What is agile?

Agile Software Development

On the surface "agile software development" can be defined as "a group of software development methods in which requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing, cross-functional teams. It promotes adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, continuous improvement, and encourages rapid and flexible response to change."

But I believe that agile is more about a mindset or a set of values. It is more about harnessing the power of common sense and people working together and complementing eachother. So I think agile is best understood by taking a look at its roots:

Manifesto for Agile Software Development

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

  • Individuals and interactions over Processes and tools
  • Working software over Comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over Contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over Following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

Agile Values

Principles behind the Agile Manifesto

We follow these principles:
Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery
of valuable software.

  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage.
  • Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  • Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  • Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  • Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  • Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  • Simplicity--the art of maximizing the amount of work not done--is essential.
  • The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

Scrum 

Scrum is an iterative and incremental process framework for agile software development projects that focusses mainly on how the project is managed or organised. Every software project using Scrum is divided into time slots that are usually of a length of two to four weeks called “Sprint”. Goal is to deliver working and tested (potentially shippable) software (as an increment of the final product) at the end of each Sprint. One core value of Scrum is accepting that most problems/requirements cannot be fully understood or defined upfront and hence focusing on maximizing the team's ability to adapt to change and enabling teams to self-organize.