5 Agile Best Practices for Software Development
The Agile methodology originated in software development, but has since spread to many other business areas due to its effectiveness. The Agile methodology eschews large product launches in favor of smaller, more incremental goals. In Agile development, teams constantly evaluate their tasks and processes in order to continually improve their products and performance.
There are many types of Agile methodologies, including Scrum, Lean, Extreme Programming (XP), and more. All of these methodologies share principles that help unify them as part of the larger Agile approach. Whichever methodology you prefer, it’s important to keep several best practices in mind for effective Agile software development.
Learn more about Agile methodologies: What is Agile development? Agile methodologies and processes
Collaboration with customers and stakeholders
In a traditional software development structure, customers are only consulted at two stages of the product development process: at the very beginning, during the information-gathering and brainstorming stages, and at the very end, when testing the essentially final product.
However, Agile takes a completely different approach and involves the customer and/or stakeholder at every step of the whole process. This ensures that the end product actually meets as many of the end user’s needs as possible. It also means developers can make changes along the way instead of having to revise the final product.
Daily stand-up meetings
Daily stand-up meetings are one of the defining characteristics of the Scrum approach to Agile development, but many other Agile methodologies use some variation of it.
Daily checks consist of a short meeting no longer than 15 minutes so that each team member can update everyone on what they are working on that day. These meetings promote transparency and accountability, reduce duplication of work, and prevent miscommunications that could create roadblocks.
Although having a meeting every day may seem like overkill, it ensures that delays of even a single business day do not occur. You never have to wait until the next meeting to discuss something, because it’s already on the calendar. That’s why even Agile teams that don’t follow a strict Scrum approach often institute regular short review meetings throughout the week to encourage transparency.
Learn more about Project-Management.com: Establish the cadence of meetings for remote project teams
Constant and, more importantly, productive communication is another hallmark of Agile development. In the past, the Agile methodology has always prioritized face-to-face communication as the best way to promote transparency and accountability, which is why these daily review meetings were often held in person.
However, with more and more teams moving to remote working, people are developing new principles of Agile communication through remote channels, such as requiring notifications through Slack for certain task completions. Video conference software is also essential for team members working in different locations to collaborate and solve problems without being together in person.
These communication best practices will continue to evolve, as will hybrid and remote working. Likewise, Agile developers will continue to find ways to advocate for seamless communication, even when the entire team is spread across different time zones and work schedules.
Prioritization of tasks
Deciding which tasks to complete and in what order is an essential aspect of Agile development. There are many different methods for establishing these priorities; some popular approaches include MoSCoW (must-haves, should-haves, could-haves, won’t-haves) and first-in/first-out.
It may take some trial and error to choose the right task prioritization model for the current project. In some cases, it becomes necessary to completely change the approach as the nature of the work changes and the team evolves.
Learn more about Project-Management.com: How to improve your team’s task prioritization
Sprint Setup and Retrospective
Sprints are time-bound periods in which a team tries to complete a defined set of tasks. Tasks are assigned in order, from most important to least important, and each team member has a clearly defined set of responsibilities that are aligned with each task.
A good sprint setup is essential; the team needs enough tasks in the backlog to fully fill the sprint, but not enough to risk losing focus and getting into scope drift.
Before the start of the sprint, it is important to identify dependencies (tasks that cannot be completed until another task is completed) to avoid bottlenecks. After the sprint is complete, the team should hold a retrospective meeting to identify what worked and what didn’t. This allows for process refinement and continuous innovation from sprint to sprint.
What tools can help with Agile development?
Without best practices in place, developing Agile software can be difficult. Fortunately, Agile project management tools can help with effective collaboration, effective stand-up meetings, productive communication, strategic task prioritization, and functional structuring of sprints.
Use our list of Best Agile Project Management Tools as a starting point for choosing the best solution for your organization.