THE PROS AND CONS OF AGILE DEVELOPMENT

As organizations explore different methods for managing IT development, it is important to recognize the advantages as well as the disadvantages of Agile Development.  Since this term was officially coined in 2001 during the formulation of the Agile Manifesto, the very notion of agility has stirred much discussion among the software industry.  Depending upon the organizational mindset as well as its perspectives, many of the inherent strengths of agile development have come to be interpreted to be flaws, while some of its weaknesses have similarly come to be considered as strong points.  Keeping this in mind, we have explored the overall pros and cons of the Agile Development approach.

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Pros:

  1. Adaptability:  Agility is the inherent flexibility to switch gears as required to guarantee the right project deliverables.
  2. Proven Success:  Agile projects are demonstrated to be 3 times more successful than the traditional waterfall approach, thanks to a decreased amount of time and cost overruns. Agile teams have proven to be extremely efficient and deliver critical business value faster.
  3. Testing in Components:  In an agile environment, prior software testing techniques still apply in a continuous manner.  There is no need to reinvent the wheel, just one’s conception of when testing should occur.  This continuous testing helps to guarantee the quality of the product without calling for a prolonged test phase at the conclusion of the project.
  4. Knowledge Feedback Loop:  A rigid learning feedback loop pattern enables the team to be more responsive and quickly identify the best possible solutions.
  5. Valued Team Members:  Agility is particularly valuable to small teams whose requirements are constantly changing.  In addition, team members consistently indicate that they feel that their input and participation is highly valued.
  6. Engaged Team Members:  The distinctive agile development process can be intrinsically appealing for team members who are accustomed to traditional methods.  It can also drive them to ensure the timely delivery of the proper product.
  7. Decreased Wait Times:  Codes don’t take as long to be delivered.  In addition, defects or bugs don’t take as long to be repaired.
  8. Values and Principles: Agile methods emphasize values and principles rather than processes.
  9. Re-evaluation:  Depending on the project, the various priorities are reassessed on an ongoing basis in cycles that can go anywhere from one week to a month or even longer.

Cons:

  1. Cultural Change:  Since agile development requires committing to a rather different approach of doing business, the process alone can be overwhelming.  It actually requires a paradigm shift in which the organizational mindset and practices must be adapted.
  2. Lack of Specifications:  The project is never completely defined at the outset, since the agile development approach prides itself in the ability to quickly refactor the product along the way.  This particularity can be disconcerting to developers who are accustomed to dealing with clearly defined specifications.
  3. Shift in Attitude:  Some developers can misunderstand the inherent differences of agile methods and shift into a nonchalant attitude, undermining the inherent rigor required to see their project through to fruition.
  4. Intensity of Iterations:  Agility requires a different level of intensity to perform the many iterations, which can actually become a source of mental fatigue.  For example, developers must fully complete each feature within an iteration.
  5. Testing:  Most of the testing is required before the project has even been finished and can end up being costly.  This necessitates the use of testers throughout the project, which can adversely impact the overall cost of the project and result in over-runs.
  6. Close Collaboration:  A key principle of agility, such as close collaborative efforts, can be extremely taxing on the team since it requires continuous active user involvement.
  7. Decreased Predictability:  Because software functionality evolves during development, there is a certain level of unpredictability of what exactly the project will end up delivering.  This can lead to a more challenging negotiation for fixed price projects.
  8. Management Downward Flow:  Agility necessitates a unique level of commitment to different techniques.  As such, this commitment must initiate from management down to the team and back up again.
  9. Slope Creep:  Agility’s inherent flexibility creates the potential for introducing a heightened risk of an eternal project.

Built upon simple concepts, the Agile Development approach appears to be a viable solution for software development project failure.  However, as with any system or process, there are numerous pros and cons that must be considered.  It is up to your organization’s team to determine whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages or vice versa.  In any case, change must sometimes inevitably happen for progress to take place.  As such, your team should select an approach with which it feels comfortable.  Alternatively, it could also veer towards opting for a more robust hybrid approach that incorporates the most suitable methods from both the agile and traditional worlds.

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