The right development methodology will completely transform your team. When you find the right one, you’ll likely notice that your employees are more motivated, working well together, and are getting things done faster than ever before.
Reaping these rewards does take time, whether ramping up a new development team or changing methodologies within an existing group. Before you pick an approach, you’ll have to reconsider the way that your development team operates.
One thing is for certain, though: You should avoid chasing waterfall software development methodologies, as they have fallen out of favor in recent years and may no longer be the most efficient option for your team.
Today, we’re going to look at why the waterfall methodology is rather outdated and explore other methodologies to replace it with.
Waterfall Methodologies Might Not Be Right for You
The waterfall approach to software development has been the default method for building digital products for decades. However, new technologies and capabilities have created other options that are challenging the traditional waterfall model.
What is the waterfall methodology? Let’s take a quick look at the steps involved.
Obtain all of the requirements from the client or from the internal team requesting the software. The goal of this approach is to acquire every piece of information upfront so that the client doesn’t have to be spoken with until the product is completed.
Although it is sometimes broken up into two stages, the design stage is the time in which the UI is completed and tested.
This is the phase where the programmers take the design and other requirements and turn it into a working product.
The complete product is released to the customer, who then verifies that it is up to their specifications.
During this phase, the team fixes bugs as necessary with small updates.
It is easy to see why this holistic approach to software development, similar to that of traditional product development such as automobiles, was dominant for decades. Computer software was often shipped on disks or CDs and needed to be complete, with all bells and whistles, prior to a consumer being able to use it. Technology also moved at a slower pace and there were fewer programming languages and developer tools that contributed to a software build. The pace of change is only accelerating and the web has changed the way software is distributed and consumed. Software as a Service and cloud-based applications are the current models and everyone is deploying new features rapidly.
Other Software Development Methodologies to Explore
While the waterfall methodology is sensible, several notable software development methodologies have emerged in recent years that are worthy challengers. Let’s go through them.
The agile development methodology has been around for over two decades, yet it’s still being treated as a radical new way to develop software. In 2001, 17 different technology experts released the “Agile Manifesto.” Among other things, the manifesto was focused on four major principles for developing software:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
As we can see, these four principles are an intentional challenge to the waterfall methodology. During its two decades of growth and adoption, it’s become the standard methodology for anyone who wants to release software quickly and then continue to develop it over time.
Short for “Scaled Agile Framework,” SAFe is an enterprise-level framework based on the agile methodology. This framework is designed to empower large-scale businesses to continuously deliver new software or updates to existing software. With a “top-down” approach, this methodology starts with an organization that must first identify the type of value stream needed, as well as any Agile Release Trains, also known as ARTs. The Agile Core Values are then approached – alignment, built-in quality, transparency and then program execution.
The entire goal of this framework is to create a faster time-to-market and catalyze productivity from teams. With the average teams consisting of 5-9 employees, and a program increment duration of 8-12 weeks, SAFe is a common choice for many fast-paced industries.
This framework was created by Scaled Agile, Inc., which sells software that aims to help enterprises adopt their specific version of agile development. This is one of the key software development methodologies preferred by large-scale businesses.
Scrum is a new take on the agile methodology that focuses on “sprints.” A sprint is a predetermined amount of time for completing a designated goal.
Scrum generally observes the ceremonies of sprint planning, daily Scrum, sprint review, and sprint retrospective. Each sprint starts off with a planning session for all team members where the work of the sprint is defined, agreed upon and estimated. The team works on their tasks throughout the sprint, perhaps checking in for quick daily stand-ups to ensure blockers and unplanned priority tasks are addressed. Key stakeholders are brought in for a sprint review to see the work done and after all is complete, the team may conduct a retrospective to evaluate efficacy.
It is best practice for a sprint to last less than one month (typically 3-4 weeks), if not much shorter. There are to be no changes made during a sprint that could adversely affect the overall goal, and the time to plan a sprint should only take less than a couple of hours (up to a full work-day, if necessary).
Adherents of the Scrum methodology say that it’s great for complex projects, as it unites the entire workforce under one specific goal per sprint.
Kanban is another take on the agile methodology that aims to make the most of what’s available. The actual practice of Kanban dates back to the 1950s when Toyota pioneered a method of having workers track what new materials were needed on a card, which was then passed to the warehouse.
The older Kanban methodology has merged with the modern agile approach to create a new take on software development. The goal of this methodology is to match the number of works in progress to the team’s total capacity.
At the core of the Kanban methodology is the Kanban board. It’s a board that contains a simple three-step workflow: To Do, In Progress, and Done. The entire team can see the board, so they know what needs to be done or what needs to be reviewed. This is a great approach for production support channels or when juggling multiple smaller projects at once
How to Adopt a New Methodology
Changing your software development methodology will not happen overnight, and it might not even happen quickly. It requires an intentional adoption of the core principles of an approach by your entire team. It will most likely call for using new collaborative tools, as well.
The most important aspect of changing methodologies is ongoing training for your development team. You might discover that some developers are so entrenched in the waterfall methodology that they need regular reminders about new workflows. Eventually, though, the new methodology will be internalized and you’ll start to thoroughly enjoy the perks of your new methodology.
The First Factory team is a leader in software development. When you want to take your business to the next level, let us help. With a proven combination of technologies and software development methodologies, we can bring your vision to life. Contact us today!