A Quick Guide to an Agile Workflow Lifecycle

Agile Workflow

An agile workflow is crucial for teams to release product updates efficiently and quickly.

The biggest challenge for a software development team is to release a product on time, that works perfectly, and is free of bugs. One way a software team can overcome this challenge is through an agile workflow lifecycle.

In this article, you’ll learn what agile workflow is all about, the different stages involved, and how you can implement it in your projects.

What is an agile workflow?

In a nutshell, an agile workflow is a methodology where a product development process is divided into individual stages and tasks. In each stage, stakeholders provide feedback to identify issues, which the development team can fix prior to launch.

This project methodology improves productivity and ensures that everybody involved in the product decision making are aligned.

Now, this isn’t to say that an agile development lifecycle is better than the traditional methodology. But the agile method allows for a more flexible workflow that is open to changes.

agile workflow

10 stages to an agile workflow

A successful agile development method follows the following 11 stages:

1. Concept

Stakeholders and developers talk about the feasibility of the project. This stage is where everyone agrees to the project’s plan, business scope, and product backlog. Once these are established, you can organize your sprints accordingly into a project management tool of choice.

2. Inception

The development team discusses the project details which include the following:

  • Budget: Allocate a certain amount of money based on the different project variables move forward with it.
  • Business opportunities: Identify the different use-cases your product or project has to also refine your target audience.
  • Milestones: Determine the phases within a project’s lifecycle to measure relative to your ultimate goal.
  • Product risks: List down possible issues that your product will cause down the line. Risks taken into account are not limited to the product as they can pertain to going over the budget, loss of confidence in the company, and others. From here, the team must plan in advance to increase the chances of not encountering these risks.
  • Timeline: Set a project deadline for your tasks and milestones to keep everybody in the team in check.

3. Iteration

The team must divide the project into sprints. By focusing on a small set of tasks, team members are able to break down the project into smaller chunks, making the project much easier to manage over time.

This is the stage where magic happens. Most sprints take two to four weeks to complete. Each sprint consists of the following steps:

4. Plan requirements for an agile workflow

Identify the requirements of the sprint in consideration of the overall plan. This includes your project’s clear objectives, features, and support. You may also take into account the project backlogs and feedback from stakeholders.

Having a well-defined list of requirements allows you to narrow your focus on achieving the most important goals for your product.

5. Product design

The development team will lay down the product groundwork based on the requirements.

During the first iteration of the product, the team will detail the product’s software design by identifying the languages, frameworks, and libraries to be used.

In the next part of agile iteration workflow, the developers must draft a mockup of the product’s UI centered around the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX).  From here, developers are encouraged to research their competitors and use their product UI/UX as inspirations for their own.

6. Implement design and code

This stage in the process is the longest and the most time-consuming. Developers must roll out to code according to the design from the previous stage.

7. Test software

Once the code is written, it’s time to integrate and test it on the product. The goal is to ensure that the code performs its intended goal on your product, whether it’s to design the UI/UX or build a feature.

The quality assurance (QA) team will conduct the tests and identify if there are issues in the code. The software is then brought back to the developers to fix the code and eliminate the errors.

8. Deliver iteration

Send the iteration into production as a beta version for your brand new product or as a software upgrade or patch to your existing one.

9. Gather feedback

Await instructions from stakeholders if additional changes need to be made. The feedback your customers will send to you about the product or the upgrade will commence the start of another iteration workflow cycle.

10. Maintenance – on an agile workflow cycle

After the product release, the real work begins. Customers may find bugs and issues with your product that you weren’t able to see prior to release. And even after implementing the fixes, new issues may pop up.

Creating an agile workflow

Now that you know the stages involved in an agile workflow software development life cycle, it’s time to know what it takes to implement one for your product.

Below are the building blocks of effective agile workflow:

Adopting agile workflow principles

Simply following the stages above won’t help you launch your product effectively if you don’t observe the principles that make agile workflow possible.

According to the Agile Manifesto, there are 12 agile principles governed by four core principles:

  • Prioritize interactions with individuals over tools and processes –  The people standing behind the process are much important than the tools and software they’re using.
  • Build a working software first before comprehensive documentation – There’s no point in creating documentation if there’s no product to support it.
  • Collaborate with customers over negotiating contracts – Constantly working on your product with the customer in mind allows you to retain them as one in the long run.
  • Adapt to changes on the fly instead of just sticking to a plan – It’s impossible to stay on the same course from the beginning when your team is thrown constant customer feedback at every stage of the workflow. Therefore, implementing the changes as you see fit allows you to appease stakeholders and work towards your goals in a more collaborative manner.

Keeping these principles in mind will help you create a product that everybody from developers to stakeholders will enjoy.

Decide on a agile workflow framework

There are many frameworks one can use to help implement an agile workflow. It’s a matter of finding out which one satisfies the workflow of your project and team.

Below are the best and most popular frameworks you can choose from:

Scrum

This framework has similarities with the rugby term of the same name where players interlock their arms with each other and push their way against the opposing team.

agile workflow

A scrum in an agile workflow mobilizes the team to solve problems and issues in unison. Tasks are divided into sprints which normally take one to four weeks to complete.

The idea behind a scrum is to develop the best tangible product possible with the resources at hand. From here, everybody learns along the way and adjusts accordingly to different variables.

A scrum takes into consideration the backlog build-up from previous tasks. The framework encourages the product owner to organize feedback from stakeholders and prioritize each one to be reviewed one by one. This way, the team is able to 

Kanban

As one of the most popular agile frameworks for software creation, Kanban and Scrumban helps one visualize the workflow and organize the tasks at hand.

agile workflow

Once each task is completed, they move on to the next stage in the pipeline until it reaches the “Done” pile. The team members then find other tasks assigned to them under the “To Do” pile to complete. 

You can use a whiteboard and post-its for their Kanban board. However, project management tools like Nifty allows Kanban views on all their projects. Team members can attach files and add comments on each task to improve collaboration and workflow efficiency.

Lean – Agile Workflow Cycle

Similar to trimming the fat, the lean framework has seven basic principles that observe the best practices of agile software development methods.

Its goal is to eliminate waste in every way possible to help the team develop a high-quality product in the shortest amount of time and by maximizing resources. It also integrates constant testing through multiple iteration cycles to enhance the learning process critical for the improvement of the product.

In this agile methodology, the team is at the center of the decision-making process as the stakeholders and management provide the best solutions and resources based on what the team feels.

Extreme Programming

Created specifically for software developers, this framework is similar to the lean methodology. Extreme programming (XP) puts emphasis on client delivery and continuous development through sprints and iteration.

To achieve this, it focuses on applying the latest practices on software and application development pertaining to the Agile Manifesto.

XP is responsible for the most popular regulations common to software development such as test-drive developments (TDD) and iterations.

A feature called Pair Programming is another XP innovation. Programmers are paired with each other in a task where one writes the code and the other observes.  This increases efficiency because the one observing before can write the code on the next Pair Programming session while the other can observe.

Feature-Driven Development

Among all agile frameworks, feature-driven development (FDD) is the most document-intensive. Since its goal is to create software models every two weeks, each model needs a separate design plan. Due to its high requirements in documentation, FDD is ideal for teams with more advanced abilities in design and planning.

To do this, developers organize software models into separate content areas with help from documentation. Then, using the framework, developers will brainstorm for a product concept that will be used as the basis for the feature list. From here,  they will prepare a plan for creating the product using the iterative process.

Develop a roadmap

No product stays the same over time. Outside of the iterations to be made on a product based on user feedback, it’s possible for it to evolve into something different from when it started.

agile workflow

This reason is why agile roadmaps exist. They help plot the direction of the product and its functionalities depending on the features to be released over time.

Having a roadmap listing down the upcoming features the product will have gives your developers an idea of what to do next to make it even better. It is also a great way to keep them motivated and give them something to look forward to in the future.

Outside of listing down new features to add, you can use roadmaps to organize your backlogs and address them at a later date.

Conclusion

As with most software development teams, the goal is to deliver working software that meets customer and stakeholder demands. However, the product doesn’t stop once it’s created. Due to the ever-changing demands of users and the market, you need to stay on top of your product for updates and iterations.

Therefore, an agile lifecycle is the creation of a sustainable product that welcomes changes and updates as long as its customers will them. Developing an agile workflow that meets the needs of your team depends on the agile software development methodology you’ll use on top of your organizational skills.

And even if this will be your first time to jump head-first into an agile workflow, the best thing about it is its iterative process. Even if you make mistakes along the way, you can go back and fix them on the fly just in time for your next tasks.