software development are also typically more effective. This is because agile software development asks that each component be tested individually for end-to-end functionality, as opposed to waiting for the entire program to be completed prior to trial runs.
As with any project strategy, there can be drawbacks to agile software development. If teams are not able to effectively communicate with each other, the components needed for the software will take longer to function smoothly as one program—if they ever manage to function together at all. The inherent flexibility of the agile software development method also can be a drawback, as it can be harder to give clients or stakeholders an accurate model of what the end product will be.
– Brad Willman, CIO, Entrust Solutions
One of the main advantages of agile development is just that: it’s agile.
As you develop a product, it evolves over time, and the market needs change. This can happen to a business because a competitor releases something new or better market research comes in after they started and they realize, “Hey guys, we don’t actually need what we discussed weeks ago, we need something different now.”
If we’re working with waterfall or a generally traditional project management approach, we agree on the specs at the beginning so this regular reexamination does not happen. Agility and an agile approach to software development allow us to adapt to changing conditions on the fly. We work with what we have and get to where we need to get now. We don’t just scrap everything we’ve done if we find out at the end that it’s not what the market needs.
Big corporations and governments tend to have well-defined expectations of what they want while startups generally want to test ideas and build quickly. I worked on a project where we started building a social media platform for garage sales and local events, but we ended up releasing a messenger. Step by step, we were releasing to a small circle of friends and family of the clients and they were finding out that a fully-formed social media platform was not what they were trying to create. It’s not only that there were some slight changes here and there, but the product changed dramatically over the course of the project.
As far as drawbacks to agile, it’s harder to predict what you’re getting and when you’re getting it, but that’s a drawback and an advantage, I’d say. Obviously the flexibility also gives us a lot of uncertainty about the end of the project or further planning and the more uncertainty, the less definition and estimation you can get.
For instance, one of our long-term EdTech projects defined a yearly goal late last year. We discussed the biggest priorities and they had some ideas (more support tools for teachers) to aid them. In the end, we built a two-way chat so that parents and teachers can message each other. That means that whatever kind of estimate we would have given them for extra tools would have become irrelevant because we switched priorities.
Doing things over and over again the same way provides very little space for agility. You don’t start building the house from the roof. You would always start at the base point and go in the same direction. In software development, this is not always needed because you don’t always know what you’re aiming for in the end. In an apartment building, you know that you’re getting a building with fifteen apartments. When we build something that’s going directly to customers, agile development is the standard.
– Svetlana Wojciechowska, Project Manager, Espeo Software
The biggest advantages of using agile are flexibility and the ability to test early and often. With every iteration being tested after each phase of development, issues or bugs if any can be promptly fixed. With quality being baked in at each stage, agile leads to a higher product quality overall, while saving time and resources, as opposed to other methodologies where testing may lead to tedious reviews and expensive fixes.
In the highly volatile digital landscape of today, stakeholders like having the flexibility to change things as the development moves forward. Agile methodology keeps the stakeholders involved with the development in a closer loop, and allows for easy feedback incorporation thanks to its iterative and flexible approach. This makes stakeholders more comfortable working with companies that adopt an agile methodology.
– Hiral Atha, CEO, Moveo Apps
Need a software development provider for your business?
We’ve researched and compiled a list of the best software development companies in the United States so you can find the perfect partner for your business.