Tech Insights

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

Ihor
- 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 achieve 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. 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. 

Agile SDLC 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.

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. 

Why Should I Think About Implementing The Agile SLDC For My Dev Team?

Agile (and its derivatives such as Scrum and Kanban) is an iterative process that allows structured teams to remain focused and deliver the best work possible. Businesses that have adopted these methodologies can quickly react to market changes, delivering the best product possible to their clients.

Implementing the Agile methodology for software development can bring many benefits to a business and its customers:

  • 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: A workflow management method that aims to visualize work and maximize efficiency. It exists on a board or table that is divided into columns that show every flow of the software product. 
  3. Extreme Programming (XP): A methodology that takes good software development practices to the extreme: code reviews become pair programming (programmers constantly reviewing each other’s code), unit testing applies to all code (instead of a few key algorithms/parts of the software), etc. Extreme programming values a flat management structure and constant communication with both the client and within the programming team.
  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 optimizing the whole. 
  5. Crystal: 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 Methodologies: Which One Works Best For Your Business

The good thing about agile methodologies is that they can be applied differently based on the team’s needs.

Scrum, for example, is a great methodology to use if there’s a lot of uncertainty around the product. Planning for features and requirements, in this case, is extremely reliant on discovery as the project matures, something that Scrum excels in.

Other choices, such as Kanban, are better suited for projects that are highly structuralized and know exactly what to implement at every stage. In this way, the team can be managed more tightly to become even more efficient at delivering new features.

However, nothing is forcing you to keep a single methodology throughout the project. You can, for instance, implement Scrum in the initial stages of the product and then switch to another such as Kanban for the rest of the agile product development life cycle. This gives you the best of both worlds: a methodology that promotes natural growth for a fledgling project as it matures and a more robust methodology later down the agile development lifecycle to more quickly implement and deliver new features on a stable product. The only thing you have to be careful of is to make the transition as seamless as possible to avoid the loss of time and efficiency for your team. Make sure to prepare them accordingly.

Agile Methodology Steps

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: The team member responsible for leading the team, clearing roadblocks, and supporting progress. 
  • The development team: Comprised of 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
Source: Powerslides

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 the day before, what they will work on that day, 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.

6 Agile Software Development Project Life Cycle Phases

What are the stages of Agile development? 

As 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

Agile phases will usually have a specific purpose for the overall development of the project. These phases are then repeated into what are called agile cycles (in some cases, they are abstracted into sprints). But not all cycles need to implement all phases. It all depends on the maturity and the specific development needs of the project. This balance is at the core of good agile planning.

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 the software will look and perform. They also estimate the time and 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 possible—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. When to consider this phase? This phase is most important at the start of development when the project is young. It defines exactly what features will be developed and under what molds they should manifest. As the project reaches maturity, this phase usually takes a backseat but never fully disappears since software products will usually want to deliver new features from time to time to stay relevant.

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 it.

After establishing the team members and roles, the next stage is creating a user interface simulation and 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 software’s core architecture.

Software development planning is divided into two segments:

  • 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. 

When to consider this phase? This phase is always present but will usually be more streamlined the more the project reaches maturity. If you have a lot of people working on a project at the start with similar skills, it can be difficult to assign tasks promptly. However, as the team matures and gains some experience, they will usually specialize in certain aspects of the project, and assigning tasks becomes easier as a result.

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 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 product’s first iteration, 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 ensures 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 tests are conducted to avoid possible errors and maintain 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. 

When to consider this phase? This phase is the most relevant during development and will always be present in a strong capacity, no matter the maturity of the project. Even when the project is in maintenance after launch, it is still expected that the developers work on fixes and small improvements to boost the quality of life of the users.

4. Testing

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

Although during the previous stage, tests 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. 

When to consider this phase? This phase gains importance as the project reaches maturity. You’ll want a good quality assurance team that can test out new features as they are developed while at the same time making sure that the previously developed features still work as expected. As the project grows and more features are implemented, this work will take more time. However, it is a very important phase to assure the quality of the final product.

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 for the software. 

When to consider this phase? This phase will be relevant depending on the nature of the project. If the project requires regular deployment during development, then it should be considered fairly early on. If the project is to be launched only on a certain date, then the focus on this stage is proportional to the project’s maturity. Make sure you create the infrastructure to accommodate the product, if not fairly on, then as far away from launch as possible to prevent or at least minimize possible issues. 

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. 

When to consider this phase? Reviewing work and finding possible improvements is always a worthwhile endeavor. This should be done regularly to implement improvements in the workflow and on the project as fast as possible. This phase is important at all stages of the project’s maturity but will be more productive at the early stages when the work processes and product features are still green, and there are more possible avenues for improvement.

Agile Phases: How They Benefit A Remote Team’s Productivity

A lot of software development teams adopt agile for a reason: it allows teams to better coordinate and delegate work, making development far more streamlined and teams better at responding to a project’s rapidly changing requirements and conditions.

As such, it’s easy to see why remote teams can benefit from this methodology to deliver products faster. By improving communication and collaboration between team members, Agile offers substantial improvements to a remote team’s flexibility at all stages of development. Make sure to capitalize on these benefits by implementing good communication channels and collaboration tools that reduce friction between all team members.

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 no rigid Agile structure that ensures complete success on a project. However, one thing is sure: delivering software successfully is impossible 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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