Agile is powerful – but it isn’t magic

Agile is a powerful new approach to the way the software development lifecycle is viewed, and delivers significant benefits in terms of productivity, development timelines and final product effectiveness. But that doesn’t mean it is without its shortcomings – there are still areas where you will wish you were still using the traditional approach to the SDLC, though Agile’s benefits usually outweigh the disadvantages.

Let’s take a dive into what Agile can and cannot deliver to you and your business.

Agile is powerful…

Agile delivers benefits to businesses through its ability to break down the traditional SDLC into bite-sized segments.

  1. Frequent releases, faster development schedule
    One of the first areas where the advantages of Agile are experienced is in the shorter release cycles – while you may have new releases one in a few months with the traditional approach, Agile makes it possible to have much more frequent, incremental releases. This helps to deliver new features faster, go to market sooner and therefore add greater value.
  2. Prioritized requirements, well-aligned delivery
    As its name suggests, Agile truly does add a great deal of flexibility to the way software is built. Changing requirements are common with any business, and making these changes to software being developed by the traditional method is difficult. With Agile, given its step-by-step approach, course correction and inclusion of new requests is made much easier.
  3. Reduced wasted effort, greater value
    One of the major problems with the traditional SDLC is that since the release cycle is long, the features delivered at the end of this period no longer match fast evolving business needs. This results in wasted effort, and therefore cost. With Agile, on the other hand, the delivered product is typically much more closely aligned to actual needs, minimizing wasted expense. Faster release also makes the delivered product more profitable.

… but Agile isn’t magic!

Given its significant benefits, there is often a tendency to think of Agile as a way to overcome any problem in the SDLC. It is important to understand that for each of the advantages described above, there are some limitations to the Agile approach too.

  1. Improved insight, not guaranteed speed
    With Agile, the big advantage is the clear visibility of project progress that it provides. However this does not guarantee that the whole project will be completed quickly – it only enables improved decision making, to prioritize critical requirements for faster completion so that the project timeline is kept under control. Expecting the Agile methodology to ensure that you never have scheduling issues is not realistic.
  2. Flexibility in prioritization, not open-ended modification
    While Agile helps provide flexibility in prioritizing business requirements to develop relevant features, this can also result in overly frequent changes being made, reducing the overall process efficiency, stretching timelines and increasing costs. It is very important to strike a balance between taking advantage of the flexibility of Agile to produce an optimal product, and having the business constantly changing its requirements and priorities simply because the system allows for it.
  3. Greater value, not necessarily lower cost
    It is important to keep in mind that one of the principal benefits of Agile is to deliver a more effective product, and to achieve this through a more efficient, less wasteful process. Savings of cost are only a by-product of this. In the initial period of adoption of Agile, it is in fact quite likely that costs will actually increase, until the team settles into this new system of working. Having patience and allowing the team and the process to find their path is important to enable Agile to deliver greater value in your projects.

To sum up, if you keep your expectations realistic and give the process time and space to find its feet in your organization, adopting Agile is likely to yield rich dividends for your software development cycle. Expect the impossible, and you are likely to be disappointed.

Speak to us for more information on how the Agile methodology can fit into DevOps at your organization, and what drawbacks you need to look out for – we’d love to help you harness this powerful approach to the SDLC.