Agile Methodology: The Secret to Success in Website Development
The Agile methodology is widely used by agencies and in-house development teams alike. Many large enterprises work with agencies to complete their most ambitious digital projects. Why is it important to choose an Agile agency for your project and what benefits will it bring your organization? To understand the importance of Agile, let’s start from the beginning.
The Purpose of Agile Project Management
Agile software development has a long history that can be traced back as far as 1957. In the early- to mid-1990s, a number of lightweight software development methodologies gained popularity. It wasn’t until 2001, with the publication of the Agile Manifesto, that these methodologies became collectively known as Agile software development.
The purpose of Agile is best summarized by the Manifesto, which has four key tenets:
Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools
Working Software over comprehensive documentation
Customer Collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to Change over following a plan
Agile is best defined by its own name: developers want to be more agile. The ability to adapt to change, to collaborate amongst a team and with clients and the delivery of working software separate Agile from other methodologies. The key principles of Agile come from an era where developers had to grapple with methodologies that were slow, micro-managed and overly planned. To understand the value of Agile, it’s important to illustrate how it differs from other methodologies.
Agile vs Waterfall
OPIN was founded 8 years ago, and our humble beginnings involved working on a number of small website projects. During that time, we used Waterfall development, and it worked well for the small projects we delivered. The process looked something like this:
- The project team meets with the client to plan the project.
- Developers are assigned to build the project.
- During the project, there is little room to add or change requirements.
- The project is deployed when it is complete.
- Clients get to see the finished product and request minor tweaks.
Over time, OPIN worked on larger and larger projects, eventually working with some of the largest enterprises in North America. We quickly learned that Waterfall development was not a sustainable methodology for the ambitious digital projects that our clients tapped us to build. This is when we made the shift to Agile.
Simply put, Agile software development still incorporates the plan, develop and deploy cycle that is used in the waterfall methodology, but it is broken up into two-week cycles called “sprints.” The purpose of a sprint is to deliver a finished product every two weeks, ensuring that the client is able to provide feedback and change requirements before the entire project is completed. The new process is more like this:
- The project team collaborates with clients to decide what part of the digital project is going to be built during this sprint.
- Developers begin a two-week development sprint where they will deliver the proposed part of the project.
- At the end of the sprint, the finished product is demonstrated to the client, where key stakeholders are able to provide feedback and suggest changes.
- This cycle repeats over and over until the entire project is completed, which can sometimes take a dozen or more sprints.
Since OPIN switched to Agile project management many years ago, our clients have never been happier. Both organizations benefit when the finished product is exactly what was envisioned and cost overruns are avoided. We are able to deliver results faster than ever, and no digital project is too ambitious. We recommend Agile to every enterprise and government agency that wants to take on a large-scale digital project. There are a few key benefits of the Agile methodology that are important to highlight.
Benefits of Agile Project Management
Predictable Results via Agile
Unlike in Waterfall development, Agile lets you see your project as it is built. With a touchpoint every two weeks showing you what’s been developed, Agile provides the opportunity to identify issues or concerns as they arise. This way, there is no risk of being faced with a final project that doesn’t meet your expectations, with no time to fix it. Agile takes away unwanted surprises and gives you full control over the finished product. Moreover, seeing progress on a regular basis enables you to make tweaks to the developing website along the way. Many times, a finished website component reveals opportunities to add new functionality.
Agile Enables Open and Collaborative Communication
Digital projects have many stakeholders, and new requirements or ideas often arise at the last minute. If the project is completed, Waterfall-style, it may be too late to make changes. With Agile project management, that door is never closed. Owing to the constant collaboration between the development team and the client, Agile ensures that your voice is heard and your feedback is included. No decision is made in an Agile project without consulting the client. By maintaining sync between the project team and client, there are no surprises, and you always have an avenue to tweak and refine requirements.
Experience your Project with Agile
In Waterfall software development, the final product often comes with a steep learning curve and a thick user manual. This further delays your time to market as you can’t actually capitalize on the incredible new website that was built until you learn how to use it. With Agile software development, you get to learn about new functionality every two weeks, and you can use the website in real-time. This flattens the learning curve and ensures that everything works as intended. This not only reduces your time to market, but it lowers your costs, ensuring that you can update and maintain your new website or intranet with minimal training. Your digital project is a big investment, and it’s crucial that you maximize your use of it.
Agile Creates Finished Pieces of the Project
One of the major differences between Waterfall and Agile is the constant delivery of fully functioning features of the website. If you want to see the progress made on your digital project, you will never receive a broken mess of code. Every sprint review enables you to actually use a piece of your website, ensuring every component meets your expectations. This also ensures that no part of the project gets left behind and forgotten. Before moving on to the next part of the development project, the team has to complete the current piece. This ensures top quality across every area of your project.
Agile Capitalizes on Human Capital
Agile encourages collaboration within software development teams. In the Agile workflow, the success of a project never relies on a single person. All developers on the team have a stake in every element of the project. Each individual is competent in all facets of the development process. Therefore, if a developer gets stuck on a feature or piece of code, their team members can pick up the slack, or help their teammate overcome the barrier. Agile enables development teams to capitalize on the skills of the entire team, ensuring reliably extraordinary projects are delivered each time.
Agile delivers results for our agency, and more importantly, it delivers results for our clients. If you would like to learn more about how OPIN implements Agile software development, or if you need help with an ambitious digital project, don’t hesitate to contact us.