Agile Software Development: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

Gimena Aguerreberry
April 22, 2021

If you're a business owner in 2021, chances are you may have heard a little about Agile. After all, Agile has proven to be so popular with businesses that many are calling for it to become used at a governmental level.

But what exactly is Agile software development, and how can it help you with developing software?

We're going to debuff this concept by outlining what exactly Agile is. Then, we'll go into greater detail on the approach and the thinking behind it. Finally, we'll let you know why exactly Agile matters to your business in 2021.

What Is Agile Software Development?

So, let's get the biggest question out of the way immediately; what is Agile?

It isn't a simple answer, but Agile is what's known as a methodology. That means it's a full system of methods that are used to approach the task of either business management or software development.

Where Agile differs from other methodology you might've heard of, like the older waterfall model, is in its complexity. Agile is more of an umbrella term, and also incorporates various different frameworks and approaches.

So how can you keep track of what Agile software development looks like?

The best way to do so is to outline the thinking behind Agile itself. This can be done by analyzing the four main values which drive Agile. These are what's known as the Agile Manifesto.

As you might've noticed there's already a lot of jargon to keep track of with Agile. We've not even touched on things like Scrum yet! If you need more detail on any terms we've used now or do use later in this post, make sure to double-check them on our Agile glossary page.

What Is the Agile Manifesto?

The Agile manifesto is a set of four specific values which dictate an Agile methodology. We'll list these four values below, then go into a bit more detail on what each of them refers to:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

  • Working software over comprehensive documentation

  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

  • Responding to change over following a plan

As you can tell by the bold text, the factors on the left are always more important than those on the right.

The first value emphasizes the importance of a team working together over the importance of what they're using. This means that the expertise of a software development team, and the way they collaborate, must always be valued above any tools or processes they use to fulfill their role.

When developing software, there's often a lot of complex documentation involved. With Agile, you have to prioritize the creation of the software itself. Documentation is still important, but it should never outweigh building the actual software.

Customer collaboration, in Agile, is more important than signed contracts. This emphasizes the importance of working with your customers at all times. Agile values finding out what your customers want, and working towards that.

Finally, Agile prioritizes responding to changes over sticking to a plan of action. With software, you need to be on the ball at all times, and deviation can be more important than a pre-existing plan.

What Are Agile Methods When Developing Software?

When working through the Agile methodology, everything must harken back to these four core values.

There are in fact an additional set of 12 further principles to Agile methodologies that go beyond these four values. We won't list all of these in this post, but many of them elaborate on points made in the manifesto above.

Some of them include the importance of simplicity, individuals, communication, and customer satisfaction.

Agile methods are therefore ways of working which ensure that these four values take precedent.

They're ways of software development that prioritize teams of employees working together on a goal. They're also reactive methods of working, where responding to changes can be completed over sticking to a plan.

Agile methods ensure continued communication with customers of particular software. This is vital to ensuring correct updates and the continued improvement of service.

Finally, they ensure that the software itself reigns supreme over any supplementary documentation.

Agile is often implemented in teams through what's known as Scrum. Scrum is a framework based on Agile, which manages a software development team.

When using Scrum, developers will create short sprints, which are cycles of progress on software. When utilized properly, Scrum and its sprints work within the values of Agile to produce and maintain software.

Now that you know what Agile is, let's delve into the many benefits an Agile mindset has in software development.

Agile Methods Deliver Working Software

The first major benefit of working with an Agile mindset is in this guarantee of working software.

Agile will always ensure that a team is working towards creating the software itself. This is important, but so too is the fact that an Agile team will continue working to maintain software.

This ensures developers update software to meet either in-house demands or the demands of customers.

It ensures that the core aim of a team focuses at all times on the end-product of the software. This can be vital if you're thinking of outsourcing software development.

When outsourcing, you need to be sure that the team you're hiring will always prioritize software. Otherwise, you risk receiving advanced documents, but a sub-par end product.

Not only does Agile promise working software, but it also promises superior software than one built using an alternative methodology.

Agile Is Always Aligned With Customers

By valuing customer communication, Agile maintains a relationship between software and customers.

This benefits Agile methodology in a few specific ways. Firstly, it ensures that any features implemented within the software are created in collaboration with consumer demands.

This allows software developers to implement changes that are defined, with real results on the consumer end. Otherwise, teams could be developing features they feel are important, but that alienates users.

Changes will always be high-value because they are in demand by those who are footing the bill. This ensures software is regularly updated and continues to be a quality product.

The value of customers also intertwines with the importance of responsive changes under Agile. This combination means that new features can be identified quickly and added to software quickly.

This ensures continued integration with software from the side of customers. This is vital for software involving user subscriptions or continued engagement.

It also ensures that customers continue to engage with software and the business behind it. This builds a stronger relationship between users and the business which can build long into the future.

Agile Is a Preferable Method for Software Developers and Project Managers

Another reason why Agile matters in 2021 is because it's a methodology that supports the work and wellbeing of developers themselves. Impressively, it does so whilst keeping a project's goals and the needs of its managers intact.

Under Agile, the expertise and collaboration between employees are both valued over any tools they're using. This helps to make software developers feel recognized, and rightfully so, for the work they do on a particular project.

Not only can it help developers take pride in a project, improving their efforts, but it also helps reduce any non-productive work. This is thanks to the emphasis on collaboration within a team.

A full team of developers is able to combine their efforts in a friendlier work environment to produce real results. This is particularly beneficial thanks to Scrum.

Scrum keeps the status of a project visible at all times, with a clear future goal in sight. These short sprint goals ensure that changes can be made quickly and there's a continued sense of growth and fulfillment.

This keeps developers and managers aligned to the same core goals. It can help communication between them and keeps a project focused at all times.

Why Does Agile Development Matter?

To finally answer the main question, Agile development matters because of all of the above.

Agile ensures that customers are always satisfied with a continually updated piece of software. These changes will always be high-value due to this fact. This ensures project developers and shareholders are pleased with the software.

The people working and developing the software are valued throughout the process. This in turn helps charge improvements in both their performance and wellbeing.

Finally, Agile places a project in a strong position to be able to adapt to changes quickly and effectively. When adopted properly, it's no surprise that Agile remains one of the most popular software development methodologies in the world today.

Where Can I Find Out More About Agile Software Development?

You should now know what exactly Agile software development is. You should also know why it's of vital importance to anyone developing software in 2021.

Sophilabs places Agile at the forefront of every project we undertake. We believe this is the best way to ensure a quality service for all of our partners. To find out more about how we do so, or what we can do for your business, make sure to contact us directly.

"Agile Software Development: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?" by Gimena Aguerreberry is licensed under CC BY SA. Source code examples are licensed under MIT.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema.

Categorized under software development / agile.

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A software design and development agency that helps companies build and grow products by delivering high-quality software through agile practices and perfectionist teams.