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Agile Software Development Lifecycle Phases Explained

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The Agile software development methodology is one of the most simple, yet effective ways to deliver a great product on the market. And yet, somewhere along the way, people started to really overcomplicate it. Properly implemented Agile is fast, flexible, error-proof and just plain better way to manage software development teams. In this article, we’ll explain Agile software development lifecycle phases and how to incorporate Agile principles.

The Key Principles of Agile Development

The main ideas behind Agile development were outlined in the original Manifesto for Agile Software Development. When summarized, they are:

  • Change is inevitable. The project needs to adapt to it rather than ignore it;
  • Вelivering results is more important than established processes and tools;
  • Real customer’s needs take priority over the requirements in the development plans.

These ideas are further outlined in the Key Principles of Agile Software Development

The focus behind Agile is end-user satisfaction. All the tasks that do not directly work toward improving it, are secondary. And while the Agile development teams still work on establishing processes, writing documentation, and following the plans, these tasks can be postponed or done at the minimal acceptable level if they threaten the efficiency of the development.

Agile Methodology Explained

The main tool of Agile development is iteration. Iteration is a process wherein a set of actions is repeated in a sequence until a condition is met. 

Different Agile development methods achieve iteration in different ways. Scrum, for example, implements Sprints. Sprints are fixed time periods — generally, 1-2 weeks long — during which the development team completes a certain part of the functionality and achieves pre-established goals.

Here’s an example of the workflow within a single Scrum Sprint:

  • The Product Owner — the one responsible for its completion — reviews the incomplete tasks in the Product Backlog. The obsolete tasks get removed while the new ones get added;
  • The Product Owner establishes the scope of the new Sprint and the goal it aims to achieve.
  • The Product Owner has a Planning Meeting with the Development Team. They create user stories, which are decomposed into the tasks for certain Sprint stored in Backlog.
  • The Development Team holds daily meetings, during which they keep themselves updated about the progress of each team member;
  • Once the timeframe of the Sprint runs out, the Sprint is considered complete. The unfinished tasks are moved back into the Product Backlog; In exceptional cases a Sprint end-date can be changed by a Product Owner. 
  • The Product Owner holds a demonstration for the Customer and shows the work done during the Sprint.
  • The Product Owner holds a meeting with the Development Team, where the results of the Sprint are reviewed. The team establishes what was done well, and what processes can be improved in the next sprint. This review is called a Sprint Retrospective.
  • The next Sprint begins.

The regular review of the Backlog helps to maintain the relevancy of the features in the Backlog. The limited scope of Sprints and their pre-established goals help the developers complete meaningful work on-time. The continuous showcases of new features keep the customer satisfied and able to provide feedback. Overall, the development becomes more efficient.

NOTE. Scrum is only one Agile methodology among many. For example, Kanban does not have any Sprint equivalent and instead keeps its relevance via the constantly updated Task Priority Queue. If you want to learn more — check out a video review of Scrum and Kanban:

Key Agile Software Development Lifecycle Phases

When you break it down to the core concepts, the Agile development is not that difficult. And while it may seem wasteful with the number of meetings involved, it saves a lot of time by optimizing the development tasks and reducing the errors during the planning stages can have.

Phase 1: Requirements

Before a Product Owner can even start designing a project, they need to create the initial documentation that will list the initial requirements. They are:

  • The end result the project is going to achieve. For example, a text editor;
  • The features that it will support. For example, different font sizes;
  • The features that it will not initially support. For example, adding animations to the text or ability to embed video;

A general recommendation is to lower these initial requirements as hard as one can, adding only the definitely necessary features and ignoring ones that won’t be used often. Developers can work on them later, once the app is deployed and the core features work well.

NOTE: If developers choose to ignore this stage, they are prone to feature creep — situation when new non-crucial features are constantly being added to the project, taking developers’ time away from the important tasks. 

On further iterations, the Client and the Product Owner review the requirements and make them more relevant.

Phase 2: Design

There are two ways to approach design in the software development — one is the visual design and the other is the architectural structure of the app. 

Software Design

During the first iteration, the Product Owner assembles their development team and introduces the requirements created during the previous stage. The team then discusses how to tackle these requirements, and proposes the tools needed to achieve the best result. For example, the team defines the programming language, frameworks, and libraries that the project is going to be using.

On further iterations, the developers discuss the feature implementation and the internal structure of the come.

UI/UX Design

During this SDLC stage, the designers create a rough mock-up of the UI. If the product is consumer-grade, the user interface and user experience are most important. So it’s generally a good idea to review the possible competitors to see what they are doing right — and especially what they are doing wrong.

Further iterations are spent refining the initial design and/or reworking it to suit the new features.

Phase 3. Development and Coding

The development phase is about writing code and converting design documentation into the actual software within the software development process. This stage of SDLC is generally the longest as it’s the backbone of the whole process. 

There aren’t many changes between the iterations here. 

Phase 4. Integration and Testing

This stage is spent on making sure that the software is bug-free and compatible with everything else that the developers have written before. The Quality Assurance team conducts a series of tests in order to ensure the code is clean and business goals of the solution are met.

During the further iterations of this SDLC stage, the testing becomes more involved and accounts not only for functionality testing, but also for systems integration, interoperability, and user acceptance testing, etc.

Phase 5. Implementation and Deployment

The application is deployed on the servers and provided to the customers — either for the demo or the actual use. Further iterations update the already installed software, introducing new features and resolving bugs.

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Phase 6. Review

Once all previous development phases are complete, the Product Owner gathers the Development Team once again and reviews the progress made towards completing the requirements. The team introduces their ideas toward resolving the problems that arose during the previous phases and the Product Owner takes their propositions into consideration. 

Afterwards, the Agile software development lifecycle phases start anew — either with a new iteration or by moving toward the next stage.

Incorporating General Lean Principles Within Agile Methodology

The Lean Principles are:

  • Eliminate Waste;
  • Build Quality;
  • Create Knowledge;
  • Show Responsibility;
  • Deliver Fast;
  • Respect People;
  • Optimize As A Whole.

Overall, these values correspond with the Agile methodology pretty well and can be used to supplement it if questions arise. 

Conclusion

Software development is a structured iterative process. However, there is no single “correct” way to do Agile — there are just ones that fit or do not fit a particular team. Each company has its own idea of what constitutes Agile development, and each one has its merits. What matters at the end of the day is a valuable final product delivered on-time.

And this is how we at Relevant Software develop well-tailored applications that meet our client’s business needs. We use Agile paradigms for all our projects and constantly deliver outstanding results.

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