If you are interested in software development or your work is somehow related to the IT industry, you’ve probably heard such a word combination as an “agile team”. But what is an agile development team? What requirements should be met by a team to be characterized as agile? And why do companies try to follow namely this model in their work? This article provides answers to all these questions and explains how to build an agile software development team to reach your goals.
Let’s start with the most general overview of our topic under consideration and then dive deeper into more details, have a look at the agile software development team roles and responsibilities as well as analyze how to plan your budget allocation when you have chosen this methodology for your project.
Agile Development Team: What is It?
An agile approach to software development presupposes using practices and methods built following the principles and values described in the so-called “Agile Manifesto”. This Manifesto was written by a group of software developers and was made publicly available in 2001. Since that time, this approach has been gaining popularity across numerous developers as one of its core values - flexibility - is precisely what the modern world of business needs.
In an agile team, all members are self-organized, and managers have just a supportive role. The Agile methodology perfectly corresponds to the modern realities and is very adaptable to any challenges and changes. It focuses not on the entire project and its immediate launch, but on continuous delivery and satisfaction of the client’s needs.
The 12 fundamental principles that an agile team is built on are proclaimed in the Manifesto. Let us mention just a few ones:
- The primary measure of progress is a functioning product;
- Clients and developers must work together;
- A face-to-face conversation is the best way to share information with a development team;
- Changing requirements are okay at any stage of development if they are aimed at building a better product;
- Customer satisfaction can be ensured via the continuous delivery of valuable software.
At Geomotiv, we have rich experience in providing development services based on Agile methodology that allows us to introduce all the required changes quickly and seamlessly.
Agile Development Team Structure
The agile software development team is always cross-functional. This group usually includes specialists with the skills that are necessary to build a fully functional product. Thanks to uniting experts with different backgrounds, it is possible to get various perspectives on one issue and find the best solution.
The agile team structure is also non-hierarchical (the team has a flat design, each member has a defined responsibility, but additional management layers are removed) and collaborative (collaboration and open communication within a team are a must in the agile methodology).
Agile Development Team Roles
A recommended size of an agile team can vary depending on the specificity of the project that the team will work on. However, there are some core agile development team roles:
- Team members. This term is an extensive term that can unite experts in different spheres. For example, team members are usually programmers, designers, QA engineers, and others in software development:
- Programmers. Depending on the project's needs, you may have front-end, back-end, and full-stack developers with different skills and knowledge in various technologies. They are responsible for creating the desired architecture and functionality following the elaborated requirements.
- UI/UX designers. Designers take care of the product’s feel and look. That’s why, for such specialists, it is crucial to understand the vision profoundly and to stay tuned with all the changes and updates that may be introduced during the project realization.
- QA engineers. They create and perform tests that help to identify (and further fix) any possible bugs before the product launch. By closely cooperating with developers and stakeholders, these experts help ensure that software meets the set standards and functions as it is supposed to.
- Team lead. This specialist is always included in the agile software development team structure and coordinates the team processes. In the Scrum methodology, this role is known as a Scrum master.
- Stakeholders. Quite often, stakeholders do not participate in the project directly, but they significantly influence the product itself. This group includes, for example, investors and end-users.
- Product owner. This person should represent the client’s needs, outline the requirements, and ensure they are followed in the development process.
Look at what this specialist does and if organizing your team’s work without a PM is possible.
Different Types of Agile Teams
- Generalist. Each member of the team has general knowledge of a wide range of topics. Everyone can take on any task at any time.
- Specialist. Each member has a specific skill set and a particular area of expertise, and as a result, all specialists work only on one aspect.
- Hybrid. This model combines the features of the two ones mentioned earlier and ensures excellent flexibility.
- Parallel. In this model, Agile team members change their roles each iteration. So, for example, if one iteration a person works as a developer, they will move to test on the second one.
- Sub-team. Each sub-team is a unit of a larger team, each of them has a specific task or area of work, but a final product depends on the efforts of each of them.
Main Features of an Agile Development Team
- Close communication
- Shared skill sets
- Regular iteration deliveries
- Simple code design
- Frequent reviews of the code written
- Continuous improvement
- Learning and knowledge-sharing.
Supporters of this methodology believe that to reach the highest customer satisfaction, a development team in Agile should be ready to adapt to any changes and deliver a working product as soon as possible. And so do we at Geomotiv.
We like this approach and do our best to implement its main principles in our work. Customer satisfaction is the main priority and the reference point that guides us in our development process. The Agile methodologies that we apply help us to follow all the specific requirements on each project.
We are very flexible, and we welcome all requirements changes introduced to bring higher value to the product that we are working on. We always try to build a very close communication with our customers, as we know that it is one of the most important ways to achieve success in our cooperation.
Benefits of Agile Software Development Teams
Today the Agile methodology boasts higher popularity in comparison to traditional waterfall development. And there are clear reasons for it.
First of all, Agile allows you to start the project with a rather vague scope without identifying all the requirements from the beginning. Secondly, you can avoid time-consuming negotiations with all stakeholders before the start of project realization. You need to discuss just one sprint instead of the entire project. Thirdly, it is not a problem to introduce changes based on the feedback from the client. And finally, the Agile approach can be a good option for modernization projects or for delivering support services that are typically quite challenging to estimate beforehand.
At Geomotiv, we've chosen this approach not because “agile” is a buzzword in the IT world and it is extremely popular today but because of all the benefits that this method brings.
Below you can find just a couple of them:
- Possibility to reach the highest quality of software products thanks to continuous delivery and iteration approach;
- Better customer satisfaction thanks to the participation of a client in a decision-making process;
- Better planning thanks to using cyclical, boxed timeframes for each project iteration;
- Regular feedback;
- Enhanced control, transparency, and predictability;
- Continuous improvement;
- Practically zero risks of failure of the project.
Our blog has shared more detailed information about this software development methodology.
Agile Software Development Lifecycle
The lifecycle in the Agile method is formed from the following stages:
- Concept. At this stage, projects are identified and prioritized. A product owner has a task to detect the scope of work, discuss the requirements with the stakeholders, and prepare documentation where they will be described.
- Inception. The team composition is set, initial requirements are provided, and it’s time to proceed to a more detailed planning of the work on the project. Here, the team also starts creating mock-ups of the product interfaces and discussing software architecture.
- Iteration/Construction. The development process is organized in the form of iterations. The team delivers working software based on the set requirements and feedback received from the customer;
- Release. This stage includes testing, training, development of documentation, final iteration, production, and deployment. During this phase, it is also required to organize user training.
- Production. After the release, the work on the project doesn’t stop. Ongoing product maintenance and support are the main tasks at this step. When required, the product should be updated and/or enriched with new features.
- Retirement. There can’t be any software products that will be relevant forever. When your solution is no longer needed, it is sensible to consider conducting software end-of-life activities (they can also include legacy software migration).
An iteration process can be described as follows:
- Definition of the requirements for the iteration;
- Design and development of the software;
- Delivery of the working iteration;
- Getting customer and stakeholder feedback and formulating requirements for the next iteration.
In our article, you can read about the role regression testing has in this methodology.
There is a wide range of Agile methodologies that can be applied today. But let us focus only on a couple of them.
The most popular framework used by Agile supporters is Scrum. It views the project realization as a series of sprints that are usually two-week long. Every day the team has 15-minute meetings (scrums) that help to synchronize their activities.
|Deadlines of every sprint act as an additional motivation for the team members.
|The role of each developer may not be
well-defined, which can cause some confusion.
|Daily scrums bring better transparency and help to avoid mistakes.
|The segmentation of the development process can make the team focus only on some particular tasks.
|The method is very dynamic. It allows the team to reorganize priorities if needed quickly.
Below, you can find some real-life scenarios when Scrum will become the best option for your project:
- You will likely need to introduce changes to the requirements after the beginning of development.
- It is an excellent choice when you need to test your idea quickly. This methodology is often chosen for MVP development.
- When your customers have chosen the Time and Materials model for working with you, Scrum is a very suitable methodology.
When it is better NOT to use Scrum:
- Suppose you need direct contact with a Product Owner regularly. In that case, opting for a methodology that does not presuppose such close collaboration between developers and stakeholders will be more convenient.
- If your team members need more self-organization and self-management experience, we recommend you consider other possible variants.
This word is translated from Japanese as “just-in-time”. It suggests that the team should organize their work according to a Kanban board table that contains a particular column for every process/flow of the software development cycle. There is a card for each task. Thanks to this table, every team member can see the status of each task, which ensures high transparency and an excellent understanding of the entire progress.
|Possibility to track the progress.
|Possibility to misinterpret info contained in the Kanban board.
|Ability to regulate the number of tasks, for example, if there is too much work in progress.
|Chance of time-related problems as there are no exact time frames in this method.
When should you use Kanban?
- When you have small tasks like fixing bugs or feature enhancement;
- When your team can work without strict planning;
- When there are no set long-term goals.
When is it not a good idea to use Kanban?
- When you need to have stakeholders or customers deeply involved in the project (Kanban doesn’t presuppose this);
- When you have complex project work that should include serious planning, gathering feedback, using this feedback to introduce changes, etc.
Extreme Programming (XP)
This methodology is built on such values as simplicity, communication, respect, courage, feedback. The key priority is customer satisfaction. Teamwork plays a vital role, and the whole team solves all problems. The XP method presupposes conducting testing from the first day, gathering and analyzing feedback, and introducing changes in the product to deliver the software that perfectly meets the customer's needs.
|The development process is more agile than in other methodologies, thanks to continuous testing.
|The focus on code simplicity can lead to paying less attention to design.
|The team tries to write a simple code that makes it possible to introduce changes at any moment.
|This method cannot be the best choice for the teams working remotely.
|All developers see the entire development cycle and have a good understanding of their goals.
The best cases to rely on XP:
- Your software’s functionality is expected to change once in a couple of months.
- You have the possibility of establishing close cooperation with customers.
- Your team has experience in creating functional and unit tests.
- You have tight deadlines and want to minimize risks.
Situations when it’s better not to choose the XP method:
- You do not have time to communicate with a customer regularly.
- This approach is typically associated with relatively high costs. If your client has a limited budget, it is better to consider another option.
We’ve made a comprehensive comparison about their peculiarities, pros and cons, and when they should be better applied.
This method is organized around seven fundamental principles. Among them, we should mention fast delivery, quality development, optimization, deleting everything that doesn’t matter, creating knowledge, respect for the team and some others.
|Saving time thanks to omitting activities that have less importance.
|Strict dependance on the proclaimed principles and on the team’s ability to follow them.
|Simple scalability and adaptability of this methodology.
|Division of some tasks onto several elements which can lead to the lost focus.
When is it sensible to use the lean development methodology?
- When you have a short- or mid-term project and a small development team,
- When you can organize close communication between all team members, even if they are based in different locations.
When is it inconvenient to rely on the lean development approach?
- When you have a large project that can’t be managed quickly,
- When your project includes complex workflows,
- When your customer can’t participate in the project realization.
This is a family of Agile methods, it includes different approaches designed for teams of different sizes. However, all of them are focused on the same principles. They are community, skills, people, talent, interactions and communication. The main idea for developers is to build an efficient interaction in order to deliver the product of the highest quality via a well-organized development process.
|Difficulties in using this method for team members who are based in different locations.
|Space for improvements.
|No strict dependence on planning and development on the set requirements.
|Close communication and knowledge-sharing within the team.
It is recommended to choose Crystal when:
- You have a short-term project;
- You have a long-term project that should be frequently tested and must get feedback regularly.
It is not recommended to choose Crystal when:
- You need to have detailed documentation;
- You have a remote team, and it is difficult to connect with all team members (Crystal is more beneficial when all team members work in the same room).
If you want to launch your app or enhance your already existing system, we would be happy to help you! Share your ideas with us, and our experts can find the best solution for you.
How to Create Budget for Agile Projects
A traditional strict budget won’t be the best idea for Agile projects. Suppose you still want to follow classic budgeting methods. In that case, you need to understand that they will minimize all the advantages of working with an Agile based development team, and you will especially lose the flexibility that is the essential peculiarity of this methodology.
To effectively plan your budget for an Agile project, consider the following key tasks:
- Approximately estimate your budget. Begin by determining the amount of money you will allocate for your project. This initial estimation provides a baseline for further budget planning.
- Discuss the possible costs with your Agile software development team. Companies often organize product discovery workshops to discuss project requirements, scope, tech stack, and risks with all the stakeholders. This collaborative approach helps refine estimates and ensures a more accurate budget projection.
- Set your budget for the whole project or at least one or a couple of sprints. Depending on your organization's structure and funding allocation, you can set the budget for the entire project or allocate it for specific sprints. Larger organizations with top-down funding allocation may find the first approach more suitable. Conversely, startups often prefer allocating budgets based on ongoing needs and available resources, making the second option more prevalent.
- Monitor your expenses, update your budget, or adjust your development process when required. Agile projects are inherently dynamic, so flexibility is crucial to ensure the budget remains aligned with evolving requirements.
The cost of services will significantly depend on different variables, including an agile development team size, agile software development team roles, project size, complexity, and, consequently, the number of iterations.
When you understand how quickly your team can perform various tasks, you can calculate the number of iterations your projects will be broken down into. However, very often, it is impossible to precisely predict the velocity of the team, which means that the agile budget needs to be periodically updated after the beginning of the development process.
It is also possible that not all team members will participate in all the iterations. As a result, the budget for each iteration can be different.
To understand how many hours your team will spend on this or that task, it is required to determine which tasks are the most difficult and which are more accessible and will take less time. There can be different approaches to estimating Agile projects. Here are just a couple of them.
- Planning Poker. Every team member has nine cards with numbers that can be used to evaluate the level of complexity of different tasks concerning the required effort. A team member should play the card for each story point (feature). If team members' cards seriously differ, they can discuss their vision to reach a consensus.
- T-shirt sizes. This approach is very similar to the previous one, but in this case, team members have T-shirt sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL) that should reflect the required effort for each task. There are better techniques for precise estimations than this, but it is pretty simple and may help get a general idea of the task complexity.
- Dot voting. It is a fast and straightforward technique that is a suitable variant for remote teams. In this case, it is necessary to use a whiteboard tool where you will create a list of the backlog items. All team members can indicate tasks' complexity by using unique color dot stickers. Those tasks receiving more dots than others will be considered the most challenging.
- Ordering method. A team will get all the items placed in a line randomly. The team members must re-order tasks from the easiest to the most challenging.
How to Monitor and Control Your Budget in Agile?
While some businesses embrace the flexibility of Agile budgeting, others consider the absence of fixed costs from the outset to be potentially risky, as it could lead to exceeding the budget. Therefore, a common concern for many businesses is keeping Agile projects on time and budget.
The critical thing to do to manage your budget is to apply the concept of the Cone of Uncertainty. This model helps to track the level of uncertainty during the development process. When you are just starting your project, the level of uncertainty is high, which means that the cone is wide. Within the operation of the project realization, you will get more clarity, and the cone will become narrower. You need to bear it in mind while setting upper and lower limits for your budget. Thanks to these dynamic limits, you will be better prepared for changes.
Based on our practical experience, we would like to share a couple of tips that can help you avoid budget overrun during the project realization:
- Conduct continuous progress analysis. As the whole project is divided into small parts (sprints or iterations), you can review the results of each sprint separately. These frequent reviews enable you to make informed decisions, introduce necessary updates, and optimize processes. Consequently, this approach helps prevent significant delays and unexpected expenses.
- Apply related key performance indicators (KPIs). Agile teams should rely on KPIs to identify the time an individual spends fulfilling the tasks. By looking at these indicators, you will see whether the actual budget significantly differs from the expected one.
- Ensure that all core elements of the project are included in the scope. Attentively listen to shareholders, document their requirements, and add them to your estimations. Many teams prefer to display client requirements visually, allowing them to understand the scope of work better.
- Use collaborative tools to make all the updates visible to stakeholders. All the changes should be known to everyone. You can rely on Trello, Asana, or Jira to track project progress and monitor costs.
- Regularly communicate with stakeholders and inform them of all the required budget adjustments. Though this tip may seem too obvious, it is one of the most crucial.
By following these guidelines and maintaining a flexible and collaborative approach, you can successfully create and manage a budget for Agile projects while harnessing the benefits of this iterative development methodology.
How to Build an Agile Software Development Team?
Being on the market since 2010 at Geomotiv, we’ve managed to elaborate our own rules that help us to build our teams under Agile principles. And now we’d like to share the best practices with you.
- Build close collaboration with your customer. The more you know about your client, the better you can understand the provided requirements and needs. Make your customer a participant in the development process.
- Ensure efficient communication within a team. There is a direct relation between teamwork quality and project success. Agile teams rely on their members, their skills, and their ideas more than on tools.
- Make sure that everyone understands the peculiarities of the chosen methodology. If at least one person doesn’t fully realize the specificity of the selected approach, the risk of failure is high. Agile is based on the principles of cooperation, creativity, and flexibility. Each team member should share these values.
- Motivate your team members. It is already a well-known fact that motivated people perform better and are more interested in reaching goals than those who have lost motivation.
- Prioritize tasks. Let’s admit that all functions can’t be of equal importance. Your team members should clearly understand the priority and see the changes in their essence. Usually, it’s the task of a product owner to set the preferences.
- Welcome changes. As we've already highlighted more than once in our article, flexibility is one of the critical characteristics of the agile approach. Changes are not a disaster. They reflect your customer’s current needs and demands, and you aim to ensure the highest customer satisfaction via delivering a valuable product.
Several prominent companies have proven the efficiency of the Agile methodology. It is known that a row of tech giants that initially relied on the waterfall model later shifted to Agile.
Among them, there are Microsoft, IBM, and Apple. Siemens, Google, Sony, and Yahoo! are also on this list. Another company that has made the same decision is Cisco. According to the information, it has reduced software defects by 40% compared to the waterfall methodology. Over 70% of US-based companies with software development projects generally prefer Agile.
On our blog, we’ve shared insights that may help you fully leverage the benefits of flexibility at workplace.
To Sum It Up
Remember that creating an agile team is not a task for one hour or a day. Building a team of this type is not about just hiring the right specialists. It’s more about changing the philosophy shared by your team members and making sure that everyone clearly understands it. However, this mission is possible. And if you’ve decided to try good luck!
But if you want to hire an Agile software development team to build a software project for you, do not hesitate to contact us. We are always open to new ideas and cooperation. We would be happy to support you in your business journey with a reliable and innovative software product that can fully meet all your requirements. Fill in our online form to get a professional reply from our experts.
This approach presupposes establishing close cooperation between cross-functional project teams and stakeholders. Agile allows teams to stay flexible and quickly adapt to all the changes that may be introduced into requirements within the development process.
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