Back in the days, the Agile methodology was primarily used for a proper approach to IT application development & software development projects. However, in the current scenario, the Agile methodology also extends to other fields, including the services & knowledge industry. The primary goal of Agile is to be market & customer responsive, by quickly responding to the demands & needs of the customer, thereby being able to change the product direction depending upon the situation.
With the help of Agile, the value of the delivery of products to the customer can be maximized and the risks of creating products that don’t meet the customer or market needs can be minimized. This is done by simply breaking up the long delivery cycles that traditionally have been in use, into shorter ones, typically known as Sprints. With the help of this concept, Developers can deliver a working product to the customer, then obtain the customer feedback and tune up their next Sprint based on that feedback. As a result, delivery times will be reduced and the customer will only enjoy the features that they like. To help you know more about Agile, it’s time to take a closer look at the technical practices of Agile.
Few great Agile technical practices
When it comes to the most desirable & useful technical practices of Agile, Continuous Integration or CI has to be right at the top. In general, continuous integration is defined by a process where proper infrastructure is always in place to keep the commitment of the team in check. Such a process is carried out by triggering various test cases each moment a Developer submits his/her code to the repository.
Earlier builds were mainly done weekly. This meant that a Developer had to wait for several days for his/her code to reach the build. And in case the build failed, then an investigation had to be done regarding which Developer’s code broke the build.
But, with continuous integration, once a Developer submits his/her code, everyone will know about the same. And in case it breaks the build, the other Developers will know the place where they should start the debugging process.
In simple words, technical debt can be defined as the easy, dirty & quick solutions that Developers might use, which will lead to a ‘debt’ that has to be paid later on along with interest. Thus, solutions that are used under technical debt are not the ideal solutions to solve an issue. This is because these solutions can make the code very difficult to change & read while also introducing bugs later on or at the moment.
Furthermore, since more code will be added to the already added poor code via technical debt, it will make fixing the bugs difficult later on. Thus, it’s not suggested to use technical debt, unless there’s an absolute necessity for the same. For instance, if there’s a requirement to get a product build working before a major trade show or to add that urgent feature for the customers otherwise the customers will shift to the competitor’s product. Situations like these are when the need for technical debt arises.
It’s suggested that before you decide to implement technical debt, you must have a proper discussion with your team regarding the same and obtain their necessary inputs on the matter.
In the world of Agile, products are delivered at a faster rate. What this means is that – validation should also be done at a faster rate. Manual testing cannot be relied upon anymore because it indeed takes up a lot of time, leading to inefficiency & turning out to be expensive. Thus, automation should be carried out at different levels of the product development cycle. These include unit tests, functional tests, integration tests, regression tests, customer acceptance tests, and so on.
When automation is present from the first day, it should act as the first line of defense. Be it small or big releases, automated testing makes the development process much more seamless and effortless for the Developers. Every time a Developer will update the build, the automated testing process will run the updated code and in case of any failures, the proper alteration will be done.
Straightforward and Simple design
In the Agile methodology, it’s always a better choice to kick start the product with a simple design, which will help in solving the immediate issues instead of thinking too much regarding what the future holds for the same. However, the solution shouldn’t be too short-sighted, otherwise, the whole solution might need a rework again later on.
Thus, finding the correct balance between the current needs while maintaining simplicity will always prove to be a challenging aspect.
As simple as it sounds, pair programming is indeed very straightforward to understand & learn. In simple words, pair programming can be defined as the process of two people working in close harmony when writing the code.
The benefits of using the practice of pair programming are:
- It’s quite easy to detect any type of errors in the code
- Only the Developers working on the code will brainstorm for the creative ideas
- Knowledge can be easily shared as well as transferred between the two Developers
Generally, this practice is applied in case of complex product scenarios such as new technology, new domains etc.
Collective ownership of the code
In an Agile environment, the entire team will have ownership of the code. What this means is that – anyone on the team is allowed to alter the code anywhere without resistance. Without following these principles, it’s indeed difficult to exercise the Agile methodology.
Code review process
Code review can be defined as the process of in-depth reviewing the work of other team members. When pair programming is practiced, team members are doing this task on the spot. However, when the same is not practiced, then the modifications to the code must be analyzed.
The benefits of code review are as follows:
- Proper transfer of knowledge from one Developer to another
- Ideal learning experience
- Allows the team to detect any mistakes at the start of the development cycle
- Better performance & readability
The process of code review can either be formal or informal, depending upon the circumstances. Some of the most useful tools for code review include Crucible, Collaborator, and Gerrit. Since this practice is gaining popularity over time, new systems are being designed to complete the code review process as seamlessly as possible.
TDD or Test-Driven Development
This is also one of the most popular technical practices of Agile. The primary philosophy of TDD is that – always start the product development with the end goal in perspective. In case you’re not aware, then TDD can also be referred to as the ‘Red-Green-Clean’ cycle.
The process of TDD is as follows:
- Firstly, the test has to be developed. However, it will fail since there will be no code to test.
- Then the code has to be written until the test passes.
- Then the code must be cleaned to eliminate any redundancies and all the code standards are respected.
- Run the test again.
As a result, the Developers can experience the following set of benefits from TDD:
- Ensure that the functionality is testable
- Allows the Developers to catch the bugs at an early stage
- Allows the Developers to understand a certain product feature better, which will help in the clarification process later on.
It should be realized that TDD goes hand in hand with unit testing.
There’s no denying that these aforementioned Agile technical practices do add more time into the product development lifecycle. However, it should also be remembered that the Developers are also delivering a high quality product and much faster because they’re removing the unimportant aspects of the product that don’t add any value. And that’s what the technical practices of Agile are all about.
In an Agile transformation, it’s essential to consider both technical & organizational practices because they always go hand in hand. Overlooking one of them will directly lead to failure or partial success.