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How to make agile software development a success. The vision of Typeqast

May 4, 2019

In IT circles the term ‘agile’ stands for the development of software and applications in short and clear periods (sprints, iterations) from a few weeks to a month. Short sprints are ideal for adapting things quickly so that the product meets the needs of users. But how can you make this method a success? What are the most important do’s and don’ts if you opt for agile software development? And what is Typeqast’s vision of agile development? We will elaborate on this in this blog article.

Agile versus the waterfall method

For a long time, it was customary to use the “waterfall method” when developing software and complex IT applications. This model is based on several pre-defined phases. You start with the highest level, to then work your way down and go through the lower phases, step by step. The waterfall method follows a fixed and pre-drawn schedule. The teams will only start the next phase of development or testing once the previous step has been successfully completed. There is little or no contact with the customer because the customer has already fully drawn in advance what needs to be built (a functional design).

The agile method is much more a collaborative software development process in which customers, developers, managers, and testers work more as one team. The various activities that are divided into phases in the waterfall method are always recurring at agile. That is why an agile team is cross-functional. The agile method does not start from predetermined and defined phases set in stone but separates the life cycle of the development process into sprints. During those sprints, certain parts of the end product are developed, so that you can quickly respond to changes and changed customer needs. In the waterfall model, the test phase is only discussed after construction. The agile method allows testing to be carried out simultaneously with or in the same iteration as programming.

The benefits of agile

The waterfall method is becoming a relic of the past and in the current, demanding IT era it is in many places losing position against agile software development. This is mainly due to several important advantages that the agile method brings.

  • Agile software development offers more possibilities for good team input. This allows problems to be recognized and solved earlier during development.
  • Agile is simpler and faster than the waterfall method and makes making changes to the requirements easier, even after the initial planning is completed. In this way, the desired functionalities for the end user are realized quicker. With the agile method, bugs can be detected earlier and made harmless. With the waterfall method, testing does not start until the development is complete. The problem: a greater chance of bugs being found late in the development process. Fixing those bugs afterward is often an expensive and time-consuming affair.
  • You can adapt an application much more easily if market developments, technological breakthroughs or changed user needs require so.
  • Agile software development involves the customer very closely in the development process. The agile approach, therefore, focuses explicitly on user satisfaction and is strongly based on the active participation of users in the various development phases. Moreover, booked results are immediately visible. This has a positive effect on the involvement and enthusiasm of the (end) user.
  • The agile method is based on advancing insight. This creates extra scope for quality control and reduces the risks during the development process.

Agile according to Typeqast

To make optimal use of the advantages of agile software development mentioned above, it is of great importance that you choose a method that clearly highlights the strengths of the agile method. So it’s time to look at the most important best practices when implementing agile software development according to the vision of Typeqast.

Communicate well and clearly

Since agile software development is a joint effort between the customer and the development team, the strength of the closed partnership means that good communication is essential. Regular interaction is also important for identifying and properly mapping the wishes of the customer. So ensure regular contact moments between the customer and the development team where the latest state of affairs is discussed.

Agile is only a recipe for success if the customer and the development team “travel together” and are constantly focused on helping and supporting the other. This means that there must also be a dedicated product owner on the client’s side who takes the necessary time and sets the right priorities at the service of the development project. The product owner is a daily point of contact with decision-making authority. He/she can make decisions without delays.

Provide the right specialist expertise

Modern IT solutions are increasingly taking the form of customized solutions. That certainly applies to agile software development. So make sure that there is sufficient specialist and multidisciplinary expertise available within project teams to get to the best solution for a specific client. From the perspective of flexibility, it is also important that you have professionals who can make a quick decision on the spot.

Also, ensure a clear division of roles within your project teams. In addition to a product owner, for example, you need a scrum master. The scrum master translates the objectives and stories within a sprint into concrete executable tasks for the developers. In addition, the scrum master ensures that the available resources are used as efficiently as possible.

Working agile means that project teams must be put together with great care because even small differences in terminology can already cause communication problems between the various parties involved in the development process. Fast and light-hearted development, the core of agile software development, quickly becomes a difficult job in such a case.

Create a balanced team

The composition of a project team largely determines the success of the agile method. In most cases, a cross-functional team is preferred. This way you immediately have all the knowledge and skills (Java, AngelScript, front and back end development, testers) that are needed to build an application and test for ease of use and functionality.

According to Tonći Jajić, project manager at Typeqast, the perfect agile team is also a mix of generalists and specialists. “Ideally, the team has a T-shaped skillset. The upper part of the T consists of generalists, while the lower part is formed by technical specialists. If you use that structure and make a good division of roles, all aspects of the development process – from the technical details to the above business processes – are covered. ”

Jajić also believes in a good mix of senior and junior developers. “Working only with experienced people is wrong because in this way you do not enable junior developers to grow and develop themselves professionally. With a method as an agile one, the main thing is that a team functions well as a unit and in harmony. Sometimes removing a top executive is even the best solution to make a team function better.”

Put the customer at the center of the development process

An important condition for the success of the agile approach is that the development of a product is strongly customer-centered. The wishes and requirements of the customer are therefore always the central point. This means that the project team regularly compiles overviews of features and functionalities that have the highest priority for the customer. This leads to a minimal valuable product that has added value for the customer at an early stage and is further expanded during the later phases of the development process.

Invest in powerful partnerships

To get the most out of agile software development, it is important to invest in continuity. You want to cherish good developers, cloud engineers or testers and to bind them to you for a longer time period. At Typeqast we do that by offering skilled professionals good terms of employment, an attractive salary and additional training opportunities. The net result of those investments? IT professionals who are more involved with your company than freelancers who are mainly looking for an exciting project.

Seeing familiar faces with a proven track record is also good for customer confidence. Pay time and attention to forging a relationship of trust between the customer and the development team. This can be achieved by bringing the team to the customer in the initial phase and by providing regular moments of contact (meetings, video conferences).

Ensure optimum flexibility

Of course, you also need a good strategy in the case of agile software development in the form of a clear product vision and roadmap. Based on time, budget and scope, these schedules outline broadly what steps are being taken to develop the product.

Nevertheless, it is important not to set the development process too stuck in stone. Optimum flexibility is the most important guideline of agile software development. Organize the collaboration and the development traject in such a way that there is every freedom to scale up capacity or to add or remove sprints as needed.

Evaluate sprints and the total development process

Agile software development means that you not only look ahead but you also regularly look back. It sometimes happens that developers and customers are mainly focused on the present and the future, neglecting retrospecting. But you must constantly learn from applied processes and methods, especially with agile software development.

In the case of the agile approach, learning from the recent past is the key to improving processes, development methods and strategies. It is therefore advisable to always spend some time after completing a sprint (half an hour is mostly enough) to evaluate the method used. The essence of agile is continuous improvement, something that you can only achieve by regularly subjecting your work and team to thorough quality control.
Cultivate openness, transparency and team spirit
Agile software development only works in a working environment in which values such as openness, transparency, and solidarity are cherished. This means that every team member must have the freedom to think about solutions and methods and have the space to provide feedback. The customer must also feel free enough to put his ideas about the products to be developed on the table.

You create such a working climate by permitting all stakeholders to realize that they are all part of the same team. “You have to create a band,” Tonći Jajić knows from experience. “You do that by being as open and honest as possible from the start. You often see that bad experiences from the past have made customers a little suspicious.”

Therefore, what you should always avoid is the combination of overpromising and underdelivering. It certainly leads to disappointment. By taking ideas from customers and team members seriously, properly evaluating what went well and what did not and sharing feedback through demos and refinements, a culture is automatically created that is determined by openness, transparency and connectedness. Team building is then a great way to nurture and further strengthen that bond.

Make agile a “state of mind”

A common mistake is that companies see agile software development as a collection of processes and techniques that solve all IT problems within the organization like a magical silver bullet. They start working with agile but do not have an eye for the culture change that is needed to make agile software development a success. In such a case, bad habits and underlying problems are not addressed, with the result that the agile approach produces a bad experience that brings companies back on the path of the waterfall method.

So make sure that a company embraces the culture change that is linked to the agile method. With the agile-mindset, you assume that your plans will change, instead of following the same plan for two years. The end goal is clear, but your course may change along the way. Working agile is a continuous process of adjusting, improving and refining. You are never ready.

“You can extract the most important agile principles from a booklet and apply them, but without a culture change within your organization, it will never work. You only reap the benefits of the methodology if you create a real agile culture within your company. That is only possible if the management is also prepared to fully participate in the new working method”, says Jajić.

Agile is not a blank check

Cost control is also an important part of a successful agile development strategy. However, agile working is always and by definition the cheapest method. A good agile approach, however, is more predictable and offers more options for making choices. This makes delivering custom work easier and, with the right strategy, more affordable. The customer has a lot of influence on the functionalities and size (both financial and operational) of the end product.

Conclusion

Agile software development has great advantages in terms of flexibility, scalability and cost control over the traditional waterfall method. At the same time, the success of the agile approach is also highly dependent on some important best practices. Agile software development stands or falls, for example, with core values ​​such as openness, transparency, short lines of communication, customer focus, and connectedness. In addition, a balanced team composition – ideally a mix of experience and young blood and specialists and generalists – is an important condition for the success of an agile project.

But perhaps the most important variable for agile success is the willingness of the customer to view agile as a mindset rather than a quick panacea. Agile software development only works if business processes are embedded in an organization-wide agile culture.

Would you like to know what agile development can mean for your company? And would you like to know how to prepare your organization for this? Do not hesitate to contact us. At Typeqast, every project is led by a permanent project manager who works with the customer and a dedicated development team on the best possible solution.