A Guide to Agile Software Development

Deborah Cohen

Responding to change is quintessential for any team’s success. Especially in an environment where there are uncertainty and turbulence. Agile methodologies make sure you and your team are continually evaluating the happenings of your project today, and the challenges of tomorrow. As you evaluate, the future’s challenges may shift and change. Hiccups you didn’t account for at the beginning of the project may show up at any time, and Agile project management means you can easily recalibrate your plan and adapt as you work through your project. 

If you’re wondering ‘is Agile worth it?’ keep reading! We’ve compiled a guide to help you understand what Agile software development is, Agile methodologies, scrum examples and some great tools to help you and your team communicate effectively.


What is Agile Software Development? 

Agile software development is an iterative approach for development teams to finish projects faster, and with fewer frustrations. There is an emphasis on collaborative efforts of cross-functional and self-organizing teams. One of the many benefits of Agile includes the emphasis on adaptability and flexibility to change.

But what is Agile software development exactly? Certain frameworks, such as Scrum, Feature-Driven Development (FDD) and Extreme Programming only make up a small piece of the Agile pie. However, Agile has now become an umbrella term that encompasses a range of frameworks, practices, and values. The practices that make up the 12 principles behind the Agile manifesto and the values in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development are all what make up Agile software development. These practices and values have been proven not only in the software development field but in many other industries and projects such as HR and Marketing. As you move through your projects, following these guidelines will enhance communication with your team, ensure you deliver value to your customer, and help you adapt to changes. 

Back in 2001, 17 people came together and wrote the Agile Manifesto.  


Manifesto for Agile Software Development

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.

The Agile approach to software development differentiates itself from the plethora of other methods by focusing on the people doing the work and how they do the work together, rather than just the work itself. One of the benefits of Agile is that it helps teams focus on collaboration and self-organization. One of the principles in the Agile manifesto claims “the best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams”.  


Agile Project Management

Starting a large software development project can seem like a daunting task when you’re taking a macro view of the entire process. The client has told you what they’re expecting and what problem the software needs to solve, but how do you get to the end of the project?

We get it, it can feel overwhelming. Enter: Agile project management.

Agile project management means breaking up that overwhelming project into smaller, more manageable parts. Each part should include constant collaboration with stakeholders and adapt for innovation and improvement in every part of the project. Once your team begins work, you’ll be going through a constant cycle of planning, executing and evaluating. As you cycle through these processes, what the final project looks like may begin to change as you innovate better solutions to deliver on the client’s needs. 

To learn more about Agile project management, be sure to check out our previous blog on ‘Your Go-To Guide to Perfecting Agile Project Management with Visuals’. 

Agile Methodologies: What is Scrum?

In today’s usage, the word Agile can refer to the values mentioned above, in addition to the frameworks used for implementing them. One of the key frameworks used to implement Agile is called scrum. But, what is scrum, exactly? Simply put, Scrum is one of the Agile methodologies that helps software development teams work together. And yes, in case you’re wondering, it did get its name from rugby. 

Scrum has been used in a wide variety of industries such as HR, Marketing and more. However, one of the reasons software developers love it so much is the emphasis it puts on being adaptable to change. While you’re building software, there will inevitably be changes as the project progresses. It’s impossible to know everything about the project at the beginning. Keeping this in mind, it’s important to make room for these unescapable changes and shifts in what the final product may look like.

There are other Agile Methodologies, such as Lean Software Development and Kanban, but in this guide, we’re just going to focus on giving you an overview of the Scrum Agile methodology.


Sprints: The Scrum Process Your Team Needs to Implement

One of the scrum processes that help teams be adaptable to change are sprints. Sprints are short cycles where work is done. Usually, a sprint lasts about two weeks, but this can be altered depending on your specific project. 

Sprints reduce risks and costs by getting a portion of work completed and having room to evaluate the work. This could be by getting feedback from users quickly, or by getting the product to the market quicker. Sprints are also great for team morale. Teams can see tangible progress regularly. Having this visibility into progress can help engage and energize your team. 

Whether you’re developing entirely new software, or improving an existing one, your team may have an overwhelming list of features, stories, fixes, requirements and enhancers to complete. When using scrum processes, these are put in what is called a product backlog. The product backlog can be thought of as your running to-do list that comprises of everything that needs to be accomplished. When planning, your team will decide on what it will accomplish over the next two weeks (or an increment of time that works for your team) by selecting something from the product backlog. 

While working on a sprint, team members engage in a variety of activities, commonly referred to as ceremonies. Ceremonies are the glue that holds the scrum process framework together. They help teams communicate clearly, adapt to change learn, and continuously optimize their work. The scrum ceremonies are: 

  • Sprint Planning
  • Daily Scrums
  • Sprint Reviews
  • Sprint Retrospectives 
The Scrum process cycle
The Scrum process cycle: Photo from: https://talk.dallasmakerspace.org/t/scrum-in-10-minutes/57496



Scrums start with sprint planning. This is where you and your team will sit down and decide what you’ll be working on for the duration of the sprint. The team looks at the product backlog and selects an increment of work together. 

Once you’ve started the sprint, you and your team will have a daily scrum. This is a meeting where you’ll all discuss wins, losses, opportunities to adapt to the changes in your software and more. Typically, scrums happen at the same time and same place every day. You may want to start each day with a daily scrum to make sure everyone is on the same page. We recommend keeping your daily scrums to around 15 minutes. Although you can make them shorter or longer depending on what your team needs; as long as they’re not turning into odiously long meetings that are hindering getting other tasks done. 

Sprint reviews happen at the end of the sprint to review what was completed, perhaps a demo, and a review of which backlog items were accomplished. 

Lastly, the sprint retrospective is a time for the team to review what went well and what their challenges were. It’s not a time to dwell on what went wrong, but rather to create a space where team members feel safe enough to share their struggles and help improve processes for the next sprint.


What are the Scrum Roles? 

To review, the scrum processes are comprised of four ceremonies. In the Scrum framework, there are three primary roles that team members are classified by in each ceremony. What are the scrum roles? They are: 

  • Product owners
  • Scrum Masters
  • Development teams 


Scrum product owners are the main advocates for the product. They take on the responsibility of ensuring the product is a success and that it delivers the maximum value to the client. They are focused on understanding the market and customer needs then prioritizing the work from the product backlog the development team will complete. 


Scrum masters are experts on, you guessed it, scrum. They coach the development teams, product owners and the business on the scrum process. They are constantly looking for ways to improve the scrum process and customize it to the needs of the product and project. 


Scrum development teams are comprised of the developers and designers; the producers who are working every day to accomplish the sprint goals. This scrum role works closely with the scrum product owners to decide how much work can feasibly be completed in each sprint. 

Additionally, some businesses include the role of an Agile business analyst in their scrum roles. What is Agile business analysis? A business analyst in an Agile environment supports the role of the scrum product owner by helping them stock and groom the product backlog and analyze the business domain.

Together, each scrum role works together to keep the project and scrum processes moving forward. 



CloudApp: A Powerful Tool for Agile Project Management

What is Agile software development without the right tools to help you communicate clearly with your team? Video might seem like a simple solution…because it is. It’s simple to implement, simple to use, and even simpler to communicate with your team. 

Agile methodologies are all about collaborating with cross-functional teams and clear communication. Are you stressing about how to explain the roadblock that is keeping you from reaching your sprint goal during your daily scrum? Maybe you need to send a quick video to a team member to get their input on how to design a more effective landing page. Whatever the purpose, there is one tool that can drastically speed up and clarify communications between you and your team: CloudApp. 

Screenshot annotations and editing content are made simple with CloudApp. Besides, did you know more than 1 in 2 office workers say they would collaborate more if done visually

CloudApp available on Mac, iOS, Windows and even in as a Chrome plugin. The best part? You can sign up for free. Save time, get more done, and enjoy simple, clear communication with your team with CloudApp.


Conclusion

What is Agile software development if it’s not responsive to change? There’s no way a team can know everything at the beginning of a project. Most developers will tell you software is a living, breathing project that is constantly changing. We hope this guide to Agile software development has given you an effective overview to help you and your team develop a more efficient, productive style of managing your software development projects that is adaptive to the inevitable changes that come with software development. 


Don’t forget to pick up a free trial of CloudApp to help you and your team collaborate more effectively.

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