Management Information Systems

Agile Methodology

What Is Agile?

Agile software development is based on an incremental, iterative approach. Instead of in-depth planning at the beginning of the project, Agile methodologies are open to changing requirements over time and encourages constant feedback from the end users. Cross-functional teams work on iterations of a product over a period of time, and this work is organized into a backlog that is prioritized based on business or customer value. The goal of each iteration is to produce a working product.

In Agile methodologies, leadership encourages teamwork, accountability, and face-to-face communication. Business stakeholders and developers must work together to align the product with customer needs and company goals.

Agile refers to any process that aligns with the concepts of the Agile Manifesto. In February 2001, 17 software developers met in Utah to discuss lightweight development methods. They published the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, which covered how they found “better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it” and included four values and 12 principles. The Agile Manifesto is a dramatic contrast to the traditional Project Manager’s Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) guide and standards.

12 Principles of Agile Methodology

The Agile Manifesto lists 12 principles to guide teams on how to execute with agility. These are the principles:

  • Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  • Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with preference to the shorter timescale.
  • Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  • Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  • Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  • Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  • Simplicity -- the art of maximizing the amount of work not done -- is essential.
  • The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

Advantages of Agile

Agile evolved from different lightweight software approaches in the 1990s and is a response to some project managers’ dislike of the rigid, linear Waterfall methodology. It focuses on flexibility, continuous improvement, and speed.

Here are some of the top advantages of Agile:

  • Change is embraced: With shorter planning cycles, it’s easy to accommodate and accept changes at any time during the project. There is always an opportunity to refine and reprioritize the backlog, letting teams introduce changes to the project in a matter of weeks.
  • End-goal can be unknown: Agile is very beneficial for projects where the end-goal is not clearly defined. As the project progresses, the goals will come to light and development can easily adapt to these evolving requirements.
  • Faster, high-quality delivery: Breaking down the project into iterations (manageable units) allows the team to focus on high-quality development, testing, and collaboration. Conducting testing during each iteration means that bugs get identified and solved more quickly. And this high-quality software can be delivered faster with consistent, successive iterations.
  • Strong team interaction: Agile highlights the importance of frequent communication and face-to-face interactions. Teams work together and people are able to take responsibility and own parts of the projects.
  • Customers are heard: Customers have many opportunities to see the work being delivered, share their input, and have a real impact on the end product. They can gain a sense of ownership by working so closely with the project team.
  • Continuous improvement: Agile projects encourage feedback from users and team members throughout the whole project, so lessons learned are used to improve future iterations.

Disadvantages of Agile

While the level of flexibility in Agile is usually a positive, it also comes with some trade-offs. It can be hard to establish a solid delivery date, documentation can be neglected, or the final product can be very different than originally intended.

Here are some of the disadvantages of Agile:

  • Planning can be less concrete: It can sometimes be hard to pin down a solid delivery date. Because Agile is based on time-boxed delivery and project managers are often reprioritizing tasks, it’s possible that some items originally scheduled for delivery may not be complete in time. And, additional sprints may be added at any time in the project, adding to the overall timeline.
  • Team must be knowledgeable: Agile teams are usually small, so team members must be highly skilled in a variety of areas. They also must understand and feel comfortable with the chosen Agile methodology.
  • Time commitment from developers: Agile is most successful when the development team is completely dedicated to the project. Active involvement and collaboration is required throughout the Agile process, which is more time consuming than a traditional approach. It also means that the developers need to commit to the entire duration of the project.
  • Documentation can be neglected: The Agile Manifesto prefers working software over comprehensive documentation, so some team members may feel like it’s less important to focus on documentation. While comprehensive documentation on its own does not lead to project success, Agile teams should find the right balance between documentation and discussion.
  • Final product can be very different: The initial Agile project might not have a definitive plan, so the final product can look much different than what was initially intended. Because Agile is so flexible, new iterations may be added based on evolving customer feedback, which can lead to a very different final deliverable.

The Agile Development Cycle


Here are the phases in the Agile development cycle. It’s important to note that these phases shouldn’t happen in succession; they are flexible and always evolving. Many of these phases happen in parallel.

  • Planning: Once an idea is deemed viable and feasible, the project team comes together and works to identify features. The goal of this phase is to break down the idea into smaller pieces of work (the features) then to prioritize each feature and assign it to an iteration.
  • Requirements analysis: This phase involves many meetings with managers, stakeholders, and users to identify business requirements. The team needs to gather information like who will use the product and how they will use it. These requirements must be quantifiable, relevant, and detailed.
  • Design: The system and software design is prepared from the requirements identified in the previous phase. The team needs to think about what the product or solution will look like. The test team also comes up with a test strategy or plan to proceed.
  • Implementation, coding or development: This phase is all about creating and testing features, and scheduling iterations for deployment (following the iterative and incremental development approach [IID]). The development phase starts with iteration 0, because there are no features being delivered. This iteration lays down the foundation for development, with tasks like finalizing contracts, preparing the environments, and funding.
  • Testing: Once the code has been developed, it is tested against the requirements to make sure the product is actually solving customer needs and matching user stories. During this phase, unit testing, integration testing, system testing, and acceptance testing are done.
  • Deployment: After testing, the product is delivered to customers for them to use. However, deployment isn’t the end of the project. Once customers start using the product, they may run into new problems that the project team will need to address.