For many developers, the Agile development process is the only way to keep up with the iterative nature of software development. By taking a long project and dividing it into smaller chunks that can be handled on a faster time scale and with greater efficacy, the Agile development cycle allows these teams to stay relevant in a constantly shifting industry.

However, while the basics of the Agile development cycle can help developers to improve their efficiency, unless you are taking purposeful steps to employ best practices throughout the process, you won’t be able to fully optimize each cycle.

With this article, we seek to guide you through the Agile development cycle, taking it step by step to see where things can be improved. Our hope is that we can point you in the right direction in order to run better projects and create better products. Let’s get started.

agile development cycle

Agile Lifecycle

The first thing that we want to cover in regards to the Agile development cycle is the different methodologies can be employed. While each of these Agile methodologies are unique in their own ways, they each share the same goal of delivering working technology as fast as possible while still being able to adapt to change.

For beginner Agile developers, here are a few of the methodologies you have to choose from:

  • Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD)
  • Adaptive Software Development
  • Kanban
  • Scrum
  • Extreme Programming (XP)
  • Dynamic Systems Development (DSDM)
  • Feature Driven Development
  • Lean Software Development

Typically, we recommend working with the Kanban or Scrum development process, as they are highly effective systems for software development. However, your team should discuss amongst itself which methodology you want to work with based on skillsets and personal preference.

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Agile Process

No matter which methodology you decided to work with, each of the following tips for optimization will work across all Agile development strategies and cycles. However, in order to divide the process, we have laid out 6 steps to the Agile process. While these won’t be exactly the same across Agile methodologies, the basics will remain consistent across the board.

Let’s start by talking about step one: the concept.

Step 1: Concept

The first step in any Agile development cycle is to conceptualize and prioritize your development project. Obviously, you should already have a good idea of what you are hoping to build, but this is the time where you will really want to flush out your idea and begin brainstorming ideas for features and use cases with your team.

Once you have made a list of the different items that will need to be taken on in the project, you will need to prioritize this backlog of ideas that will go into the product. While we have already covered this topic in-depth, it is important to put yourself into the shoes of your end-users here in order to build the best possible software product.

Step 2: Inception

After you have taken the time to prioritize your product backlog, the next step in the Agile development cycle is the inception or beginning of the project. Here, you will make sure that you have the right team, funding, and expectations for your project. This is an important step, as once you begin developing the software, you won’t want to revisit this step.

Again, when it comes to choosing your Agile team, we have already put together a guide to optimizing this process. That being said, it is worth restating how important it is to focus on finding a team that can build out the environment your users need and create an exceptional experience. Keep this in mind at this stage in the process.

Step 3: Iterative Development

When it comes to the actual process of developing your software, iterative development or ‘sprints’ will be your best tool for success. In order to optimize your sprints, be sure to hit each of the following points on this checklist.

  • Requirements – Define the requirements for the iteration based on the product backlog, sprint backlog, customer and stakeholder feedback
  • Development – Design and develop software based on defined requirements
  • Testing – QA (Quality Assurance) testing, internal and external training, documentation development
  • Delivery – Integrate and deliver the working iteration into production
  • Feedback – Accept customer and stakeholder feedback and work it into the requirements of the next iteration

Only once you have gone through this process does the Agile development cycle begin again, allowing you to reflect on your progress and put forward ideas from your users’ feedback to continuously improve. Then, once you reach the goals of the development, you can begin planning for the release of your product and everything that comes with it.

Step 4: Release

As you begin to put the finishing touches on your product, it can be easy to start celebrating a job well done. Unfortunately, there is still much to be done in order to ensure that all of your hard work doesn’t go to waste. From QA training to document production to app store optimization, there are multiple ways you can set yourself up for success at this point in the Agile development cycle.

Our advice is to focus on the critical aspects of your software, namely the value it provides the user experience it offers. While there will be other considerations here, these are the aspects of your product that will keep users coming back. The rest can be adjusted as needed in the maintenance portion of the development cycle.

Step 5: Maintenance

Speaking of, once you have released your app or software, there will still be a certain level of development that needs to be done. Primarily, testing, maintenance, and gathering feedback for further improvements.

Many Agile teams struggle here, as they want to move on to the next project. However, this is an important part of the Agile development cycle and shouldn’t be ignored. By making subtle changes, you can vastly improve the performance and experience of your software. While it may not be as exciting as building something new, it’s what can separate you from the field.

Step 6: Retire or Repeat

Once the Agile development cycle has been completed, you are left with two different options: retire or repeat. By this we simply mean that at a certain point your project will either come to a point where it needs to be rebuilt or retired, as software without updates will become useless pretty quickly.

That being said, this shouldn’t be seen as a failure by you or your team. Rebuilding allows you to take what you learned in the previous Agile development cycle and apply it to a new project. Not only will this take less time, but it will likely be an even better product in the long run.

Final thoughts

As you can see, the Agile methodology and development cycle have unique aspects that can be taken advantage of throughout the process to create better products and achieve loftier goals. By following this guide, you will be able to exceed your expectations while working under a similar timeframe.

This, ultimately, is why we use the Agile development cycle and why it has been consistently improving since its creation. As we move forward with technological advancement, so to must our project management methodologies evolve with us. We hope that you are able to take what you learned here and apply it to your next project!