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The Business Owner’s Guide to Agile SDLC

Learn everything you need to know about the Agile software development lifecycle and how to apply its potential to your business.

Motion Blog
at Motion
Nov 28, 2023
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If you and your team are working your hardest but can’t seem to keep up with the speed of client demands, it’s time to consider Agile.

According to a recent study by KPMG, 71% of project teams who adopted Agile methodologies felt they measurably improved project delivery.

In this article, we’ll show you how the Agile software development lifecycle (SDLC) can be applied to any business to speed up your responsiveness. Say goodbye to rigid project management and hello to flexible and adaptable workflows!

What is the Agile software development lifecycle?

The Agile software development lifecycle (SDLC) model is an iterative approach to software development. This means that rather than delivering your project or software in one big final delivery, features or other work items are delivered in smaller pieces throughout the total project timeline.

Agile is all about making sure that the way you work has enough flexibility to allow you to change course during project execution. It also centers on making collaboration with users, staff, and clients as effortless as possible. By getting customer feedback throughout the development process, you know you’re on the right track at the end of every sprint, rather than getting to the end of the project to find that you’re not quite where you need to be.

The SDLC model may have come from software development, but the best thing about Agile models and frameworks is that their principles can be applied to all kinds of businesses and projects.

There are many project management methodologies to consider when choosing one for your business. So, how does Agile SDLC compare?

How does Agile SDLC differ from waterfall SDLC?

The Agile software development lifecycle (SDLC) and the waterfall methodology are two distinct project management methodologies for software development. They have fundamental differences in their approaches and their core principles.

When comparing Agile and waterfall, there are four key differences:

1. How they approach project management and software development:

Agile is all about iterative, flexible development in small increments. This makes it ideal for businesses that need to be more reactive to client needs.

Waterfall, however, follows a rigid, sequential structure. This is better suited when the software needs to be delivered all at once to be usable. For example, think about the embedded software in a Tesla's navigation system. An overall delivery date and completed package need to be developed. It doesn't make sense to release the software in small steps, so it must be delivered in one go. Waterfall is excellent for these types of projects.

2. Customer involvement:

Agile prioritizes regular customer collaboration and feedback. Having a framework that is flexible enough to bend to client demand is crucial. This is where Agile shines.

With waterfall, however, customers are only involved for specific purposes and more formally, like a design review for a particular completed phase of the project or a user acceptance test once the software is complete.

A series of steps beside a revolving loop

3. How they manage risk:

Agile's customer-focused, flexible approach mitigates the risk of delivering a product that doesn't meet customer needs. This is helpful for all kinds of businesses because features (or project tasks) are delivered in smaller increments to keep them aligned with client goals. The best part about Agile is that you can course-correct as you go.

Waterfall's fixed requirements, however, may lead to higher risk if market conditions or customer needs change. This is because you deliver the project all at once after completing the entire project lifecycle. You only get feedback at specific events, which could mean that if you’re off-course mid-project, you might not know until it’s too late.

4. How projects are delivered:

At the end of the waterfall SDLC life cycle, the project is delivered in one go. Scrum SDLC is delivered in smaller pieces as each iteration (sprint) is completed. So Agile SDLC (with Scrum) is different from traditional waterfall SDLC because, within the six Agile phases, the development and release of project deliverables are iterative.

Agile's ability to adapt to rapid change makes it a more suitable choice for your business if you're looking for flexibility. The Agile methodology allows for responsiveness to market changes and evolving customer wants and needs. Your product or services can be delivered in increments to ensure they continue to meet requirements.

Waterfall might be a better fit if your products or services need to be delivered simultaneously, like installing air conditioners or selling cars. This article will focus solely on the Agile SDLC.

Which Agile frameworks can I use to implement Agile SDLC?

First, you could start with the Agile principles of customer collaboration, working software, and responding to change. Then, you could take some tools from Kanban, like Kanban boards, to visualize work in progress and help you focus your team on what they should be working on. These boards manage the flow of tasks and limit how many tasks your software development team works on at once.

You could also try lean software development practices to identify and remove waste in your current work processes. Lean helps you continuously track and analyze work processes to adapt how you work.

The most popular approach to implementing the Agile SDLC is the Scrum framework.

Using Scrum to implement the six phases of the Agile SDLC model

Scrum is a structured framework that streamlines your project phases. It features set roles like the product owner, Scrum master, and the development team.

‎Key Scrum artifacts like the product backlog and Sprint backlog maintain clarity about what needs to be worked on for the entire project and each sprint or iteration.

‎Scrum ceremonies, like the sprint planning meetingdaily stand-up, Sprint review, and sprint retrospective, synchronize activities and adapt to quick changes in your projects. This iterative approach helps you adapt while still delivering high-quality work.

‎With that quick review of Scrum, here are the six phases of the Agile SDLC into which these Scrum features fit nicely.

1. Concept (idea generation and planning):

The concept phase is the start of your project. In this stage, you generate the initial idea for the project or discuss it with your client. It's a time for brainstorming and planning.

If you were applying the Scrum framework to this phase, the product owner would play a crucial role, defining all of the features required for the project and prioritizing them correctly. This prepares the project backlog from which activities will be chosen to be completed in the first sprint.

Key activities in the concept phase include:

  • Considering your (or the client’s) goals
  • Forming an idea of what you want to create
  • Gathering your Scrum team, including the product owner, Scrum master, and development team. This is the critical difference in this phase between Scrum SDLC and waterfall SDLC, which has resources with no standard roles.
  • Initiating the product backlog. Your product owner manages this. This will be critical to ‌Scrum iterations (sprints) in phases three and four.

2. Inception (project kick-off):

Inception marks the beginning of your project. In Scrum, this also aligns with the initiation of a project. After the brainstorming and idea generation done in the concept phase:

  1. Evaluate the feasibility of your project.
  2. Consider customer needs and any user stories.
  3. If it makes sense to proceed, set clear goals and objectives your software (or project) must achieve.

Set your timeline and determine your task dependencies and critical path to complete the software or project. Most Agile projects will not have a critical path, per se, but will have a target timeline, and dependencies between elements of the product backlog and between scrum tasks.

3. Iteration (development and testing):

The iteration phase is where the real work begins. You begin completing the development by working in short development cycles called sprints, typically lasting 2–4 weeks. Your development team will focus on sprint backlog activities divided into smaller tasks.

The goal is to deliver a‌ shippable, high-quality product increment at the end of each sprint. Regular sprint review and sprint retrospective ceremonies will help build a culture of continuous improvement and will pull regular customer feedback into the fold to improve feature outcomes.

A circle with six segments

‎4. Release (deployment):

During this phase, your product is prepared for customer deployment. The development is complete, and you're ready to share it with the world.

In Scrum, the release phase might align with the end of each sprint. When your product increment is in good shape and tested, it can be released to customers. This release may include the output of more than one sprint to meet a specific client objective.

The product owner decides when to release features based on the value that they will deliver. Be prepared to make updates based on customer feedback, as the Agile methodology promotes responding to change over following a set plan.

Continuous delivery and integration practices are essential in this phase to ensure a smooth and automated deployment process that meets your original concept and factors in all client and market demands.

5. Maintenance (post-launch support):

After releasing your product, you continue to support it. This could include fixing issues, making improvements, and making sure it runs smoothly for your customers. Customer satisfaction is at the core of Agile SDLC and should be at the center of everything you do.

Keep a close eye on your product's performance and consider customer feedback. Address issues promptly throughout the maintenance of the product and make updates to enhance the user experience (UX).

6. Retirement (end-of-life considerations):

At some point, your product may become outdated or less relevant. The retirement phase is when you decide to discontinue it, either because a replacement is available or it's no longer needed.

In Agile and Scrum, even product retirement is a planned and deliberate iterative process. When your product ends its useful life, plan for its retirement in alignment with the product owner's responsibilities. Your goal here is a smooth transition for any remaining users and, if applicable, migrating valuable data or features to newer products or versions.

Scrum's commitment to transparency and inspection means that even decisions related to product retirement are well-documented and communicated. This applies to Scrum's review processes, continuous improvement practices, and the development life cycle.

Implementing Agile SDLC with Scrum's well-defined roles, ceremonies, and artifacts offers project managers a structured yet adaptable approach. The phases of Agile SDLC align with Scrum's core principles of collaboration, feedback, and continuous improvement.

Whether generating ideas, launching a project, or considering the retirement of a product, Scrum can guide you through each phase of the Agile journey with its out-of-the-box roles, ceremonies, and processes.

Three ways to get started with the Agile SDLC model in your business right now

1. Start with small iterations:

Develop your product backlog with the help of your product owner, with elements prioritized by value.

Break your projects into small, manageable iterations or sprints.

Focus on delivering small, valuable increments of the project in each sprint, typically lasting 2–4 weeks.

2. Give your team cross-functional team responsibilities:

  • Spread accountability and give your team leadership opportunities by allowing them to use their functional skills (design, coding, copywriting, etc) while building skills in Scrum project management.
  • Empower these Agile teams to make decisions and allow a dedicated product owner to manage priorities–freeing you up from the detailed decision-making.
  • Assign a Scrum Master or Agile Coach to facilitate the Agile process in your business.

3. Embrace continuous feedback with project management software:

  • Take advantage of Agile project management software to manage your projectstrack task progress, and maintain a clear view of tasks and priorities in one central place.
  • Let an AI meeting assistant auto-schedule your meetings. Let it handle your daily stand-ups and sprint retrospectives to keep the team in sync and continuously improve the development process.
  • Store all your notes and auto-assign your meeting action items in one place.

Motion: Your partner in Agile project management

While changing your entire project workflow might seem daunting, the best thing about Agile is that you can roll it out incrementally. And in the meantime, Motion can manage the admin for you.

Motion is your AI-powered personal assistant app that helps you get 25% more done daily. But don't take our word for it. Here's what one of our clients had to say:

"I tried Motion for the first time, and I thought, ‘Wow! Motion is easily the most exciting tool I've used in a very, very long time.’ " - Julian Weisser, Co-Founder and editor-in-chief at On Deck.

Motion automatically schedules tasks on your employees' calendars representing the most critical and urgent work. As you prioritize your tasks, Motion manages them so that your team always knows the most important task to work on next – it’s right in front of them on their calendars. While you focus on the bigger picture (better agility), your team can focus on deep work.

Best of all, you can access all of this and more right now!

Try Motion FREE today!

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