Though the agile manifesto was written with software development in mind, the agile philosophy can apply to any process where quick iteration is valued over a long, pre-planned approach. In recent years, agile has become increasingly popular in project management, product development, and marketing.
An agile framework provides a specific structure for how an agile team can operate, but it is essential to remember that agility should always come first. The framework should be a starting point that a team can customize to fit its needs. Agile teams that focus on individuals and interactions rather than processes and tools are more likely to be successful in achieving their goals.
Organizations use various agile frameworks, often modifying parts as they see fit and iterating on their process. The following is our overview of several commonly used ones for software development.
Scrum is probably the most common Agile framework in software development by far. The Scrum framework breaks all tasks into short-term blocks called “sprints,” usually confined within two-week intervals. Teams do not conform to any set hierarchies and are self-organizing. Scrum-specific roles usually include a Product Owner (representing the business) and a Scrum Master (a team guide).
Scrum is a lightweight team-based approach to agile project management that works in an organic team-based approach. However, if the company culture prefers upfront planning and a top-down approach to decision-making, then it probably isn’t the ideal framework choice.
Scrum is easy to understand and implement. It allows for rapid feedback, and teams can uncover issues rapidly in the daily meetings called standups. However, Scrum has a certain rigidity (there are rules around the number of meetings one can hold and the team size). It can also lead to scope creep, and it is easy to overwhelm the team if there is too much to do within the two-week sprint. This timeframe can put much pressure on the team.
Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)
The DSDM framework is an agile software development approach that considers the entire project lifecycle and its impact on the business. Akin to a few other Agile frameworks, it focuses on the early delivery of real benefits for any given task or goal while emphasizing rapid feedback from users. The four principles upon which these processes rest include:
- Feasibility studies (to ensure there will be value once completed).
- Functional models/prototypes iterations where you can test out your ideas quickly
- Design and build iterations.
One of DSDM’s core weaknesses is that it can cause a disruptive change in the organizational culture, which many do not take kindly to. In addition, it is expensive to implement and not ideal for small organizations. On the flip side, following the DSDM framework can deliver basic product functionality rapidly and projects complete on time. Developers, too, have easy access to end-users and feedback cycles are short.
eXtreme Programming (XP)
eXtreme Programming is an approach to software development that emphasizes the broad philosophy of agile: to produce higher quality products for customers and make life better on core teams by leveraging automation. The main characteristics include changing requirements, having a small team of developers working together in close proximity, and using the automated unit and functional tests.
Since its beginning, XP has become one of the most popular agile frameworks.
XP is a method for managing projects with dynamic requirements. It also works well for customers who may not be able to articulate their exact needs or where their needs are constantly changing. It relies on the team being small, developers working closely together, and being able to create automated unit and functional tests.
XP can help cut software development costs, and team members are accountable for their work. Since it also stresses better quality of life for developers, it can lead to better retention and morale. However, XP focuses more on code than product design. This focus can lead to defects in early iterations. It is also not an ideal framework for distributed teams.
Feature Driven Development (FDD)
Feature Driven Development (FDD) is a popular software development methodology that organizes projects around making progress on features. A “feature” in the FDD context does not necessarily mean product functionality but is similar to user stories found within the Scrum framework.
FDD works in environments where decision-making follows a top-down approach rather than Agile’s collective approach. For example, large-scale projects in big corporations often make the best use of an FDD framework. This is because it leverages pre-defined software development standards that enable larger teams to move product development forward with continuous success. On the flip side, it cannot work with smaller teams, does not emphasize documentation, and relies heavily on lead/chief developers.
Lean Software Development (LSD)
When developing software, it is essential to be mindful of how much time and resources are in use. The Lean Software Development (LSD) framework helps teams optimize their development process by eliminating waste from the system and releasing only what your product needs at any given moment.
Alternatively, LSD is also a Minimum Viable Product that releases a barebone product to the market and iteratively builds features based on user feedback.
Since LSD eliminates unnecessary activity, it can deliver more features faster while reducing costs. It, however, depends heavily on the team involved and their decision-making abilities which hinder its scalability as a framework. It also depends heavily on documentation, and any errors can lead to bugs in the end product.
Implicit trust and an outstanding development team are a must for the LSD way to work.
Adaptive Software Development (ASD)
ASD is a direct outgrowth of the earlier agile framework RAD, emphasizing speed and flexibility in software development. ASD builds on these concepts to enable teams to quickly and effectively adapt to changing requirements or market needs. The ASD approach follows three fundamental principles: speculate, collaborate, and learn. In the first phase, teams generate ideas and potential solutions to a problem. In the second phase, they work together to develop a prototype or proof of concept. In the final phase, they test their solution and gather feedback to improve their product. By following this iterative process, ASD teams can continuously learn and evolve their products to meet the ever-changing needs of their users.
ASD is a software development methodology that emphasizes rapid delivery of products and continuous evolution of offerings. ASD is flexible and responsive to change, making it a good choice for organizations prioritizing speed and agility. However, ASD does require deep user involvement and continuous testing throughout the development process, which can add cost and complexity. Therefore, it is essential to carefully consider whether ASD is the right choice for your organization before embarking on this type of project.
ASD is a software development approach that delivers tangible benefits to developers and clients. Because ASD focuses on end-user needs, it can lead to more intuitive products. In addition, ASD’s emphasis on transparency and communication can help to ensure that projects are delivered on time and within budget.
However, ASD also has some potential drawbacks. For example, the demand for user involvement can be challenging to meet, and adding testing at every stage can add to project costs. Finally, focusing on rapid iteration and continuous feedback can sometimes lead to scope creep. Despite these potential drawbacks, ASD remains a popular approach for many software development projects.
Crystal Agile Framework
Agile frameworks like Crystal focus on individuals and their interactions over processes and tools. This emphasis on communication directly responds to one of the critical values outlined in the Agile Manifesto. The Crystal framework believes that teams are capable of finding ways to improve their workflows and that each project is unique. As a result, the team best suited to handle a project is the one that will be most effective in doing so.
The Crystal Method is among the more flexible agile frameworks. It can be a viable methodology for organizations that want to empower their teams to work however they deem most effective. A vital strength of the Crystal Method is that it is designed around a project’s people and is not dependent on any single set of processes or tools. Because Crystal emphasizes direct team collaboration around the software they’re building and de-emphasizes the importance of documentation and reporting, this could mean the other teams across the organization will have less visibility into the team’s progress. This may also hamper the product’s scalability with a different team in the future. However, this trade-off may be worth it for organizations that prioritize employee empowerment and believe their teams can deliver results without extensive oversight.
Crystal is a project management methodology that emphasizes adaptability and flexibility, letting teams determine the best way to complete a project. This focus on team autonomy can lead to increased communication, transparency, and a greater sense of accountability. However, it can also result in scope creep if no clear boundaries are defined from the outset. Additionally, it can be difficult for new team members or outsiders to understand the project’s goals and objectives without formal documentation. Crystal is a practical approach for teams comfortable with ambiguity and change, but it may not be suitable for all projects.
The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)
SAFe helps manage some of the challenges larger organizations have when practicing Agile. SAFe consists of a broad knowledge base of proven best practices. Product teams use SAFe to deliver successful software products. Most importantly, SAFE’s foundation consists of three metaphorical pillars: Team, Program, and Portfolio.SAFE gives product teams the flexibility they need to succeed.
For Agile to be successful at scale, more rules and controls are necessary to ensure compatibility and coordination across various sub-components. Agile must have a clear structure and organization to function correctly at scale. Furthermore, there needs to be more oversight to ensure that the finished product not only works but also looks and feels like it was built by the same company.
In many organizations, the need to coordinate multiple Scrum teams working on large, complex projects has led to the adoption of Scaled Agile. Scaled Agile provides a framework for managing and coordinating the work of multiple teams, which can be essential for delivering complex solutions to the market quickly and efficiently. This framework also makes it possible to create a more predictable release schedule by coordinating the work of multiple teams and planning for project milestones and launches. As a result, enterprises that have adopted Scaled Agile can better meet customer commitments and support launches with sales, marketing, operations, and customer service.
SAFe is a framework that helps organizations implement agile on an enterprise scale. One of the main benefits of SAFe is that it helps cross-functional teams to collaborate more effectively. This collaboration is because it provides a clear structure for how teams should work together and creates transparency between different departments. Another strength of SAFe is that it helps to align all aspects of a project with the broader business goals. This alignment ensures everyone is working towards the same objectives and prevents silos from forming.
However, some people believe that SAFe is not pure agile because it requires too much upfront planning and process definition. Others argue that the top-down approach taken by SAFe does not allow teams to be autonomous in how they work. These are both valid criticisms, but overall, SAFe remains a popular choice for those looking to implement agile on a large scale.