Discover the different Agile software development frameworks and how they can benefit your organization
Ever worked on a project where your team never seemed to be on the same page? Did they struggle to distribute work and meet deadlines? You’re not alone.
It doesn’t mean that your project has no potential, or that your team isn’t talented. You’re just not using the right project management strategies.
But the solution is simple: you need an Agile development framework.
In this post, we’ll walk you through Agile practices and show you which Agile software development frameworks to be aware of before starting your next project.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Ready to build your own custom software with a team that cares about you and your processes? We’re not code monkeys, we care about you. Get in touch. We don’t byte.
An Agile framework works by dividing a larger project into multiple phases. But that’s not all.
Agile frameworks support software development teams to stay flexible and responsive to obstacles. They involve purposeful communication and collaboration to keep your project on track, meet deadlines, and deliver high-quality results.
Most Agile frameworks begin with a planning period. Tasks are assigned points based on how long they’re expected to take to complete, and work is then sorted into smaller iterations according to the team’s capacity.
From there, several meetings are set up along the way to maintain team communication, such as weekly “standups” (running through work in progress) and backlog refinements to ensure that all future work is still on track to be completed by set deadlines.
Agile project management may have originally been created for software developers, but it’s applicable to many different fields. Let’s look more closely at the principles of Agile software development.
The Agile Manifesto outlines 4 key principles of prioritization:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
4 key values of Agile methodology
When organizations implement Agile structures, they often quickly see improvements in workflow and productivity. A few benefits of Agile development include:
Improved planning and project predictability
Increased customer satisfaction
Increased team flexibility
Higher team morale
Lower risk levels
Increased overall product quality
These benefits are a result of increased team collaboration and the ability to respond rapidly to changing requirements.
Teams who rigidly stick to a plan that was written out months in advance may fall behind or become frustrated when their schedules don’t account for risks and pitfalls. Cross-functional teams with complementary skillsets often see some of the largest benefits when using Agile approaches.
Additionally, working on a continuous delivery cycle, such as the sprints outlined in the Scrum framework, allows for a more efficient feedback loop with customers. Suggestions can then be implemented, and a higher-quality product will be delivered. Your Scrum team will be able to meet both customer needs and business needs at a more efficient rate and in a smaller timeframe.
There are several established Agile frameworks in existence, each with its own unique methodology.
In this section, you’ll discover four of the top-performing frameworks and understand their differences, so you can decide which best fits within your organization’s existing processes.
At NaNLABS, we choose which Agile framework to use depending on the project. Sometimes we use more than one together. The most common combination is Kanban + Scrum.
Scrum is one of the most commonly used and well-known of all software development methodologies. Scrum.org defines it as “a lightweight framework that helps people, teams, and organizations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems.”
A defining feature of Scrum is the way that work is divided into smaller planning periods lasting around 2-4 weeks, called “sprints”. Working within these sprints helps even small teams remain flexible and efficient.
Kanban, the Japanese word for “card” or “signboard”, relies on the use of visuals for planning purposes. Tasks are displayed on cards, which are then placed and sorted on digital or tangible boards and moved into different categories or columns as work progresses.
A few examples of columns often used on Kanban boards include
This methodology is great for teams with members who rely on or work best with visual instructions. That way, each individual can visibly see how each task is progressing and adapt as necessary.
Kanban cards typically contain detailed information about each task, such as who’s assigned, when it’s due, and other instructions to help the assignee complete it.
Kanban can also be used in addition to other Agile methodologies. For example, a team operating with Scrum principles may use a Kanban board to place tasks into sprints and visually move them around as work progresses.
Lean software development is a bit less structured than other Agile frameworks. Instead, it serves as a guiding set of principles built to optimize the values outlined in the Agile Manifesto.
The 7 main principles of LSD include:
Empower the team
Build integrity in
See the whole
Lean development originated in the manufacturing industry, where the main goals were to increase production and reduce waste from assembly lines.
This framework is great for organizations on a tight budget because reducing waste helps to cut costs. However, this framework relies significantly on each specific team’s ability to communicate with each other, and it can be more difficult to scale than other frameworks.
The Scaled Agile Framework, or SAFe method, was designed to work on an enterprise level and is defined by its three pillars: Team, Program, and Portfolio. It provides flexibility for smaller teams and offers solutions to common issues encountered by large-scale companies using Agile methods.
Since Agile wasn’t originally created with scaling in mind, SAFe works to address issues caused by siloed teams. SAFe has a large knowledge base of well-documented information that can provide organizations with best practices.
At NaNLABS, we specialize in helping our clients with Scrum, Kanban, Lean software development, and SAFe frameworks. Each option has its own unique features, so make sure that you do plenty of research on your team’s needs before selecting one to implement.
The Crystal Method focuses on individuals and their interactions rather than processes and tools
Adaptive Software Development emphasizes highly flexible planning and adapting a prouct to match evolving market needs
Feature-driven Development (FDD) is a customer-focused framework that emphasizes frequent delivery of tangible results
Dynamic Systems Development is a framework consisting of four phases:
Feasibility and business study
Functional model/prototype iteration
Design and build iteration
Extreme Programming involves highly specific guidelines for software development processes and practices.
Agile frameworks don’t magically make your team more efficient. Each member must play a role within the methodology to achieve a successful outcome.
In some cases, organizations may need to hire additional employees just to effectively run the day-to-day functions of Agile structures.
Roles within an Agile team may include:
Product manager: responsible for outlining the direction of a project
Project manager/Scrum master: helps the team follow Agile principles and assists in overcoming any blocks that arise
The development team: the individuals working to complete the project. This can include writers, designers, developers, and other specialized roles
Subject matter expert (SME): a person with specialized knowledge or experience pertaining to the project
If your team can’t fill or hire for these roles, you can also consider team augmentation, which is a service offered at NaNLABS. Team augmentation will set you up for long-term success without hiring for additional positions.
The NaNLABS team takes iterative development seriously, and we’ll work to fully integrate with your existing team and assist your organization in implementing an Agile framework suited to your custom software development project.
Agile software development planning works by breaking up larger tasks or projects into smaller, more manageable sprints. Product owners and project managers will gather team members for PI (program increment) planning, where work for the coming program (typically 8-12 weeks) will be outlined and prioritized.
From there, tasks are sorted into sprints. A typical PI will contain 4 sprints, each lasting 2-4 weeks. Teams should also schedule meetings during each sprint to ensure that work is on track and no blocks are preventing work from advancing, such as sprint planning, backlog refinement, and weekly standups.
Projects will then go through the Agile lifecycle, which is meant to take each project from beginning to end. The stages of the lifecycle include concept, inception, iteration, release, maintenance, and retirement. This will vary depending on the specific framework chosen by each team.
The highly collaborative nature of Agile principles can be a game-changer for some teams, but for others, it can place a greater strain on developers and clients.
While often highly beneficial, Agile methodologies are not without their potential risks and pitfalls. The planning required for successful Agile frameworks can be highly time-consuming and can result in a ton of additional commitment for team members.
Communication is essential for Agile methods to be effective, and in situations where stakeholders are unwilling or unable to contribute on a regular basis, product quality may suffer.
Some of the most common issues with using an Agile framework arise when a team with little to no Agile experience attempts to implement a new methodology on their own. Often, they fail to fully commit to the values and processes outlined in their chosen framework and have difficulty staying on track.
Having an experienced leader with previous knowledge of Agile processes is essential for any methodology to be effective and yield the desired results. Otherwise, your team risks wasting time and resources that could be used more efficiently in other areas of the company.
At NaNLABS, we’re well aware of the potential issues that can arise when implementing an Agile framework. That’s why we’re committed to helping our clients create a proper project roadmap supported by Agile frameworks that actually suit their requirements.
“What we try to do is provide newcomers with a set of tools for leaning on an Agile mindframe” said Flavia Olga Leiva, Project Manager at NaNLABS. “We have daily standups as a way of making sure that everybody has a chance to connect… and if they need anything from a member of NaNLABS, we try to make sure that they get all the support they need.”
As experts in Scrum, Kanban, Lean software development, and SAFe, NaNLABs has many examples of custom software success stories. Our team is always adaptable and prepared to help you overcome any obstacles that get in the way of your success.
"Before working with NaNLABs, we were working to become more Agile, but were still more Agile in theory than in practice,'' said Kelsey Langford, Head of Product at Tongal. “But with their experience, they really helped us shape our processes and the way we think about how we work and manage the team."
NaNLABS believes in full integration and collaboration with clients using Agile principles and methodologies, including retrospectives, standups, and more. The world of tech moves fast, and we’re always ready to adapt and change with project needs.
There isn’t one superior Agile framework for all organizations. The right methodology depends on the specific needs of your team.
Some factors to consider include:
Your team’s Agile maturity (how your team is increasing their level of agility over time)
Your team size
Your organization’s goals for implementing Agile principles
Your specific industry (what works well for software companies might not for construction companies, etc.)
Your organization’s products or value
After considering all these factors, you’ll be able to identify one or more methodologies to help set your organization up for continuous improvement and success. Or, if you need help implementing an Agile framework, the NaNLABS team is here to help!
Ready to build your own custom software with a team that cares about your processes? We’re not code monkeys, we care about you. Get in touch. We don’t byte.
The three most commonly used Agile frameworks are Scrum, Kanban, and the Crystal Method.
A few examples of Agile frameworks include Scrum, Kanban, Lean software development, SAFe, the crystal method, adaptive software development, feature-driven development, dynamic systems development, and extreme programming.
An Agile framework is a specific way of approaching planning, executing, and delivering projects using a set of values outlined in The Agile Manifesto.
The values include prioritizing individuals and interactions over processes and tools, working software over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and responding to change over following a plan.
Agile methods emphasize working in smaller iterations rather than delivering one large project on a specific date. Work is broken up into sprints to ensure that team members can remain flexible and adaptive to challenges that arise
The purpose of Agile methodologies is to focus on working in smaller, more adaptive increments to deliver a superior product in a shorter amount of time.