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The Agile Software Development Life Cycle: All You Need to Know

- 3 min. to read

For software teams delivering a product goes beyond simple planning. They need to evaluate resources, time frames, and the steps to get to the desired goal. And to go from idea to the final product, there’s a long way to go, especially if teams don’t work under any framework. That’s why measuring the Agile software development life cycle is the perfect solution as it provides a structured series of stages that a product goes through from the start to the end, focusing on process adaptability and customer satisfaction. 

The software development life cycle allows tech teams to measure and improve their development processes by analyzing each of these steps in detail. It offers a foundation for project planning, scheduling, and estimating, which helps both clients and teams optimize their resources and time. And although there are different SDLC models, such as traditional ones like the Waterfall model, one of the most popular ones for its efficiency and its client-based approach is the Agile SDLC.

What is the Agile Software Development Cycle?

Agile software development refers to the methodologies centered around the idea of iterative development where processes and solutions evolve through continual collaboration between cross-functional teams. 

And while processes and documentation are relevant, Agile teams do not strictly stick to plans. If a step threatens the efficiency of the development, they quickly adapt it and improve it. What matters is to deliver the best result possible. 

The main ideas behind the methodology are outlined in the original Manifesto for Agile Software Development. These are the 4 core values outlined in the Manifesto: 

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan. 

Additionally, the agile approach can be divided into the following principles:

  • Satisfy the end-user through continuous and early delivery of valuable software.
  • Embrace change and use it to the end-users potential advantage.
  • Deliver quality software consistently and in short timescales. 
  • Employees on the development and business sides of your team must work together closely and daily.
  • Every team member must be trusted and supported to do their job properly. 
  • One-on-one communication is the most preferred way of relaying information. 
  • Working software is the best indicator of success. 
  • The rate of progress, software use, and work must be sustainable. 
  • You must place consistent attention on effective design and technical excellence. 
  • Teams should be given what they require so they can self-organize. 
  • Your team must be provided regular opportunities to self-organize and self-reflect. 

Adhering to the above principles typically proves to be the best structure for software development teams. It is recommended that you integrate all 12 of them into your project management process and learn their intricacies to know how to manage software development projects efficiently. 

There is no doubt that software engineers will continue to utilize the project management principles their profession crafted to develop useful products for years to come. 

Benefits of the Agile Methodology for Software Development

Agile (and its derivatives such as Scrum and Kanban) is an iterative process that brings benefits when adopted by leading organizations for the management of software development:

  • Better Quality Products
  • User Satisfaction
  • Enhanced Control
  • Better Product Predictability
  • Improved Flexibility
  • Continuous Improvement

Agile’s Popular Methodologies

  1. Scrum: Characterized by cycles or stages of development, known as sprints, and by the maximization of development time for a software product. 
  2. Kanban: It’s a workflow management method that aims to visualize work and maximize efficiency. It exists in a board or table that is divided into columns that show every flow of the software product. 
  3. Extreme Programming (XP): This methodology values communication, simplicity, feedback, courage and prioritizes customer satisfaction over everything else.
  4. Lean Development: Focuses on seven fundamental principles: Deleting the things that do not matter, quality development, creating knowledge, differing commitments, fast delivery, respecting the team, and optimize the whole.  
  5. Crystal: This is a family of different agile methodologies that includes categories depending on the size of teams (Crystal clear (up to an 8-person team), crystal orange (20 to 50), and crystal red (50 to 1000) and focuses on delivering the best possible software development process. 

According to the State of Agile (2020) the most popular Agile methodology is Scrum:

Agile methodologies

Agile Methodology Steps

In general, regardless of the methodology, Agile focuses on product development through iteration. An iteration consists of a set of actions that constantly repeats until the condition (or objective) is met.

Depending on the methodology being used, the steps are different. For example, Scrum, the most popular Agile methodology, helps teams plan on ways to deliver complex products successfully through iterations called sprints. A sprint consists of a time-boxed period in which a Scrum team works to complete work objectives. 

In Scrum, sprints generally last between 1 and 4 weeks, and during these, the development team completes certain parts of the pre-established goals. 

Read more: Kanban vs Scrum Methodology

The Scrum methodology has 3 key roles:

  • The product owner: Represents and speaks for the business needs of the project. They make sure that the product in development meets the client’s requirements. 
  • The Scrum Master: It’s the team member responsible for leading the team, clearing roadblocks, and supporting the progress. 
  • The development team: It’s built by team members with their strengths, capabilities, and duties but capable of taking different roles on the project.  

What does Scrum’s workflow look like? Here’s an overview:

Agile Scrum process

1. Sprint planning

These take place before each sprint starts. During these meetings, scrum teams decide the key aspects of a project: The goals, the scope, and the tasks of the fixed sprint backlog.

2. Daily Scrum

Commonly known as the “stand up meeting,” – it takes place for no more than 15 minutes. The idea of these meetings is that each member shares what they completed yesterday, what they will work on today, and the list of items they need to work on. 

3. Sprint Review

Takes place at the end of each sprint and is where the dev team demonstrates to the stakeholders the parts of the product they finished during the sprint. 

4. Sprint Retrospective

After the review, here’s where the team has an internal meeting where members discuss everything about the sprint: what went well, what didn’t work out, and what improvements they can make for the next sprint.

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6 Agile Software Development Project Life Cycle Phases 

What are the stages of Agile development? As I mentioned, this really depends on the methodology you’re using for your project. Kanban, Scrum, iterative development, etc., although they all share the core philosophy of Agile, each methodology has slight variations in how they measure and plan the phases of software development.

All Agile methodologies’ goal is the same: to adapt to change and deliver working software that satisfies users as quickly as possible.

In general, despite these minor variations, the Agile project life cycle has 6 phases:

Agile software development project life cycle phases
  • Concept
  • Inception
  • Iteration
  • Testing
  • Production
  • Review

1. Concept

The concept is the first step when planning the Agile SDLC process. Also known as the requirements phase, here is when product owners create the initial documentation and list the initial priorities before they start designing the project. During this stage, they need to answer these questions:

  • What is the result that the project is looking to achieve?
  • What features would it support?
  • What features are not a priority?

Product owners define how a software will look and perform. They also estimate the time and the cost of the potential project. And project managers or business analysts have meetings with the customer and ask for the software specifications. The idea is that they can gather as many details as they can—that way, it’s easy to understand more about the client’s expectations. 

Although the idea is to gather as much information as possible to define the features and understand the key requirements, something to keep in mind is that prioritizing the features is what makes the difference. Try to lower the initial requirements and identify what features really matter and what can be worked on later. This will help development teams work harder on the core features and prioritize what matters the most to clients. 

Key takeaway: The concept phase is where project owners determine the scope of a project, prioritizing requirements, features, and the client’s expectations. 

2. Inception

During this second stage, and after defining and documenting the key features and requirements, it’s time to build the software development team. 

Product owners will define the right people for the project and provide them with all the necessary tools and resources to start designing the project.

After establishing the team members and the roles, the next stage is to create a user interface simulation and start building the project architecture. The inception phase is always conducted before the construction because it aims to get the team in the right direction. It requires initial planning and defining the core architecture that the software will have.

Software development planning is divided into two segments: 1) Visual design (UI/UX) and the architectural structure of the app.

  • Visual design (UI/UX): The designers create a mock-up of the UI and the UX. For this stage, it always helps to review what competitors are doing (and what are they doing wrong) 
  • Software architecture: The team discusses the best way to tackle the requirements and what tools they need to use. Here they define the best programming languages, frameworks, and libraries they need to use. 

Key takeaway: The team is built, and they start planning the structure of the software. 

3. Iteration

Iteration, also known as the construction or development phase, is the longest phase when measuring the Agile SDLC process. Here the development team works with UX designers combining all product requirements and the customer feedback, turning the design into code. 

As the backbone of the whole process, iteration focuses on converting all the design documentation of the previous phases into real software. The primary purpose is to build the product by the end of the first spring. Developers start building the first iteration of the product, which is far from the final version, as it still needs to go through various revisions to ensure the quality of the product. 

This phase is all about ensuring continual collaboration between the team and the stakeholders. It maintains the quality by following conventions and the guidelines previously defined. Additionally, one of the main characteristics of this phase is testing. After every iteration, the idea is that testings are conducted to avoid possible errors and maintain the quality. 

The iteration stage goes from having a minimum viable product in the early sprints to being a fully functioning solution that is ready to be released into the 4th step: testing. 

Key takeaway: Iteration is the longest phase when measuring the Agile SDLC process as it focuses on the teams delivering a high-quality product through incremental sprints. 

4. Testing

This stage focuses on quality assurance testing, documentation development, and the final release of iteration into production. 

Although during the previous stage, testings were continually conducted after every sprint, the production phase is spent on teams making sure that the software is bug-free and compatible with everything written previously. There are four different types of testing:

  • Unit testing: Its purpose is to verify each part of the software by isolating it and evaluating if it works correctly and fulfills the desired functionality. 
  • Integration testing: Focuses on different test parts of the system, combining them to make sure they can work together correctly. 
  • Acceptance testing: Here is when a product is given the green light or not. The purpose is to evaluate if the product complies with the end-user requirements and if it’s ready for deployment. 
  • System testing: All the software components are tested as a whole to ensure the product works and meets the specified requirements.

The QA team runs different tests to ensure the business goals are met, that the code is clean and that the software is fully functional. After going through these various testing stages, the software is ready to go live. 

Key takeaway: Quality assurance testing takes place, and it’s the last phase before the product goes live. 

5. Production 

After all the testing and successful results, the product is now ready to go live. During this stage, the software is fully deployed and available for customers.

Simultaneously with the release, the teams go into the maintenance phase. The software team provides ongoing support to ensure the system keeps running smoothly and solves any potential errors.

The main goal in the production phase is to keep systems useful, error-free, and productive after being deployed. 

Key takeaway: The product is available for the customers, and the software teams provide ongoing support of the software. 

6. Review 

Once all the previous phases are successfully completed, the product owner gathers all the team to review the project itself. The team evaluates the progress towards completing the requirements, what were the highlights, and the roadblocks that occurred during the different stages. 

The product owner also asks stakeholders for feedback and works it into the next iteration’s requirements.  

With the reviewing phase, it’s easy for teams to tackle future problems as they now understand more about their workflow, what worked, and what didn’t. 

After this, the Agile software development life cycle starts a new iteration. 

Key takeaway: Teams carefully review their performance and identify the strengths and weaknesses during the project. 

Build the Right Agile Team with the Right Developers

Agile is characterized by having an iterative process. This helps teams work in a detailed-oriented approach, focusing on delivering working software to users as fast as possible. 

There’s not a rigid Agile structure that ensures complete success on a project. However, one thing is for sure: delivering software successfully is not possible without the right development team.

The good news is that we’re here to help you deliver the best software with the best team. At DistantJob, we are experts in understanding our client’s needs and helping them hire elite remote software developers that fulfill (and exceed) their expectations. Interested? Speak with our team!

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