agile is a term used to describe approaches to software development emphasizing incremental delivery, team collaboration, continual planning, and continual learning. the manifesto set out to establish principles to guide a better approach to software development. it’s important to understand that agile is not a “thing” … you don’t “do agile”. a mindset that drives an approach to software development. agile methods (often called frameworks) are comprehensive approaches to phases of the software development lifecycle – planning, execution, and delivery. scrum is the most common agile framework (and the one most people start with). agile practices on the other hand, are techniques applied during phases of the software development lifecycle. continuous integration (also known as ci) is a common agile engineering practice where code changes are integrated into the main branch frequently. these practices (like all agile practices) carry the “agile” label, because they are consistent with the principles in the agile manifesto.
as agile has gained popularity, many stereotypes and/or misinterpretations have cast a negative shadow regarding its effectiveness. considering this, let’s look at a few things that agile isn’t. it’s clear the rules of engagement around building software have fundamentally changed in the last 10-15 years. consider for a moment what it’s like to purchase software today… when compared to the early 2000’s. consider how you collect feedback from the customers using your products. finally, think about how often you desire to update and improve the software you’re delivering. “firms today experience a much higher velocity of business change. “ — diego lo guidice and dave west, forrester the rules have changed, and organizations around the world are now adapting their approach to software development accordingly. agile methods and practices don’t promise to solve every problem.
agile development is a term used to describe iterative software development. delivering production quality code every sprint requires the agile development team to account for the accelerated pace. unless a team is properly set up, it can fail. an agile development team works off of a backlog of requirements, often called “user stories”. one of the biggest drags on an agile team’s productivity is a poorly defined backlog. the user stories at the top of the backlog should always be ready for the team to execute on. elegant user interfaces, beautiful screen designs, and customer delighting solutions all take time and energy to create. they work to ensure every user story is something the agile team is proud to deliver to the customer. continuous integration and continuous delivery (cicd) sets your team up for the fast pace of agile development.
and let’s face it, if you are releasing every sprint, your team doesn’t have time to do this manually. when you implement a difficult-to-deploy feature, you become aware immediately as the build and deployments will fail. unit tests should be considered part of coding and checked in with the code. the same rule applies for technical debt. technical debt includes anything the team must do to deploy production quality code and keep it running in production. it feels good to work on features and ignore debt. a smart product owner works with their team to ensure there is time to pay off technical debt in every sprint. balancing technical debt reduction with feature development is a difficult task. each sprint provides something new for the team to learn. an agile team doesn’t waste those opportunities.
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