Understanding Agile Software Development and How It Can Help Your Team

Understanding Agile Software Development and How It Can Help Your Team

More and more development teams are turning toward an Agile approach and for a good reason. Recent studies suggest that organizations adopting an Agile approach experienced a 71% increase in project cost reduction. Development teams are finding they can speed up software development without sacrificing quality.

The Agile approach is thought to have started in the mid-90s. Software developers mixed old ideas with inventive, new ideas and combined them into new methodologies. They found the new methodologies to be impactful, so they created a framework to spread their ideas to other teams. Their frameworks—Scrum, Extreme Programming, Feature-Driven Development (FDD), and the Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)—began to appear. From there, teams all over started to tweak this approach to fit their unique needs.

The Agile approach can help software development teams embrace the power of collaboration and self-organization. In this post, we’ll explain how it can benefit distributed teams, in particular.

Agile software development basics

Many industries have adopted Agile. With more than 50% of hiring managers using independent professionals for more strategic work, it’s no surprise that the Agile approach is regularly applied to software development.

With this in mind, we’ll jump into some of the basic principles of Agile.

The Agile Manifesto

The values of Agile Manifesto as applied to software development include:

  • Individuals and interactions
  • Working software
  • Customer collaboration
  • Responding to change

These four values of the Agile Manifesto have expanded into the 12 Principles. These principles elaborate on the most fundamental truths of an Agile approach. The highest priority of this approach is customer satisfaction with consistent software delivery.

For your hybrid team, this means you can adapt to ever-changing environments by embracing collaboration, promoting sustainable development, and paying attention to detail.

The Agile approach vs. the “Waterfall” process

The “waterfall” approach is the more traditional approach to software development. It focuses on the stages of software development. Generally speaking, each stage must be completed before the next can begin.

The waterfall approach has seven basic steps:

  1. Note requirements
  2. Design
  3. Code and unit test
  4. System testing
  5. User acceptance testing
  6. Fix issues
  7. Deliver finished software

This approach lacks the constant feedback of Agile. A software development team could be working on a project for months, only to discover that the client does not like the finished project. Furthermore, it’s less adaptable. Requirements are constantly changing, and a team’s approach to development should be flexible.

Agile software development: More key concepts

With adaptiveness and efficient response to change in mind, the Agile method has come to encompass much more. Over time, teams have refined the approach and come up with key concepts that help to apply the methodology to an array of teams.

Now, the Agile framework goes beyond Scrum and Extreme Programming. Instead, Agile encompasses a larger variety of practices and principals.

Here is a breakdown of two Agile concepts:

  • Scrum: This concept is used to manage product development by providing teams with the means to determine a hypothesis, experiment, reflect on their experience, and revise areas that need improvement. This is best for cross-functional teams that can divide the work and complete it between two weeks to a month.
  • Extreme Programming (XP): Focused on producing better software while simultaneously improving the lives of development team members, this concept was developed to improve the quality of products and life for the development team. This is best for teams with constantly changing software requirements, small teams, and technology that allows for automated unit and functional tests.

How Agile software development can help your team succeed

Over time, the Agile method has become widely revered and accepted in the software industry and beyond, and that is for a good reason. In this next section, we’ll discuss how this method can help your development team. Here are seven of the most valuable benefits of Agile:

  • The approach is adaptable
  • User-first focus
  • Reduced risk
  • Increased productivity
  • Transparency
  • Higher quality
  • Return on investment

The approach is adaptable

The Agile framework empowers team members to collaborate with Daily Scrum meetings and Sprint Reviews. With Daily Scrum, team members meet every day for about 15 minutes to coordinate essential tasks.

Ultimately, teams walk out of Daily Scrum with these benefits:

  • They avoid anything falling through the cracks. Instead, every team member knows what issues are going on and can offer a hand to help or change the concept.
  • When a team meets daily, they are in an environment that values their sharing and promotes team cohesion. This is especially helpful in developing transparency for distributed teams.
  • These meetings are short. It’s better for the team to quickly and effectively get the information and move on.

The adaptable nature of the Agile approach helps teams stay focused on the individual goals of that release. They can refine and focus on their high-priority goals. Because of this adaptability, teams can focus on what is most important and introduce new changes in the next iteration.

User-first focus

The feedback aspect of the Agile approach embraces user stories and experiences. It provides teams with the opportunity to beta test software and to gain unique insights. Team members can then improve software and develop a better product for users, which will result in more satisfied customers.

Reduced risk

Going off customer feedback, teams can reduce the risk of the product being a complete failure. The extreme focus on collaboration ensures all team members are aware of the feedback and can design the software to suit their needs.

Plus, each team member’s voice is heard, empowering every individual to voice concerns or add input to improve the software.

Increased productivity

Because the Agile method relies on incremental releases and milestones, goals are more manageable. Teams have Sprints, which consist of a planning and review phase. A Sprint helps team members know their goals and accomplish tasks within the defined time frame.

Here is the breakdown of a Sprint:

  • The team will meet and discuss backlogged items. They will include these issues in their next Sprint.
  • Determine how the team will execute its goals. Teams must outline their goals and set milestones.
  • The team must meet for Daily Scrum meetings to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
  • The Sprint ends with the Sprint Review. The entire team will review the results of the Sprint with product investors, with the goal of gaining insightful feedback.
  • Any feedback that the team receives during this review will go into the Product Backlog to be considered in the future.


Collaboration at every level of the organization improves transparency when developing a product. Every member of the software development team will understand what other team members are doing on the project, as well as investors.

The Sprint Review is particularly helpful in informing stakeholders about progress.

Higher quality

The Agile approach breaks down the project into incremental goals. This allows the software development team to produce high-quality software by testing and collaborating every step of the way.

Constantly testing software ensures that issues can be addressed and quickly fixed, which ultimately leads to a powerful product.

Return on investment

Software development teams taking on the Agile method are more likely to receive a higher return on investment for these reasons:

  • Adaptability allows them to stay ahead of the competition
  • Software is ready faster
  • Increased user satisfaction
  • Better-quality software

Building an Agile and effective team

The Agile approach to software development is constantly evolving as teams learn from putting it into practice. As a result, this process has helped developers form a practical framework to improve software development.

The Agile approach can help teams better develop their apps and increase customer satisfaction. Upwork provides a number of resources for your business to successfully implement an Agile approach while also connecting you with the best independent software developers across the world.


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Understanding Agile Software Development and How It Can Help Your Team
The Upwork Team

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