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What Is Agile Software Development?

What Is Agile Software Development?
Sastri Munsamy
Executive: Technology and Innovation

Many things get called “Agile”, especially by people who are trying to sell you something. For software developers, it is a method of developing software that your organisation can learn. The Agile manifesto makes it clear that it is not a methodology, a specific way of doing software development, a framework or a process.


Rather, Agile is a set of values and principles. Much of the discussion around Agile has to do with following different practices using various methodologies and developing specific tools. While tools might help a team who is trying to follow Agile, they are Agile because of the way they work together, with clients, and other stakeholders in the business. For example, while a team may find having a daily stand up meeting helpful, the meeting is only Agile to the extent that it is the result of a team following Agile principles and values. When you understand this, it is easy to see that Agile is really a collection of beliefs that teams can use for making decisions on how to do the work of developing software.


Agile Values

Once you truly understand what Agile is, it is surprisingly flexible. Agile does not make decisions for you. Instead, it gives you a foundation that teams can use to make decisions that result in better software development. The Agile manifesto is only 68 words and simply says that we can develop software better by valuing the items on the left side of the list more than the values on the right side of the list:


Individuals and interactions Processes and tools
Working software Comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration Contract negotiation
Responding to change Following a plan

Principles Of Agile

In addition to the values of the manifesto, there are 12 principles that support the manifesto:


  • Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  • Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  • Business and IT staff must work together daily throughout the project.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and the support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information in a development team is face-to-face conversations.
  • Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  • Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  • Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  • Simplicity – the art of maximising the amount of work not done – is essential.
  • The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.

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