What is Agile Methodology?

What it teaches:

Traditionally, software has been developed using a process called Waterfall Methodology. In recent years, a new way using Agile Methodology emerged and fundamentally changed how we think about software development and other projects. This video explains the basics of Agile Methodology. Using an analogy of two road-tripping teams, this video highlights how Agile Methodology offers the chance to reach better than expected outcomes. It teaches:

  • The two basic approaches to software projects: Agile and Waterfall
  • The role of continuous iteration and cycles of development
  • Why the final destination is not always known in Agile projects
  • How Agile projects can produce unexpected results

Video Transcript:

The dragons and the sharks are two teams who both love to develop software…and recently clients came to them independently with exactly the same needs. How they each complete these projects highlights an emerging way that software is created.

Each team sees software development as a road trip - like trying to get from the east coast to the west coast efficiently and with the best possible outcome for their clients. Right now, everyone involved expects Portland, Oregon to be the ideal place to land.

The dragons are planners. Here one group may research, test and plan every part of the trip and hand-off responsibility to other groups for putting those plans into action.

They make assumptions early in the process that defines the path forward.

The sharks, however, look at their journey a little differently. Portland looks good to them now, but they prefer to keep their options open and learn along the way.

While the dragons are still planning, the sharks get on the road as quickly as possible. Rather than handing off the driving to different teams, they take a mixed team with them throughout the trip.

They look at the trip as a series of sections or legs – and each leg informs the next. At every step, their team takes time to reflect on what they’ve learned and whether or not the route should change. This way, the next leg starts with lessons they learned from the last.

This repeated cycle means the Sharks may move more slowly than the dragons. It also means that the final destination, or what it will take to get there, isn’t always known ahead of time.

While the dragons stay focused on that address in Portland...the sharks reach the Rockies and discover that Portland may not be the best destination for their client’s goals.

Their tests and discussions show real potential in heading towards San Francisco instead. The closer they get to the coast, the more new information guides their way.

In this simple example, the sharks are using agile methodology – with frequent cycles of iteration. They understand that up-front planning is helpful, but the best outcomes come from learning from experience. They plan for change, respond to data and communicate clearly within a diverse team.

The dragons, on the other hand, use the traditional waterfall method, where upfront plans are followed throughout the project.

At the end of the trip, both the sharks and dragons reach the west coast successfully, but at different places.

Portland works for the dragons. But because their early assumptions were a little off, they nearly ran out of gas and didn’t prepare for the weather. By following the plan, client expectations were met.

But the sharks are celebrating in San Jose. Their software works and solves problems their clients didn’t know existed. They discovered a new destination that exceeded their client’s expectations.

While Waterfall methodology can be ideal for some types of projects, Agile Methodology gives software teams the chance to make their outcomes even better than expected.


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