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Agile methodoloy is adaptive and not predictive
Table of Contents
Technology and computers have become a fundamental part of life in the twenty-first Century, and as such there is an ever increasing need for efficient software development. Early software development methods were often tedious and took long periods of time to complete with little room for changes. In the early two-thousands, the software engineering community came together to express their dissatisfaction with the current software development process, as it cumbersome and required excessive documentation. These software engineers wanted a new methodology that was better equipped to reduce overheads, that would afford them the opportunity to quickly respond to both internal and external customers ever changing requirements while improving product delivery time.
A new software development approach was born, Agile. The word agile by definition means to be able to move and think quickly and easily, and this new software development approach does just that! Agile is an umbrella term used to describe the values, principles, and methods outlined in the Agile manifesto.
The values of Agile are illustrated as follows: “We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value: Individuals and interactions over processes and tools. Working software over comprehensive documentation. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation. Responding to change over following a plan .That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more. “ – (Agile Manifesto, 2001).
The new agile manifesto was ground breaking, as it focused on designing quality products that gave customers a competitive advantage – It left other software development techniques such as the waterfall cycle in the dark. The waterfall model of software development was broke up into five distinct stages that must be completed before moving onto the next. Similar to an escalator in a sense, the waterfall model didn’t leave much room for change or backward movement. With the completion of each stage, a document had to be signed and approved by management before processing to the next stage – this made the whole process slow, and very difficult to accommodate change/adoption with the process. With the advent of the Agile model, software developers were glad to see the introduction of a new system which relied less on documentation and management, and more on the software developers , customers, and code.
The twelve principles of Agile development are a mindset or culture which aims to facilitate rapid change of user requirements and incremental delivery of a customized product which gives customers a competitive advantage. The twelve principles of Agile Development are as follows:
- Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software. – (Agile Manifesto, 2001).
- Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage. – (Agile Manifesto, 2001).
- Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale. – (Agile Manifesto, 2001).
- Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project. – (Agile Manifesto, 2001).
- Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done. – (Agile Manifesto, 2001).
- The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation. – (Agile Manifesto, 2001).
- Working software is the primary measure of progress. – (Agile Manifesto, 2001).
- Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely. – (Agile Manifesto, 2001).
- Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility – (Agile Manifesto, 2001).
- Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential – (Agile Manifesto, 2001).
- The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams – (Agile Manifesto, 2001).
- At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly– (Agile Manifesto, 2001).
There are several Agile methodologies that all adhere to the values and principles of the agile manifesto. One of the most commonly used adaptive methods of Agile development are Scrum and Extreme Programming, but for the purposes of this paper I will examine Scrums adaptability.
Scrum is a framework that focuses on the iterative management of a project. Scrum often delivers the highest business value in the shortest time, making Scrum highly adaptable. The core competencies of Scrum can be broken down into pillars, teams, events, and artefacts, all of which make scrum inevitably adaptable.
The three pillars of Scrum are:
Transparency is essential in any business process, and enables everyone to better comprehend what is currently happening in each sprint cycle between cross functional teams. Transparency is achieved through informal cross cultural communication between teams on a daily basis, and also with the setting of sprint goals and objectives. This transparency and consistent communication is one of the factors that make agile development, and scrum truly adaptable. When teams are constantly communicating, they are better able to understand what is required from each other, and the customer.
The inspection cycle gives development teams the opportunity to measure progress against the product backlog, sprint goals, and objectives during daily scrum meetings and at the end of sprint cycles. These meetings are vital as teams can show the product to customers, and get valuable feedback to further clarify the customers’ requirements, all while maintaining the customers competitive advantage.
Adaptation refers to the Scrum teams ability to adapt after the outcome of an inspection or a completed sprint. This is a very important variable that attributes to Scrums adaptability, as it poses the questions of what did you do well, what will you do well next, and what may stand in your way. These questions are fundamental in improving internal and external customers overall satisfaction levels.
A Scrum team comprises of three individuals called the Product Owner, Development Team, and Scrum Master. The Product Owner, Customer, identifies the product and a specific list of features and requirements required during needs analysis. This prioritized list is referred to as the product backlog. Another document called a Burndown chart is created, and this graph illustrates how much work is remaining on the project versus time. The Product Owner is responsible for ensuring the product backlog is kept up to date, and is aware of all the latest trends and advancements in the software’s current marketplace.
The Scrum team, developers, then meet with the product owner and take manageable pieces of the product backlog, and implement it into a software increment called a sprint backlog. The sprint backlog task should be finished by the end of each sprint cycle, which is usually between two and four weeks. By the end of this sprint cycle the product owner will receive a ready and tested piece of software, then the Scrum team moves onto the next deliverable within the Product backlog.
The Scrum team and Scrum Master meet every day for about fifteen minutes in what’s known as a Scrum. The Scrum Master will guide this meeting to review progress and keep up to date with the ever changing needs of the Product Owner. These daily meetings guarantee that everyone knows what’s going on and afford the team the opportunity to re-plan at a moment’s notice if necessary. The Scrum Master is responsible for safeguarding the scrums progress by tracking the backlog of work to be done, and facilitating effective communication between the Product Owner, Scrum and management. The Scrum Master also shelters the development team from unnecessary distractions, which may hinder progress. It is through the Scrum Masters diligent management of all parties that enable the Scrum to become adaptable.
At the end of each sprint cycle a review is conducted. The Development team and Scrum Master receive feedback from the product owner regarding the previous sprint cycle, and software deliverable. These sprint reviews are an excellent way of validating exactly what the customer really wants, and provides the Scrum team with the opportunity to adapt to users requirements after showcasing the product in an informal meeting. The Scrum Master and Development Team will also hold a retrospective meeting concentrating on what worked well in the previous sprint cycle, and identify the items that could be improved upon. These meetings are designed to specifically help the scrum team to improve, the essence of Agile is constant improvement.
Below is a Diagram of the Scrum
“The need for adaptability has never been greater than it is now. The ability for people, teams and organizations to adapt to changes in their environments, stay relevant and avoid obsolescence is the defining characteristic between success and failure, growth and stagnation, business and bankruptcy” – (Jeff Boss, 2015)
According to Jeff Boss, 2015, change is inevitable, and we must adapt if we are to survive. The word agile is synonymous with adaptability. Agile is driving change throughout organisations, from the Human Resources department to Information Technology. Another key thing to remember is the initial costs of establishing a tech company are very little nowadays, with this in mind it is important that tech companies can adapt quickly to their customers’ needs to achieve a competitive advantage over rivals.
People are at the heart of every organisation. As seen with Scrum, teams are empowered to identify, define, and work on their own opportunities, and shortcomings through daily meetings. Above all these daily meetings are invaluable as it provides team members with the opportunity to adapt. The ability to adapt is what makes Agile so versatile.
The agile methodology of Scrum sparks innovation and creativity, and is made possible by the Scrum Masters motivational skills. The Scrum Master lets the development team to their own devices when it comes to coding, quite often the Scrum Master will tell the developers to innovate but will not say how. This freedom presents development teams with the opportunity to stay current with the best programming practices and languages. Agile and Scrum focus on people and empowers people to succeed by giving them freedom to be adaptable and intuitive with their work.
Agile is a relatively simple concept which involves scaffolding or the incremental development of software. Agile developers are accepting of the fact that user requirements are going to change, and involves continuous improvements as the products develops. At its very core Agile is an adaptive development mindset that delivers customer focused value.
Agile methodologies are becoming increasingly more popular over traditional based software development methodologies, such as the waterfall approach. Traditional software methods are not well equipped to deal with the constant change of user requirements and are typically more linear when it comes to the completion of phases. With traditional software methods, phases must be completed in sequential order before moving onto the next. This regimental approach to software development doesn’t facilitate change or collaboration with customers or stakeholders, and is another reason why agile methodologies out trumps traditional based approaches.
With Agile methodologies such as scrum, the customer is directly involved with the project from the get go and can set deliverables. Customers input is welcomed and they can make decisions and changes at the end of sprint cycles, as supposed to waterfall cycle where changes would require the entire system to be redesigned.
The time to market is minimized with Agile, as the customer receives a basic working piece of software that can be built on. In contrast the waterfall model, deliverables are only made available at the end of the project.
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