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What is Agile Development?

“What is Agile Development?” on Rasmussen College, March 14, 2018.

Anyone interested in technology careers will likely run into the term, “Agile development,” or even just “Agile” at some point. This methodology comes with its own set of jargon and a following of passionate technology professionals who swear by its superiority.

“Agile has become a major movement within the software development field,” says Alan Zucker, founding principal of Project Management Essentials. “Two-thirds of companies are using Agile at least some of the time.”

So what is Agile development?

Agile is an approach to software development that is designed to quickly and flexibly dedicate resources to development tasks. To truly understand Agile development, it’s important to understand how the traditional “waterfall” product or software development approach works. In that method, the work is thoroughly outlined in advance and performed in a strictly linear fashion.

“People work on specialized tasks based on their skills and role on the project. The entire project is planned at the beginning, and the goal is to execute against that plan, no matter what. It’s numbing work,” Zucker says.

But Agile represents a set of values and principles to guide a very different kind of software development process, according to Zucker. Agile typically employs small teams working together, developing software that meets their customer’s needs and delivering it in short iterations.

What is working in Agile like?

Another perk of Agile development is for the employees. “Everyone has a personal stake and commitment to the success of the project,” Zucker says. It’s a very democratic work environment.

Instead of the typical levels of reporting to superiors, the team itself decides how much work to complete in a development cycle. “The team is accountable to itself and their customers in delivering that work,” Zucker says. “This environment eliminates much of the finger-pointing and blaming that occurs in traditional projects.”

For the right employees, this kind of environment can be empowering. “Agile teams are encouraged to develop their own personalities and group identities,” Zucker says. It manifests in Agile teams with group mascots and team names, as well as processes customized to best fit the group. They customize the processes to meet their unique needs.  “People are excited about working together. There is great spirit and camaraderie.”