Frustrated by projects frequently running over budget and deadline, a group of software pioneers led by Jon Kern, Kent Beck, and Ward Cunningham met in Utah in 2001 to create the Agile Manifesto. The first use of ‘agile as a practice’ became the credence of software development and its core philosophy moving forward.

Previous to this development, engineers relied on the Waterfall methodology, which followed a linear step-by-step approach to software development. While acceptable for conveyor products and the division of labor for basic goods, software engineers frequently ran into issues deep into builds that required massive reworking.

This hailed the need for a faster development process, which simultaneously emphasized frequent review and refinement. With these principles in place, the iterative sprint was born and software development would adopt an agile mindset.  

Core Components of Agile Development 

Agile methodology is a framework and cultural philosophy that emphasizes how software development should be developed. How your company sets it up depends on its mission and values, although systems, such as Scrum, have been developed to follow an agile process. 

Primarily, agile’s core components consists of:

  • “Working software over comprehensive documentation”
  • Prioritizing customer collaboration over conflict
  • Responding to changes and fixing them as they occur
  • Working in iterative sprints, rather than long linear marathons

The implementation of iterations or sprints, segmented tasks into subtasks that could be accomplished by small teams and uploaded into a build within one to four weeks. Iterations were also met by frequent user testing and assessment by quality control teams to ensure that builds were free of mistake and ready to ship to the next peg of the conveyor.

Agile methodology also stressed the importance of collaboration between stakeholders and developers to align business objectives with team focus. This sentiment was also applied to customers to avoid miscommunication. By increasing collaboration between team members and managers, teams could communicate the status of projects to customers so that they were never left in the dark.

The agile manifesto also stressed the importance of individuals over processes. Let your most talented individuals take leads on projects and grant them more freedom to control how tasks are completed to improve efficiency. Team members are encouraged to take risks and, with frequent user testing in place, no team member is left to fail at the wayside. 

For a more precise examination of agile, let’s take it over to the manifesto, per the Agile Alliance:

 

  • “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  • Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  • Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  • Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  • Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely
  • Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  • Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
  • The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.”

The Basics of Scrum 

Now, agile is only a set of principles, not necessarily a bulleted list of how to complete software or mobile app development. Scrum is one of many methods available to help institute an agile process. 

Scrum starts with creating a Scrum team. Typically, Scrum teams will hold meetings or daily standups before the start of the workday to outline tasks and get a report on the progress of tasks in progress. 

Tasks will be created based on a product backlog created by the Product Owner. The product Owner is simply the acting party who prioritizes tasks in favor of the customer’s best interest. Once a task is selected from the product backlog (highest priority down), a team will undergo sprint planning to create a timeframe for expected completion. Once in the spring backlog, the team will start work and, once complete, will be submit their work for review and collaborates. If the product is not ready, you simply repeat the sprint until it is. 

After all is said and done, the product is submitted to the client for review and user testing. Based on feedback, the sprint cycle will either be undergone again or finally marked as complete. 

As you can see, Scrum boasts many of the same principles as agile. While not totally similar, it is the best system to implement an agile mindset. 

Lean and Agile 

Many people mistake lean with agile, and while they are similar, their processes, when applied, are very different. For this section we’ll focus on lean and compare.

Lean’s primary focus is eliminating waste to improve efficiency. A lean process is much more granular than agile. For example, lean derides multitasking or building ‘what is known’ will be needed later because changes are inevitable. By eliminating waste, it really means segmenting tasks to make them so small that the only tasks that actually add value are completed. 

Agile is very much the same way, although it’s more of a way of thinking and reaching complete collaboration then eliminating waste. Regardless, both have their benefits, which we will discuss for further for agile development. 

The Benefits of Agile for Mobile App Development 

Reduced Risks

By creating cyclical sports, teams are forced to perfect smaller tasks before they can create an entire build. That means that app development UX teams must complete about twenty different micro tasks before a finished product can be completed. With review processes in place along the way, this ensures that final builds are not subject to bugs that can be detrimental to the final project. 

Puts Users First

In turn, this increases quality by placing quality assurance tests along the way. But it also improves quality on the user-end by refining sprints based on consistent user feedback. This extends beyond development as well, and includes updates and patches that will be applied post-launch. 

Predictable Costs and Delivery Time 

All in all, if you’re following Scrum then you can pretty much map out and predict when a finished product can be delivered to market. With increased communication between stakeholders, teams, and customers, it also reduces the risk of uncertainty and ensures that everybody is always aware of project status as it occurs. 

Greater Stakeholder Engagement 

By engaging stakeholders early on and often, you also ensure that your app and all processes for development align with business values. By creating a more holistic, business-first mindset, you incidentally align your goals with end-user goals and drive more value into your products. 

Ability to React to Externalities

Finally, by planning out sprints and segmenting tasks, you also improve your ability to react to changes as they occur. This ensures products are not delayed for market and that builds can still follow their initial focus and customer vision at final launch. 

Agile is not a complicated idea to understand and shares much of the same values of rapid application development and lean development. By increasing communication and collaboration across your team, you can build better apps that meet end-user demands and propel your brand forward in front of your client’s eyes.