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What is Agile Methodology: Definition, Benefits, Process, and Principles

Sixty-eight revolutionary words that have forever changed the software development process. In the 20 years since its creation, principles of the Agile manifesto have been adopted by a large number of people, teams, and companies around the globe.
14 min read
agile development process and methodology

    What is Agile methodology? Agile is a whole system of concepts and methods for managing projects. This includes different methodologies that make it easier to handle even the most complex projects and help teams show their product value. Read on to learn what Agile software development is, why a growing number of companies are adopting it, and how it can improve the way you do business.

    Agile vs Waterfall

    The typical software development life cycle includes several phases that follow each other: requirements gathering and analyzing → design → development → testing → deployment → maintenance. Such a model is commonly known as Waterfall. This is a classic and comprehensible framework that offers сertainty in terms of timing and budget since costs and deadlines are usually calculated and approved at the start and do not change in the process.

    The 6 phases of Waterfall model
    The 6 phases of the Waterfall model

    But there is one major drawback: if errors are found in the final product, the entire cycle must be repeated from the beginning. Besides, clients cannot make changes in the project during the development. It may turn out that the final product will not meet all their needs if the market or the business priorities change.

    Meanwhile, the endeavor can be approached iteratively. Within the same time, you can go through all the same stages but repeatedly, gradually getting closer to the result.

    Agile Software Development Life Cycle (ASDL)

    The stages of the agile software development life cycle
    The stages of the Agile software development life cycle

    With this approach, at the end of each iteration, the team can demonstrate the tested incremental value to the client, who assesses the work done, gives feedback, and makes adjustments, if needed. This way, if you are heading in the wrong direction, you can quickly change course while minimizing risks.


    Product value in the Waterfall and Agile development model
    Product value in the Waterfall and Agile development model

    Product value in the Waterfall and Agile development model

    Agile: a philosophy of life

    Agile is a mindset, a whole culture, a philosophy. And like any philosophical movement, Agile has its own thinkers, doctrine, and adherents.

    It all started in 2001 when a group of practitioners gathered together to discuss the future of software development. As a result of this meeting, they established the Agile manifesto, a 68 word statement that identifies:

    4 Dogmas

    The Agile manifesto consists of 4 core values
    The Agile manifesto consists of 4 core values

    12 Principles

    The 12 key principles of the agile manifesto
    Top 12 key principles of the Agile manifesto

    To help Agile adherents follow the philosophy, there are particular methodologies.

    Scrum and Kanban in Agile software development practices

    Agile is an umbrella for several different methodologies, the most common being Scrum and Kanban.


    According to the Scrum Guide, based on empiricism and lean thinking, Scrum is a lightweight framework that helps people, teams, and organizations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems.

    It combines four formal events for inspection and adaptation within one event, the Sprint. They work because they enable implementation of the empirical Scrum pillars: transparency, inspection, and adaptation. Commitment, Focus, Openness, Respect, and Courage are the five values of the Scrum. This means that team members respect and support each other. They commit to goals and talk openly about problems if any occur. They work as a cohesive unit aligned to make the best progress. This is the very essence of Scrum, which has its own roles, ceremonies, and artifacts.

    5 Scrum values and principles
    5 Scrum values and principles

    Scrum roles

    The Scrum team roles and responsibilities
    The Scrum team roles and responsibilities

    The product owner is an individual who directs the team. This person is in charge of the product backlog, value, and vision. The product owner does not manage the team, but works with them and takes responsibility for the outcome at every stage of the software development, the relevance of all developed features, and achievement of maximum value. To some extent, this is the “single source of truth” in the software creation process.

    The Scrum team is a multifunctional group of people responsible for the product creation. It includes developers, business analysts, quality assurance engineers, architects, and other experts depending on the project needs. The team members must self-organize to perform the task effectively, meaning that they should decide themselves how to split the work into tasks and allocate the assignments among individuals. The perfect team size includes 3-10 people. A larger number is inefficient because the more people there are, the more difficult they are to manage.

    The scrum master is a keeper of the process, whose main purpose is to assist the team in achieving the goal. This person ensures that the process runs smoothly by organizing and facilitating critical meetings.

    Scrum ceremonies

    Scrum ceremonies in agile methodology
    Scrum ceremonies in the Agile methodology

    The core principle of Scrum is the division of project development into stages, which are called sprints, that usually last 2-4 weeks. During each sprint, there are five Scrum events that are held to provide transparency and regular communication. They are:

    • Sprint. This is the heartbeat of Scrum and a container of all other events. During the sprint, no changes that may jeopardize the sprint goal are made. Upon receipt of new information, the scope may be refined and renegotiated with the product owner and the product backlog may be revised as needed.
    • Sprint planning. Product owner, team, and scrum master gather to discuss the backlog. The team outlines how much work they can complete within one sprint (sprint backlog).
    • Daily scrum. A 15-minute daily meeting in which the team members discuss the progress and identify blockers.
    • Sprint review. The team shows the amount of work done to the stakeholders, discusses the outcomes, and receives feedback.
    • Sprint retrospective. The team reviews what was successful and what can be improved in the next sprint.

    Scrum artifacts

    Agile Scrum artifacts
    Agile Scrum artifacts

    Product Backlog is a detailed, organized, and constantly updated list of the features, enhancements, tasks, or requirements needed to build or improve a product.

    Sprint Backlog is a set of product backlog tasks that must be accomplished during a sprint.

    Product Increment is the deliverables produced during a sprint. It also includes increments from previous iterations.


    When there is a need to visualize the work process, limit the amount of tasks, and track and optimize the time taken, the Kanban framework is a strong option. This approach involves controlling the process by dividing it into stages. The most common are to do, in progress, review, and done. There can be more, depending on the organizations’ workflow.

    These stages are visualized on a board with stickers detailing tasks, priorities, and deadlines. Employees decide by themselves what to do and in what order to achieve the best result. To automate this process, there are various software tools, such as Jira, Trello, Monday, etc.

    Such a methodology assumes real-time communication and full transparency of work. With the Kanban methodology, managers can see the progress of the team, its weakest link, and its strongest member. Simply put, Kanban enables full clarity, which builds trust, commitment, and motivation of the employees.

    What is the difference between scrum and kanban
    What is the difference between Scrum and Kanban?

    In fact, Scrum and Kanban are not contradictory. They can be used in combination to maximize benefits of Agile methodology.

    Advantages of Agile software development

    It is worth understanding why Agile is so attractive that a growing number of companies choose to adopt it. This is all a matter of the benefits of Agile software development, such as:

    • Response to change. Since one of the main ideas of this approach is flexibility and adaptability, quick response to change is its integral component. Continuous collaboration with clients, acting on their feedback, and reacting to the dynamic conditions provide consistent product improvement.
    • Better control. Iterative delivery implies that complex challenges are broken down into small and manageable tasks allowing project managers to assign resources accordingly, predict costs for each iteration, reduce time consumption, and enhance the workflow.
    • High quality. Immediate client feedback, quality control, and product testing during each iteration allow the project teams to find and manage any issues early in the development life cycle and improve the software.
    • Transparency. The use of flexible approaches, daily meetings, and constant interaction with the client make the entire process visible to both team members and all stakeholders.
    • Minimum risks. Regular demonstrations of product increments to the client allow the team to test the software or a particular feature and, if necessary, to correct the Agile development process at any time.
    • Delayering. With Agile, the main management functions are reallocated to the product owner while the organizational and operational functions are assigned to the team and Scrum-master. The other Agile roles are optional. Thus, it is possible to reduce unnecessary management positions and obtain a convenient and efficient horizontal structure.
    • Focus on value. The product is created according to current trends without the risk of following outdated requirements.
    • Highly motivated team. Employees are entirely responsible for the project implementation, so they are focused on achieving strong results.
    • Accelerated time to market. The product is delivered after developing a single feature or a set of features. This implies that the software elements are released as soon as they are ready and there is no need to wait for the whole product to be finished, which advances the software launch.

    Despite the large number of advantages, Agile is not a panacea: it is not suitable for all businesses.

    Agile is not for everyone

    Agile development methodology is the perfect option when the product is created under conditions of uncertainty and competition. However, this approach is inferior to the classical Waterfall model, when:

    • The product is complex and cannot be decomposed into “subproducts.”
    • The cost of error is too high, i.e., it is impossible to quickly, regularly, and safely demonstrate and deploy versions of the product.
    • The project context is predictable and the requirements are well-known and are not subject to changes. The project requires a wealth of documentation.
    • Thus, the Waterfall model is preferred in the development of sophisticated software for life-support systems, the aviation, military, and nuclear industries.

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    How to adopt Agile

    If you think Agile is exactly what you are missing, here are some tips for implementing Agile in your organization:

    • Choose the appropriate methodology. In addition to the best-known Scrum and Kanban, there are many others. Analyze them and pick the ones that suit you best.
    • Select the tools. Depending on the approaches you choose, there are different software solutions designed to facilitate the work and implementation of the methodology.
    • Prepare your employees. To do this, you will probably need to train them in team activities and involve third-party experts, such as a Scrum Master or a Project Manager.
    • Organize the workflow. Clearly allocate the roles in the formed team and decide on the most suitable tools.
    • Test the methodology on the first project. The team adapts more quickly to the new environment through hands-on experience.
    • Evaluate the results. As a result of the project, you should have a working product that meets the client’s needs. Assess the goals achieved, financial performance, team motivation, time spent on the development and product release, and feedback from the client.

    In the future, you are likely to make some adjustments. Agile is a flexible methodology that relies on constant communication with the team and analysis of the outcomes.

    We have described the key steps for adopting Agile methodology. The detailed algorithm depends on the specifics of each particular business, tasks, and competencies of the executors.

    Top-3 Agile software development examples

    Although Agile has its origins in IT, it is applicable to other fields, ranging from finance to healthcare. Here are a few success stories of non-software companies that adhere to Agile.


    The success of one of the world’s largest music streaming service providers is largely driven by a unique approach to building workflow based on Agile. Spotify’s experience in mastering Agile has influenced the way many companies approach organizing their teams. The core idea is not to follow any particular methodology — instead, each team determines which practice to implement.


    PayPal is a global leader in the payments domain. By the time the company began the transition to business agility, it had already been a solid player in the market. However, the financial services provider faced problems such as leak of project focus, poor dependencies management, and multiple orphaned projects. To solve these issues, the company decided to implement Agile.

    Consequently, they achieved transparency by reflecting all ongoing projects in one place, which optimized dependencies management. Furthermore, teams became closer to their clients due to a deeper understanding of the wants and needs of end users.


    Before using Agile, AstraZeneca, one of the leading science-led biopharmaceutical companies, faced challenges related to poor capacity planning and resource management, lack of data and information transparency, and missing information sharing about projects.

    As a result of Agile implementation, the company created centralized project management and launched a common vision. A well-defined approach for managing work enabled teams to better align projects and activities and improve status reporting, while satisfying stakeholder requirements. All this allowed AstraZeneca to increase production levels and maintain a competitive advantage.


    Adopting Agile methodology can lead to significant improvements in various industries, as demonstrated by the success stories of Spotify, PayPal, and AstraZeneca. By following the key steps for implementing Agile, companies can increase their productivity, improve project management, and enhance their competitiveness in the market.

    Looking for a top-notch Agile software development partner? Contact us to get a project estimate.

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