Agile methodologies have improved software development success rates, application quality and IT team productivity for nearly two decades. The iterative process encourages collaboration, responsiveness and flexibility with shorter development cycles addressing current application needs. Most importantly, agile methodologies have a direct link to improved client satisfaction.
Growing a business depends mainly on increasing customer satisfaction, so several other industries have embraced the agile approach. As a result, agile software development continues to grow in popularity by consistently delivering greater value to customers more effectively.
Let’s cover a brief overview of the agile methodology for those less familiar. Agile software development, or simply agile, is a flexible, yet pragmatic methodology that incorporates stakeholder input throughout the development cycle. The overall focus is to deliver business value efficiently, with short-term goals addressed in an interactive process.
A team of professional developers outlined the agile methodology in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. The concept revolves around four fundamental values:
Instead of developing one extensive process, agile development carries out a series of smaller operations, called sprints. Each sprint has a specific goal and timeline and generally follows these steps:
Sprints enable development teams to complete several separate but related tasks simultaneously. By avoiding a sequential approach, the final product is more tailored to client needs. A sprint typically lasts 1 – 4 weeks, rather than the entire development process in one extensive framework. Testing and exposure to potential clients may occur at different stages throughout the process.
Adopting agile often requires a cultural shift, because the process emphasizes the delivery of software pieces rather than entire applications. However, such collaboration fosters a better understanding of how each developers’ role fits into the final application.
In addition, overcoming problems becomes second nature, as each sprint involves change. Finally, testing is performed throughout product development, which results in high-quality software output for development teams or software development companies.
These are some of the top reasons and benefits of agile and why leading companies are using it for managing their projects.
The agile approach provides multiple opportunities to engage stakeholders and team members before, during and after a sprint. Including the client in every step ensures a high level of collaboration between the client and the project team, thus providing more opportunities for understanding the client’s vision.
Clients are involved in every step in agile project management, from prioritizing features to planning iterations and attending reviews. Transparency builds trust and understanding that generally improves working relationships.
Agile leverages timeboxing with fixed, scheduled sprints of 1 – 4 weeks to provide fast, frequent and predictable delivery of new features. In addition, timeboxing and sprints can lead to early software releases when planned updates reveal higher business value than expected.
Reprioritizing the product development backlog enables continuous, overall product improvements. New or altered features may be scheduled for the following sprint and create the opportunity for additional changes. Teams are also empowered to make improvements to the effectiveness and efficiency of the process.
Due to the fixed duration of each sprint, costs are predictable and scheduled. Stakeholders have a better understanding of the cost of each feature, making it easier to prioritize capabilities. Software development companies can also provide estimates before each sprint to enable better forecasting and cost control with clients.
By dividing projects into manageable units, development teams concentrate on creating and collaborating on high-quality components. Frequent builds with testing also ensures that problems are found and fixed quickly, leading to predictable outcomes and higher quality.
The agile methodology has quite a high client satisfaction rate for several reasons.
First and foremost, clients are kept engaged during each sprint and requested to provide feedback on progress. With each update, the effectiveness of the software package is immediately apparent. Clients who constantly communicate with product managers and developers provide direct feedback, resulting in a smooth software release process.
These five tips should ensure that implementing the agile software development process results in a quick return on investment.
Responding swiftly to the changing needs of clients can enhance customer retention. Agile breaks tasks into smaller pieces so client-specific requests can be quickly addressed. Making tiny, incremental changes every few weeks can result in a cumulative stacking effect, leading to a higher return on investment.
Ensure you have a closed-loop system to obtain client feedback and listen to all input. Even though agile is designed for continuous review, you may need to set up a mechanism for collecting feedback. Some vendors utilize online forums and may even suggest pre-production, end user testing.
Most clients will prefer speaking with project managers, who can answer both general and specific questions. Many clients who like and agree with progress may also have ideas on minor improvements. Although minor, these improvements can prove to be very beneficial. Clients like seeing their ideas incorporated into the new versions, especially when you don’t charge for implementation! And of course, happy clients are far more likely to engage with your firm for extended periods or additional projects.
Vendors should also have the ability to handle any change requests that may come their way at any given time. Overanalyzing and being too slow are the only mistakes you can make. To put it simply, it is always better to launch first, then implement changes as they are requested.
Even if the UI appears good to most customers and can be deployed, many customers may have problems with it after the release. Hence, it is better to start with a live product and refine it later. Embrace change, iterate and continue making improvements. The process will pay off!
Business owners using agile methodologies should consult external sources for feedback, namely prospects. Why prospects instead of current customers? Prospects generally provide unbiased feedback with genuine insights. Existing customers, on the other hand, may dislike changes to some aspects of the applications they’ve become accustomed to.
When you receive a lot of client feedback, you will get feature requests contradictory to creating a great application. Don’t feel you need to agree with every request, and learn to demonstrate your expertise by challenging certain requests.
Instead, incorporate features that you know will appeal to your client’s target audience. Then set up independent tests of the alternative you recommended to demonstrate your solution is better. When you learn how to optimize applications for a variety of target markets, you and your clients will be more satisfied with the products you deliver.
Agile software development is not just beneficial for the development team, it also benefits the client by bringing several essential business benefits. By utilizing agile methodologies, teams can effectively avoid many of the most common pitfalls, such as cost overruns, schedule delays and scope creep.
In addition, agile achieves the same results in a leaner, more business-oriented manner by reorganizing and re-imagining the activities involved in custom software development. Consider agile if you prefer introducing changes at any stage of the project and creating software comprehensively tailored to the needs of multiple clients and markets.