What is the Agile SDLC and how should you use it?
A traditional software development life cycle front-loads the work. For larger projects, it can take years before you even see a working prototype.
Can you afford to wait for years?
Most startups and smaller companies don’t have the financial runway to wait that long.
Especially if competitors beat you to market or your customers have already moved on to the next shiny solution.
That’s where the Agile SDLC comes in. By prioritizing working software over documentation and planning, you’ll have a showcase-worthy product quicker than you can say “Software Development Life Cycle.”
In this article, we’ll cover exactly what Agile SDLC is, how it differs from a traditional life cycle, and how to implement it for your own projects.
What is the Agile SDLC?
Agile SDLC methodology focuses on collaborative decision making and development over multiple short cycles or sprints, rather than a top-down process with a single series of stages.
The foundation of an Agile SDLC is a cyclical process where you develop software in iterations instead of all in one shot. Your teams work in multiple cycles, which typically last between two and four weeks.
It’s not about a single, everything-included release.
Developers focus on the most important features at any given moment, rather than going “according to plan.”
What is the difference between traditional SDLC and Agile?
To see the difference between a traditional Waterfall SDLC and Agile, you first need to understand both models.
Let’s start with the Waterfall model.
What are the 5 stages of traditional SDLC?
These are the 5 stages of a traditional Waterfall life cycle:
- Requirement analysis
They happen in sequential stages, sometimes taking weeks or months before ever reaching the implementation stage.
For large software projects, where you want to avoid a brand-destroying fiasco at all costs, this seems like it makes sense.
But it’s nearly impossible to predict all the necessary elements before jumping in. So your initial requirement analysis often fails to include everything you need.
Instead, iterations with ongoing testing and communication typically lead to better results.
Only 8% of Agile projects fail, versus a whopping 21% of projects following the waterfall model.
Plus if you’re creating something that’s not built around protecting sensitive information, speed is often the priority. And the traditional SDLC just doesn’t offer speed.
What are the stages of Agile?
When you look at the different stages, Agile might not seem so different. But you have to remember that it breaks a larger project down into smaller cycles or Sprints.
Your team will do the “requirement analysis”, before moving into design and development. Each Sprint ends with a review and test from actual users and customers.
If they sign off on the changes, you jump back to requirement analysis. What are now the most important changes you can make? This context always guides your iterations.
You repeat this process with every Sprint.
That means the real life cycle of Agile development looks more like this:
The key differences between traditional SDLC and Agile
|Carefully planned first version||Speed and adaptability|
|Limited transparency||Full transparency between members|
|Top-down responsibility||Shared responsibility and ownership|
|Initial research and planning||Ongoing research, planning, and testing|
|Different teams in different stages||Ongoing collaboration|
|Focused on delivering full product||Iteration-focused|
The 12 Agile principles should guide every Agile software development project. They further highlight the differences between each SDLC model.
But the main difference between a Waterfall model and an Agile one is their focus.
A Waterfall SDLC focuses on delivering one complete product.
With Agile, you focus on more achievable iterations, which helps guide your team’s immediate actions.
These differences lead to many benefits for Agile methodology adopters. For example, a better ability to manage and adapt to changing priorities as your business develops.
How to implement an Agile SDLC in your company
It’s not as simple as just choosing the Agile SDLC model. You need to follow a process to implement Agile in your own company.
But it doesn’t have to be complicated. If you use the right approach and framework, it can be a smooth transition.
#1: Commit to the transition as a whole
It’s not enough that managers or the owner make a decision. You can’t force Agile software development with a top-down approach. The whole development team needs to be on board.
And it’s not just your developers you need to consider. You also need to involve your key clients and other stakeholders. (A stakeholder is a customer, internal user, manager, or executive with a vested interest in the project’s success.)
Ongoing collaboration with your stakeholders is one of the core values of the Agile methodology.
#2: Internalize the values and principles to shift your mindset
Don’t just read the Agile manifesto once. Arrange meetings with your team to discuss what they mean to your company.
You need to change not just your approach, but your mindset and how you think about projects.
For example, your teams and managers need to accept that they can’t know everything in advance. Just planning the big picture and the first 2 weeks can be a big transition. And that’s only one shift required for adopting Agile principles.
This will take time, and should be an ongoing process even after you have your first Agile team. Mature Agile teams meet their project goals 21% more often than inexperienced teams.
#3: Pick the right Agile framework for your company
How your company should apply the Agile model depends on your development process, size, goals, and needs.
ScrumBan, a mix of Scrum and Kanban, is also becoming a popular framework. These are the most popular options in 2020:
To manage the greater life cycle of multiple products at scale, you can use a scaling Agile framework like SAFe.
The next five steps will be based around the Scrum model as it’s currently the most popular.
#4: Fill and optimize a product backlog
Start your Scrum project by creating a backlog of potential features and required user stories for your product. Your product owner will work closely with stakeholders to develop this list.
How you plan the project long term depends on its complexity. You may use a project roadmap or focus more exclusively on the backlog.
#5: Plan the Sprint (iteration)An iterative model like Scrum focuses on the short term and forces you to prioritize what’s most important at any time.
Set up a meeting with the product owner and all team members and review all the features, stories, and bugs in your backlog. Discuss which ones should be prioritized in the upcoming project Sprint.
Expand on the selected user stories in needed, and create a smart workflow with task ownership and estimated deadlines or story points.
At monday.com, we consider one story point (SP) to be one day’s work and plan 8 SP per 2-week Sprint. This gives our teams the leeway they need to adapt to any bottlenecks or surprising developments, and still deliver on time.
Even an Agile team can’t adapt if it doesn’t have the time to.
Another key to planning an Agile project is assigning ownership. It motivates your employees and keeps them focused on the task at hand.
There’s no better feeling than shifting a user story to “done.”
#6: Hold daily meetings
The daily standup meeting is a pillar of Agile teams whether they use Scrum or other frameworks.
Focus on these three things:
- What you did yesterday
- What you’ll do today
- What’s in your way (roadblocks)
Our remote R&D team uses daily Zoom standups to stay on track. By screensharing the project board, everyone can get up to speed at a glance, improving engagement and accountability.
#7: Test the iteration with your stakeholders
Once you’ve completed the Sprint, you want to test the iteration with all the most important stakeholders.
If they accept the changes, the Sprint was a success, and you can move on to new features and user stories. If not, you need to tackle their issues in the next Sprint.
Our feedback tracker template is a great way to record customer feedback and make sure you’ve captured every stakeholders’ opinion on the latest iteration.
#8: Review your Sprint and evaluate your immediate goals and backlog
After you complete a Sprint, you want to review what went well and what didn’t.
Single out areas for improvement, and consider how the results of the Sprint affect your future backlog priorities.
The Agile life cycle is made up of a lot more than one Sprint — Just because this is the last step doesn’t mean you’re done.
It’s time to rinse and repeat the process and keep producing functional iterations of your product until you’ve delivered the final version that meets all your customers needs.
Instead of a static process, with Agile SDLC your team will adapt along with your company and customers.
That’s the beauty of iterative Agile development.
As your customers’ needs change, so will your product roadmap and the goal of your Sprints.
The foundation of a productive Agile process is a well-maintained product backlog. Ongoing collaboration with your stakeholders is key.
You can use monday.com’s feature backlog template to easily manage, share, and optimize your backlogs.