The Agile mindset is the most widely used development methodology in the world today. At the time of writing this, 52% of companies use Agile methodologies for over half of their projects.
The globally adopted model started from a small group of software developers back in the year 2000. Tired of the more cumbersome development methods of the time(like the waterfall), 17 developers came together and created the “Manifesto for Agile Software Development”. Today, we just call it the Agile Manifesto.
The Agile Manifesto lays out 4 main values:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
Together, they make out the core of the Agile mindset. At its core, Agile is about an iterative and incremental approach that still respects the software development cycle. As such, it reduces time to market, is constantly delivering value to client, and makes identifying and resolving bugs easier.
What are Agile methodologies?
There’s no one correct way to implement Agile. And as we said, the Manifesto has been around for over 20 years. In that time, the business world has created countless unique methodologies that follow the core Agile mindset in different ways. Each is designed for a different workflow, and comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
In this article, we’ll look at 4 of the most popular Agile methods out there and their pros and cons.
Agile methodologies’ advantages and disadvantages
Scrum is, without a doubt, the most popular Agile development methodology. It’s characterised by brief, time-boxed development iterations called Sprints. Scrum teams work collaboratively to deliver a specific product increment at the end of each Sprint. Every day starts with a daily Scrum – a quick meeting where tasks are synchronised and a plan for the working day is created.
This methodology is mostly used in software development and project management, though it can be found in other business environments, as well.
Predictable Delivery: Scrum provides a structured framework, making it easier to predict when features will be delivered.
Increased Collaboration: Regular communication keeps everyone on the same page. Between daily meetings and good Spring planning, the whole team understands what everyone is doing and why they’re going it.
Flexibility: Allows for changes in requirements between sprints, making it responsive to evolving project needs.
Transparency: The project is easy to follow for everyone within the team – or even within the company.
Requires commitment: Scrum is an extremely collaborative methodology that hinges on everyone doing their part. If team members are fully cooperative, that could affect the entire project.
Rigidity: It’s a strict way of work that may not fill all project types of team structures.
Kanban is a very visual Agile project management methodology. It uses a board or table (the Kanban board) with columns that represent each separate flow within the project. Cards in each column represent tasks in the given flow, and they move through the columns as tasks progress of are completed. The idea is to allow everyone to observe progress in real time.
Task Clarity: Having progress laid out on a Kanban board makes it clear what everyone needs to do at all times. And Kanban cards make it easy to divide the project among the team.
Flexibility: Kanban’s workflow is very adaptable, which makes it suitable for various project types and team sizes.
Simplicity: It’s a straightforward methodology that doesn’t risk getting bogged down into specific rituals or schedules.
Difficult schedule management: As a direct consequence of Kanban’s simplicity, it lacks specific timeframes or pre-established schedules. That makes it hard to predict when tasks are going to be completed.
Low complexity: Visual representations are easy to follow until they’re not. A bigger project can easily make a Kanban board too complex and overwhelming for your team.
Limited guidance: Due to the way the work is distributed, success is reliant on each team member’s experience and ability to self-organize effectively.
Extreme Programming (XP)
XP is a special case in that it was an Agile methodology before the Agile Manifesto even existed. It was created by Kent Beck, one of the creators of Agile, in the 90s.
The methodology adheres to a strict set of values and practices. Much like Scrum, Extreme Programming focuses on continuous development and delivery and divides work into Sprints. It also focuses on 5 core values: Communication, Simplicity, Feedback, Courage, and Respect, and is designed around heavily involving the end-user in the software development lifecycle. XP is also oriented toward teamwork and rigorous testing, with some of its core principles being things like Sit Together and Pair Programming.
Adaptability: A focus on writing simple code, and constant user involvement, allows for changes to happen even late in the development cycle.
Client involvement: Close contact with the client allows for constant feedback and prioritises customer satisfaction.
Team engagement: The methodology is designed to foster teamwork and enhanced collaboration through is values and practices.
High resource usage: Some of XP’s practices, while effective, can be resource-intensive. You may need more developer-hours to achieve an equal amount of work, increasing costs.
Neglect of non-code aspects: Extreme Programming focuses on the technical aspects of development. As a result, non-technical parts of the project may end up neglected.
Proximity-dependent: This methodology works best when the entire development team is situated close to each other, but many of its core practices aren’t applicable
Lean draws inspiration from the Lean manufacturing methodology, originally created by Toyota. After its success in the automobile industry, the method gained widespread adoption in other industries.
At its core, Lean principles are about cutting out anything that doesn’t ultimately bring value to the product. The methodology is based on 5 core principles: Identify where value lies. Map your value stream. Create stable flow. Establish pull(work on tasks that are in demand). Seek perfection.
Increased focus: Removing anything that doesn’t add value lets your team focus all their efforts on tasks that do.
Minimal waste: Constantly optimizing your workflow lets you identify bottlenecks or productivity barriers and cut out unnecessary tasks.
Easily scalable: Lean is easy to adapt to projects of any size.
Easy to overdo: Lean’s “pull” style of working means deliverables are delivered as needed and not preemptively. It’s easy to cut it too close and have delays pile up, especially if something goes wrong unexpectedly (i.e someone on the team is off sick)
Lack of clear strategy: It’s possible to get so focused on trimming waste that you lose sight of the bigger picture.
Agile has become the cornerstone of the modern development process, thanks to its focus on quality software and continuous delivery. The specific choice of methodology depends on your project’s unique requirements, your team dynamics and organizational context. Choosing the right one, or even combining elements of multiple methodologies, is your most important step toward reaping all the advantages of Agile.
Ultimately, the principles of Agile provide a dynamic and effective approach to project management. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of Agile types will allow you to pick the most suitable one for your software project.