The Case for Agile Development: Faster, Cheaper, & Less Risk
In recent years, agile development has become something of a buzzword among software development shops and engineering departments at major corporations. But for executives or managers who aren’t familiar with agile, it may not be clear exactly what it means and why it’s beneficial.
Additionally, many companies claim to be agile, but they’re still using older practices that aren’t agile at all. In this post, we’ll break down exactly why agile is better for software development, what it means, and how it benefits companies’ timelines, budgets, and risk exposure.
Waterfall vs Agile
In the past, software development followed a waterfall lifecycle. That means that clients would set a budget and specifications, developers would work on the software for months, and then the software would be delivered all at once, completely finished.
This worked and was the way software was developed for a long time, but it had a few downsides. First, large projects are hard to estimate, so these projects were often over timeline, over budget, or both. Second, waterfall projects had difficulty responding to changing needs. If the market or requirements changed, the entire project scope and contract needed to be rewritten. Finally, upon delivery, if there were issues with the product or it didn’t work as anticipated clients were on the hook for payment for a product they weren’t happy with. By the same token, developers felt frustrated they didn’t receive the constructive feedback earlier — if they had they would’ve delivered a different product.
Overall, a lack of communication and feedback made waterfall development very challenging. This feedback is what agile aims to solve.
Agile Is Faster
When companies begin working with an agile software development team, the first difference they’ll notice is the speed with which an initial product is returned for testing. That’s because agile methodology is based around the idea of a “sprint,” where small units of work are assigned in order to get a working minimum viable product into the hands of users.
Most companies use one or two-week sprints. At the end of the sprint, new features should be ready for initial feedback. While they won’t be fully built out features, they will have the basic functionality and structure of the application. Then, stakeholders can provide feedback early on that can be addressed in future sprints.
Because agile incorporates feedback early and often, it reaches a usable product much faster than waterfall. Additionally, that product is usually of higher quality because of the feedback received.
Agile Is Cheaper
One of agile’s core principles is breaking a large task into much smaller, achievable tasks. Because of this philosophy, agile projects are much easier to estimate. They don’t try to predict the entire cost of a piece of software because modern software is under constant improvement. Instead, agile estimates predict the cost to achieve certain features and minimum viable implementations of functionality.
Here, the feedback loop is also very helpful. Since agile works in sprints, developers receive feedback and can respond more quickly with revisions. In waterfall methodology, if an entire feature needed to be rewritten, that would result in huge cost and time overruns. With agile, we catch those feedback opportunities early, allowing changes to take effect quickly with little wasted time and money.
Agile Is Less Risky
Another key element of agile is constant, incremental improvement that is deployed continuously. Because features are built atomically in order to be consistently tested, anything that has been approved can go into production for users immediately. With agile, the product users see is constantly under improvement.
This means that each deploy to production is fairly small, with a limited scope and feature set. As such, there’s less risk compared to massive updates touching multiple parts of the code base at once. With good version control, a small change that didn’t go as planned can easily be rolled back with your users none the wiser.
Making the Case for Agile
At Intertech, we’re big proponents of agile development. We’ve seen it work effectively for our clients across dozens of industries and types of software applications. Consistently, agile reduces timelines, cost, and risk while also improving the quality of the final delivered product. If you’re curious about agile or considering making a change to how your engineering team operates, we highly recommend it.
Founded in 1991, Intertech delivers software development consulting and IT training to Fortune 500, Government and Leading Technology institutions. Learn more about us. Whether you are a developer interested in working for a company that invests in its employees or a company looking to partner with a team of technology leaders who provide solutions, mentor staff and add true business value, we’d like to meet you.