Agile Development Process in Software Development
These days, it is the dream of software companies to be able to outsource their work as much as possible. At the same time, they still want to be able to adopt the Agile software development process. Their goal is often to combine the many advantages of outsourcing such as access to a larger talent pool, cost reduction, and more, plus the flexibility that the Agile development process follows.
Since the Agile software development process involves a lot of high-level collaboration, it is often said that going offshore following the Agile development process is more difficult. More often than not, waterfall development is suggested for those who are going offshore.
What is Agile Development?
Agile development is a methodology used by teams in software development projects that involves an iterative approach. The teams are self-organized and cross-functional, regularly analyzing the project's circumstances and user needs to make necessary adaptations. In Scrum, the teams work on short-term deliverables in sprints to continually enhance the quality of the project. This demonstrates how Agile development is put into practice.
"Agile is a working method that focuses on developing products in a flexible way, along with optimizing the development process through continuous improvement." - Martin Fowler, author of "Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code".
Scrum Methodology & Agile Process
Scrum is correctly an evolution of Agile Management. Scrum methodology is based on a set of very clear practices and roles that must be involved during the software development process. It is a flexible methodology that rewards the application of the 12 agile principles in a context agreed upon by all the team members of the product.
Scrum is executed in temporary blocks that are short and periodic, called Sprints, which usually range from 2 to 4 weeks, which is the term for feedback and reflection. Each Sprint is an entity in itself, that is, it provides a complete result, a variation of the final product that must be able to be delivered to the client with the least possible effort when requested.
The agile process has as a starting point, a list of requirements that make up the project plan. It is the client of the project that prioritizes these objectives considering a balance of the value and the cost, that is how the iterations and consequent deliveries are determined.
On the one hand, the market demands quality, and fast delivery at lower costs, for which a company must be very agile and flexible in the development of products using Agile Development methodologies to achieve short development cycles that can meet the demand of customers without undermining and compromising the quality of the result. Agile Development is a very easy and appropriate methodology to implement and very popular for the quick results it gets.
Scrum methodology is used popularly for software development, but other sectors are also taking advantage of its benefits by implementing Agile Development in their organizational models such as sales, marketing departments, or HR teams.
Case Studies on the Agile Method at Saigon Technology
With good documents and scopes provided by the client, the first approach to the projects would be used in the project based model to start with 3 first phases.
After the phase 3 finished, Saigon Technology proposed using The Scrum / Agile method to focus on the maintenance and improvement because of the complexity and flexible requirements from the client. Keep in mind that only when the new milestones are reached, will the trade objectives be met. The previous projects needed components that were distributed to support maintenance projects. Therefore, prioritizing features in support projects is necessary to achieve the fastest path to provide the requested features to customers.
Problems in the Agile Process
Like other development models, the Agile software development process faces its fair share of common problems. Below are some of the issues commonly encountered when engaging in offshore software development while following the Agile development process:
Requirement management, as well as customer involvement, is a challenge. This is especially true in terms of language barriers, challenges in establishing the credibility of the Agile software development company with the customer, as well as timing and long feedback intervals from the team to the client.
Collaboration is essential in the Agile software development process. However, when applying it to a team, there is often a challenge in terms of ineffective collaboration. The spreading of news may not be done effectively. There is also poor team coordination, a challenge in creating common knowledge as well as a shared vision among the teams, and lowered team morale. On top of that, there are often challenges when it comes to cultural differences.
Often managing teams is difficult for project managers, especially when tracking the progress of the tasks, management of team knowledge, and a difference in the understanding of the “definition of done.” General supervision and control are also often difficult, including effort estimation, among other things.
Software development challenges
There are always issues with inadequate IT infrastructure, different levels of architecture and design skills among the developers, and an inability to have a common understanding based on different best practices between in-house and offshore teams. There is also a challenge when it comes to ensuring the levels of quality, plus code ownership. Above all, there are headaches when it comes to configuration and integration and many more.
Although these challenges may seem daunting, the truth is that outsourced projects and teams can still successfully apply Agile methodology and survive. Naturally, it would require a whole other approach and mindset from both the teams and the client. In most cases, usually one or both of the parties have to adapt and make changes that veer away from the traditional and known processes.
Combine Outsourcing with Agile Software Development Process
For those who seek to combine the Agile process, there are some ways to make it successful. Below are a couple of tips that may help make this integration possible:
1. Increase team visits
It is a known fact that working remotely may cause alienation to some extent, especially in agile development. Having face-to-face meetings is truly the most effective, and perhaps the best, way to build trust and promote agile development practices. Prepare to have an amount in the budget to enable frequent team visits with the in-house development team, offshore team, or recurring face-to-face meetings, ideally together with the customer. If possible, these meetings should be around one to two weeks apart.
The truth is that several problems that may have long-lasting repercussions could be mitigated or repaired with human interactions during these visits, which is particularly important in agile development, where communication and collaboration are critical. For the project to succeed, there must be unity and teamwork, and agile development practices promote this. As such, team dinners, field trips, or other team-building activities can also aid in building relationships between the team members and even the customer and foster agile development principles.
2. Evaluate team performance
It is relatively easy for clients to spot exceptional individual developers. Skills and drive are often not hard to miss, especially when the team member is vocal about ideas and is quick to respond. However, the idea of the Agile software development process is to have team collaboration. For the Agile development process to work properly, there must be teamwork; hence, individual excellence is often not highlighted.
It is through the understanding that each team member is essential and plays an important role that contributes to the success of the project. By establishing unity and equality, each member will become more comfortable in collaborating with the rest of the team – be it in their home country, or with the team.
Thus, the track record of the team must be highlighted or evaluated as opposed to their achievements. Often, there is a need to use behavioral assessment techniques when making selections as to which members are going to work well with the team and are capable of working in an Agile software development company.
3. Plan for the worst
These days, everybody is claiming they are Agile. There is a need to ensure that the sprints are short and that success criteria are defined properly based on the delivery timeline, acceptance tests, and many other minute details that are important to you and the company. Planning and preparing for the worst is necessary for risk mitigation. This is why starting small, and ramping up is often suggested as the better approach.
After each spring, there is a need to verify that the team is performing well or not and soon make the necessary adjustments. This also ensures that the team is steered in the correct and desired direction. After team performance analysis, it should be clear to see whether business objectives can be achieved with the team or not.
To be able to succeed as both an outsourcing and an Agile software company, there is a need to adjust since these two concepts do not automatically go well together. There is a need to have careful adaptations of the Agile software development process as well as the communication channels between the client and the software development outsourcing company to achieve success.
The truth is that Agile projects require a high level of communication between the development team and the client. Each department needs to put honesty on the table and have transparency with what is going on. Unfortunately, it happens that the outsourcers sometimes tell clients what they assume to be the information that the client needs and simply refrain from offering suggestions, thinking that the client might be offended. Other times, either side would misunderstand the other, or there would be erroneous information being shared. To increase success, there is a need to over-communicate or set up several communication channels such as chat, emails, web conferences, and meetups.
In addition, clients must have a dedicated representative or point of contact. This person needs to be knowledgeable about all the aspects of the project being developed and should be able to relay effectively the information from the client to the team. The client needs to empower the representative with enough authorization to approve work or make changes when needed.
It is a good idea to make use of management tools such as JIRA and TFS in order to help with communication in addition, a centralized source of information is ideal such as a shared wiki.
5. Choose an Agile software company
Some development companies take in clients as if they are a set of requirement specifications. The team will attempt to implement the orders of the client exactly as they are specified, and often developers do not usually think outside the box or dare to advise clients. When choosing a company to partner with, it is important to find one with technical capabilities as well as Agile methodology. They should also have relevant experience regarding the business domain in which the project to be developed is identified with.
When choosing an Agile software company, here are some useful criteria that might help:
Relevant experience – Check out the team’s references regarding their experience. Know what worked well and what didn’t work out for the past partners. talking to the references helps to understand if there was anything that they would have appreciated that the vendor did differently, or not.
Company culture – Does the vendor have an Agile-minded, flexible, and constantly improving mindset? Finding a true software partner might be a challenge, but it becomes easy once the vendor shows a commitment to the client’s long-term success. The ideal vendor attempts to learn all that they can about the business of the client, as well as align themselves with the goals of the client. More often than not, their view of the project is one that helps the clients reach their goals at the same time maintaining the culture of the company.
Credentials and Awards – This might seem rather petty, but it is important to do a check on the vendor. Their website would already give a general impression of how professional the company is. It also helps to check the professional certifications of the vendor; for example, if they have a Certified Scrum Professional, Certified Scrum Master, or Certified Scrum Product Owner certification to their name. In addition, do they have any awards received for their performance? Or some other award that shows their technology competency? For outsourcing vendors that focus on software testing, then it would be certifications for ISTQB and the like. These may be small things, but it does show how much capability the vendor has.
The Agile process highlights the importance of frequent deliveries of working software. This ranges from a couple of weeks to every couple of months. Therefore, automation needs to be built into each step in order to achieve the required frequent deliveries and to ensure the software is working.
There is a need to put a test automation framework in place so that tests can be provided that is easily understood by the stakeholders. The ideal framework should be easy to execute and maintain. it should be able to run quickly and executed at the right level. On top of that, the framework should ideally be able to run at scheduled executions and tests that fail should be addressed as soon as possible. For acceptance tests, there needs to be a broader automated framework that allows for rapid turnaround of the internal releases that are up for distribution.
On top of the usual automation procedure, the automated test suite is ideally accessible to all members from in-house to the offshore team. That way, everyone is able to execute it with just a click of a button. Whenever someone wants to run a test before or after committing a code, they should be able to easily run the test suite and find out if there are issues easily and with minimum fuss.
Agile development involves continuous integration, so checking code frequently and in small increments is observed. Aside from this, the implementation of source control builds and test automation should be considered collaboration tools. That way, everybody on the team is on the same page, which decreases the possibility of surprises and even provides fast feedback on issues found.
With over 6 years working with Agile development process, hope our sharing is valuable for you!
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It's no accident that Saigon Technology ranks among the top 15 national businesses in the agile development process. Naturally, with the flexibility to adapt to various scale projects in a variety of exciting sectors such as e-Commerce, healthcare, finance, logistics, and so on... The Developers at Saigon Technology have a wide range of programming languages under their belts and are well-versed in the agile development process.
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