The Agile Manifesto has become an extremely handy tool for any software development team. In it, there are four values that help teams produce software that not only works but is also of the highest quality. As long as an organization is using Agile development, these four principles should be used as a guide in one form or another.
1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Without people, there would be no one to use the processes and tools to drive development forward. So this is why the first value in the Agile manifesto is to place more value on people over processes and tools. When you focus on the latter instead of the former, your team will be less responsive not only to each other but to the customer as well.
Communication is heavily emphasized with this value. When you value individuals and interactions, communication among team members is more free-form – flexible and happens whenever something important needs to be communicated. However, when you value processes and tools, communication becomes a rigid process – topics for discussion are set in stone and must be discussed at a specific time.
2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
While documentation is an important part of software development, it shouldn’t be done at the expense of working software. Indeed, in the past, this would have been a strange thing to say, as the road to project completion was bogged down by rigorous documentation. In the end, the development of the software was delayed because developers were being taken away from their primary focus to the point they weren’t able to complete their deliverables.
In Agile, the documentation process has been streamlined. It is now done through user stories, which describe the software’s features (based on customer requirements) in a more informal and natural tone. Customer stories allow the developer to not bother with getting into too much technical detail during documentation and just work on implementing the features. The deliverables are what matter the most.
3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Negotiations are a natural part of any contract. In the pre-Agile days, contract negotiations happened before the work started and after the work was completed. The customer was left out of the loop until the delivery of the contract. There was no room for change after the initial terms had been agreed upon. This, however, would lead to wasted time and effort if the team did not deliver according to customer specifications.
To prevent this from happening, Agile keeps customers in the loop. If the team is going off course, customer feedback will allow them to course-correct. This leaves room for changes that cater to the developing business needs of the customer. The end result will be a product that will meet (maybe even exceed) the customer’s expectations.
4. Responding to change over following a plan
In the old days of software development, changes from the customer were rarely accommodated during development. The belief here is that they were regarded as an expense that must be avoided. This meant that a comprehensive plan was created that needed to be followed to the letter with no deviations.
Enter Agile development, where the customer can chime in with changes after every iteration to better improve the software so the team can tailor it to their needs. While traditional software development focuses on tasks that had the same priority and needed to be completed in a specific order, Agile is more flexible. Priorities are reshuffled and some tasks are labeled as more important than others, allowing the team to deliver working software that satisfies the customer 100%.
These four values are the core of the Agile manifesto. As you can see, the emphasis here is to move away from rigidity and slowness and move towards flexibility and speed. With Agile development, organizations can do this without sacrificing quality and customer satisfaction. In fact, these values can only serve to improve these things, making Agile development an opportunity for an organization to achieve its full potential.