3 Benefits to Outsourcing Your Agile Quality Assurance Development

Agile software development is a set of principles for developing software that evolved from concepts introduced during the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, it wasn’t formalized until the Manifesto for Agile Software Development was published in 2001. An agile approach allows software requirements and their solutions to evolve through collaboration between cross-functional teams. It also promotes early delivery and continuous improvement. Additional hallmarks of these principles include adaptive planning and a rapid response to changes in requirements.

Agile software development doesn’t require developers to use a particular methodology, although developers often consider certain methods to be “agile.” It typically breaks tasks into small increments known as sprints, which require minimal planning and don’t directly involve long-term planning. Sprints have short time frames known as time boxes that usually last from one to four weeks. A cross-functional team performs all of the tasks in a sprint, including gathering requirements, design, development and testing. This team often demonstrates a working product to the stakeholders at the end of each sprint.

A sprint doesn’t need to provide the functionality needed to warrant a market release; it just needs to produce a release with minimal bugs. Multiple sprints are typically required to release each new feature. The primary benefits of an agile approach are to minimize the overall risk of the project and allow developers to adapt to change quickly. Scott Ambler, Practice Leader for Agile Development at IBM, discussed the benefits of agile development in detail during an interview with TechRepublic. He said, “The major benefits come from a greater focus of quality, discipline, working closely with business stakeholders and on delivering working software on a regular basis.”

Rapid Response to Change

Software requirements can change overnight in today’s business. A company’s explosive growth may require a dramatic increase in the software’s scope, or a new regulation may require the software to have additional features. New technologies such as enhancements to mobile devices may also necessitate increases to the software’s functionality. These modifications tend to be highly disruptive to traditional methods of developing software such as waterfall development because developers must repeat each step of the process to accommodate a change. Agile development can accommodate changes more easily by adding them in the next sprint, thus reducing the duplication of effort.

The ability of an agile approach to handle the rapid technological changes often allows the project to remain viable when it would otherwise die prematurely. Mike Cohn, author of Agile Estimating and Planning, says, “An agile team is focused on business priorities and adapts quickly to emerging customer needs.”

The continuous integration of stakeholders in agile development allows customers to follow the project’s progress on a daily basis as requirements are changed or added. This practice is becoming more practical in nearshore agile software development due to technological developments such as Internet protocol (VoIP) software and wikis.

Waterfall development typically involves little contact between the users and developers from the finalization a project requires to approval testing. This gap is often six months for a large project, during which the users will have little idea about whether the project is being developed according to specifications. This development model allows little time for adjustments, which must be made shortly before the project’s completion.

Nearshore agile software development means that developers and users are in similar time zones. Users can review the product at the end of each sprint, often in the form of demonstrations that show a particular functionality or user experience. Developers can then incorporate any needed changes during the next sprint.

Reduced Risk

Waterfall development typically incurs various forms of risk throughout the project’s lifetime. Users often wonder if the project will be delivered on time or if it will meet the specified requirements. Agile development minimizes these risks by regularly providing users with tangible evidence that the software will perform as expected. The sprint reviews also provide opportunities for users to prioritize features, allowing them to maximize the software’s business value.

The use of a series of sprints to develop a large project also allows the client to control the cost of each sprint. The ability to understand the approximate cost of each feature also helps the client to prioritize feature requests and predict the availability of each feature. Clients may also begin testing a feature before the project is completed in cases with sufficient justification.

Robert C. Martin states that 80 percent of software development is maintenance in his 2008 book Clean Code. He adds that bad practices in the development of the original code directly result in a dramatic increase in the resources needed to maintain it, including time and money. Poor code may even necessitate the redesign of the entire application. Agile development also reduces risk by working with a proven design that allows developers to reduce an application’s load time more quickly and effectively. It also tends to create a scalable architecture that can easily handle sudden increases in the number of users.

Higher Quality

Clients typically find that agile development provides them with a higher-quality product since breaking a large project into sprints allows the development team to focus on creating and testing the code for a specific feature. The 2011 CHAOS report from the Standish Group reports that software projects are three times more likely to succeed when they use an agile process as compared to waterfall development. This report showed that the chances of a project succeeding with waterfall development were only 14 percent, compared to 42 percent for agile development. The probability of an outright failure was 29 percent for waterfall development and only nine percent for agile development.

Continuous quality assurance is also a defining characteristic of agile methods since they integrate adaptation and inspection of the delivery process. They also include periodic project reflections, which are meetings that facilitate the reflection that normally occurs on a project’s successes and failures. Project reflections also discuss any new tools or techniques that have been applied since the last reflection. Agile methods also include daily standup meetings that allow team members to continuously exchange information and fine-tune improvements.

The regular feedback that developers receive from users after each sprint allows them to improve existing features and incorporate the lessons learned into future features. The use of sprints lets team members maintain their focus on one feature at a time without becoming lost in the big picture. It also allows them to perform quality assurance on each step independently of the others, so they can quickly identify and fix bugs before they can create future problems. Furthermore, agile methods improve software by increasing the collaboration between developers and clients.

We at Tiempo Development believe that our work culture allows us to exceed our client’s expectations by developing innovative software solutions. Our team members openly collaborate with each other to rapidly adapt to changes in user requirements. We also use agile methodologies to collaborate with our clients. You can read more about the Tiempo Development approach to creating high-quality software in our white paper on the Tiempo Quality System.