Agile provides multiple opportunities for stakeholder and team engagement – before, during, and after each Sprint. By involving the client in every step of the project, there is a high degree of collaboration between the client and project team, providing more opportunities for the team to truly understand the client’s vision. Delivering working software early and frequently increases stakeholders’ trust in the team’s ability to deliver high-quality working software and encourages them to be more deeply engaged in the project.
An Agile approach provides a unique opportunity for clients to be involved throughout the project, from prioritizing features to iteration planning and review sessions to frequent software builds containing new features. However, this also requires clients to understand that they are seeing a work in progress in exchange for this added benefit of transparency.
By using time-boxed, fixed schedule Sprints of 1-4 weeks, new features are delivered quickly and frequently, with a high level of predictability. This also provides the opportunity to release or beta test the software earlier than planned if there is sufficient business value.
Because each Sprint is a fixed duration, the cost is predictable and limited to the amount of work that can be performed by the team in the fixed-schedule time box. Combined with the estimates provided to the client prior to each Sprint, the client can more readily understand the approximate cost of each feature, which improves decision making about the priority of features and the need for additional iterations.
While the team needs to stay focused on delivering an agreed-to subset of the product’s features during each iteration, there is an opportunity to constantly refine and reprioritize the overall product backlog. New or changed backlog items can be planned for the next iteration, providing the opportunity to introduce changes within a few weeks.
By allowing the client to determine the priority of features, the team understands what’s most important to the client’s business, and can deliver the features that provide the most business value.
Agile commonly uses user stories with business-focused acceptance criteria to define product features. By focusing features on the needs of real users, each feature incrementally delivers value, not just an IT component. This also provides the opportunity to beta test software after each Sprint, gaining valuable feedback early in the project and providing the ability to make changes as needed.
By breaking down the project into manageable units, the project team can focus on high-quality development, testing, and collaboration. Also, by producing frequent builds and conducting testing and reviews during each iteration, quality is improved by finding and fixing defects quickly and identifying expectation mismatches early.
During Segue’s own experience of adopting Agile software development practices, we have seen solutions delivered on time and with a higher degree of client and customer satisfaction. By incorporating the ability to change, we have been able to better incorporate feedback from demos, usability testing, and client and customer feedback.
Agile is a powerful tool for software development, not only providing benefits to the development team, but also providing a number of important business benefits to the client. Agile helps project teams deal with many of the most common project pitfalls (such as cost, schedule predictability and scope creep) in a more controlled manner. By reorganizing and re-envisioning the activities involved in custom software development, Agile achieves those same objectives in a leaner and more business-focused way.
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