The Agile methodology originated in software development but has since spread to many other areas of business due to its effectiveness. The Agile methodology eschews big product launches in favor of smaller, more incremental goals. In Agile development, teams constantly evaluate their tasks and processes so they can continually improve their products and performance.
There are many different types of Agile methodologies, including Scrum, Lean, Extreme Programming (XP), and more. All of these methodologies share principles that help unify them under the larger Agile approach. No matter what flavor of methodology you prefer, it’s important to keep in mind several best practices for effective Agile software development.
Learn more about Agile methodologies: What is Agile Development? Agile Methodologies & Processes
Customer and stakeholder collaboration
Under a traditional software development structure, customers are only consulted at two points of the product development process: at the very beginning during the information gathering and brainstorming stages and at the very end when testing the mostly-final product.
However, Agile takes a completely different approach and involves the customer and/or stakeholder throughout every step of the entire process. This ensures that the final product actually meets as many of the end user’s needs as possible. It also means developers can make tweaks along the way instead of having to overhaul 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 employ some variation of it.
The daily check-ins consist of a short meeting no longer than 15 minutes so each team member can update everyone else on what they are working on that day. These meetings promote transparency and accountability, reduce duplicate work, and prevent communication issues that could create roadblocks.
While having a meeting every day may seem like overkill, it ensures that delays of even a single business day don’t happen. You never have to wait until the next meeting to bring something up, 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 check-in meetings throughout the week to encourage transparency.
Read more on Project-Management.com: Establishing Meeting Cadence 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 those daily check-in meetings were often held in person.
However, with more teams shifting to remote work, people are developing new principles for Agile communication via remote channels, such as requiring notifications via Slack for certain task completions. Video conferencing software is also essential for team members working in different locations to be able to collaborate and problem solve without being together in person.
These communication best practices will continue to evolve as hybrid and remote work do too. Likewise, Agile developers will continue to find ways to advocate for transparent communication, even when the whole team is distributed across various time zones and work schedules.
Deciding which tasks to complete and in what order is an essential aspect of Agile development. There are many different methods for setting these priorities; some popular approaches include MoSCoW (Must-haves, Should-haves, Could-haves, Won’t-haves) and first-in/first-out.
It can take some trial and error to choose the right task prioritization model for the project at hand. In some cases, it becomes necessary to switch approaches altogether as the nature of work changes and the team evolves.
Read more on Project-Management.com: How to Improve Your Team’s Task Prioritization
Sprint setup and retrospective
Sprints are time-limited periods during which a team tries to complete a defined set of tasks. Tasks are assigned in order from most important to least, and each team member has a clearly defined set of responsibilities that are aligned with each task.
Proper sprint set-up is essential; the team needs enough tasks in the backlog to fully fill the sprint, but not so many that they risk losing focus and edging into scope creep.
Before the sprint begins, it’s important to identify dependencies (tasks that can’t be done until another task is complete) to prevent bottlenecks. After the sprint is completed, the team should have a retrospective meeting to identify what worked and what didn’t—this enables process refinement and ongoing innovation from one sprint to the next.
What tools can help with Agile development?
Without best practices in place, Agile software development can be challenging. Thankfully, Agile project management tools can help with effective collaboration, efficient stand-up meetings, productive communication, strategic task prioritization, and functional sprint structuring.
Use our list of the Best Agile Project Management Tools as a starting point to pick the best solution for your organization.