Introduction to Software Engineering/Process/Agile Model

Agile software development is a group of software development methodologies based on iterative and incremental development, where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing, cross-functional teams. The Agile Manifesto[1] introduced the term in 2001.




Jeff Sutherland, one of the creators of the Scrum framework

Incremental software development methods have been traced back to 1957.[2] In 1974, a paper by E. A. Edmonds introduced an adaptive software development process.[3]

So-called "lightweight" software development methods evolved in the mid-1990s as a reaction against "heavyweight" methods, which were characterized by their critics as a heavily regulated, regimented, micromanaged, waterfall model of development. Proponents of lightweight methods (and now "agile" methods) contend that they are a return to development practices from early in the history of software development.[2]

Early implementations of lightweight methods include Scrum (1995), Crystal Clear, Extreme Programming (1996), Adaptive Software Development, Feature Driven Development, and Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) (1995). These are now typically referred to as agile methodologies, after the Agile Manifesto published in 2001.[4]

Agile Manifesto


In February 2001, 17 software developers[5] met at a ski resort in Snowbird, Utah, to discuss lightweight development methods. They published the "Manifesto for Agile Software Development"[1] to define the approach now known as agile software development. Some of the manifesto's authors formed the Agile Alliance, a nonprofit organization that promotes software development according to the manifesto's principles.

Agile Manifesto reads, in its entirety, as follows:[1]

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.

Twelve principles underlie the Agile Manifesto, including:[6]

  • Customer satisfaction by rapid delivery of useful software
  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development
  • Working software is delivered frequently (weeks rather than months)
  • Working software is the principal measure of progress
  • Sustainable development, able to maintain a constant pace
  • Close, daily co-operation between business people and developers
  • Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication (co-location)
  • Projects are built around motivated individuals, who should be trusted
  • Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design
  • Simplicity
  • Self-organizing teams
  • Regular adaptation to changing circumstances

In 2005, a group headed by Alistair Cockburn and Jim Highsmith wrote an addendum of project management principles, the Declaration of Interdependence,[7] to guide software project management according to agile development methods.


Pair programming, an XP development technique used by agile

There are many specific agile development methods. Most promote development, teamwork, collaboration, and process adaptability throughout the life-cycle of the project.

Agile methods break tasks into small increments with minimal planning, and do not directly involve long-term planning. Iterations are short time frames (timeboxes) that typically last from one to four weeks. Each iteration involves a team working through a full software development cycle including planning, requirements analysis, design, coding, unit testing, and acceptance testing when a working product is demonstrated to stakeholders. This minimizes overall risk and allows the project to adapt to changes quickly. Stakeholders produce documentation as required. An iteration may not add enough functionality to warrant a market release, but the goal is to have an available release (with minimal bugs) at the end of each iteration.[8] Multiple iterations may be required to release a product or new features.

Team composition in an agile project is usually cross-functional and self-organizing without consideration for any existing corporate hierarchy or the corporate roles of team members. Team members normally take responsibility for tasks that deliver the functionality an iteration requires. They decide individually how to meet an iteration's requirements.

Agile methods emphasize face-to-face communication over written documents when the team is all in the same location. Most agile teams work in a single open office (called a bullpen), which facilitates such communication. Team size is typically small (5-9 people) to simplify team communication and team collaboration. Larger development efforts may be delivered by multiple teams working toward a common goal or on different parts of an effort. This may require a co-ordination of priorities across teams. When a team works in different locations, they maintain daily contact through videoconferencing, voice, e-mail, etc.

No matter what development disciplines are required, each agile team will contain a customer representative. This person is appointed by stakeholders to act on their behalf and makes a personal commitment to being available for developers to answer mid-iteration problem-domain questions. At the end of each iteration, stakeholders and the customer representative review progress and re-evaluate priorities with a view to optimizing the return on investment (ROI) and ensuring alignment with customer needs and company goals.

Most agile implementations use a routine and formal daily face-to-face communication among team members. This specifically includes the customer representative and any interested stakeholders as observers. In a brief session, team members report to each other what they did the previous day, what they intend to do today, and what their roadblocks are. This face-to-face communication exposes problems as they arise.

Agile development emphasizes working software as the primary measure of progress. This, combined with the preference for face-to-face communication, produces less written documentation than other methods. The agile method encourages stakeholders to prioritize wants with other iteration outcomes based exclusively on business value perceived at the beginning of the iteration.

Specific tools and techniques such as continuous integration, automated or xUnit test, pair programming, test driven development, design patterns, domain-driven design, code refactoring and other techniques are often used to improve quality and enhance project agility.

Comparison with other methods


Agile methods are sometimes characterized as being at the opposite end of the spectrum from "plan-driven" or "disciplined" methods; agile teams may, however, employ highly disciplined formal methods.[9] A more accurate distinction is that methods exist on a continuum from "adaptive" to "predictive".[10] Agile methods lie on the "adaptive" side of this continuum. Adaptive methods focus on adapting quickly to changing realities. When the needs of a project change, an adaptive team changes as well. An adaptive team will have difficulty describing exactly what will happen in the future. The further away a date is, the more vague an adaptive method will be about what will happen on that date. An adaptive team cannot report exactly what tasks are being done next week, but only which features are planned for next month. When asked about a release six months from now, an adaptive team may only be able to report the mission statement for the release, or a statement of expected value vs. cost.

Predictive methods, in contrast, focus on planning the future in detail. A predictive team can report exactly what features and tasks are planned for the entire length of the development process. Predictive teams have difficulty changing direction. The plan is typically optimized for the original destination and changing direction can require completed work to be started over. Predictive teams will often institute a change control board to ensure that only the most valuable changes are considered.

Formal methods, in contrast to adaptive and predictive methods, focus on computer science theory with a wide array of types of provers. A formal method attempts to prove the absence of errors with some level of determinism. Some formal methods are based on model checking and provide counter examples for code that cannot be proven. Generally, mathematical models (often supported through special languages see SPIN model checker) map to assertions about requirements. Formal methods are dependent on a tool driven approach, and may be combined with other development approaches. Some provers do not easily scale. Like agile methods, manifestos relevant to high integrity software have been proposed in Crosstalk.

Agile methods have much in common with the "Rapid Application Development" techniques from the 1980/90s as espoused by James Martin and others.

Agile methods


Well-known agile software development methods include:

  • Agile Modeling
  • Agile Unified Process (AUP)
  • Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)
  • Essential Unified Process (EssUP)
  • Extreme Programming (XP)
  • Feature Driven Development (FDD)
  • Open Unified Process (OpenUP)
  • Scrum
  • Velocity tracking

Method tailoring


In the literature, different terms refer to the notion of method adaptation, including ‘method tailoring’, ‘method fragment adaptation’ and ‘situational method engineering’. Method tailoring is defined as:

A process or capability in which human agents through responsive changes in, and dynamic interplays between contexts, intentions, and method fragments determine a system development approach for a specific project situation.[11]

Potentially, almost all agile methods are suitable for method tailoring. Even the DSDM method is being used for this purpose and has been successfully tailored in a CMM context.[12] Situation-appropriateness can be considered as a distinguishing characteristic between agile methods and traditional software development methods, with the latter being relatively much more rigid and prescriptive. The practical implication is that agile methods allow project teams to adapt working practices according to the needs of individual projects. Practices are concrete activities and products that are part of a method framework. At a more extreme level, the philosophy behind the method, consisting of a number of principles, could be adapted (Aydin, 2004).[11]

Extreme Programming (XP) makes the need for method adaptation explicit. One of the fundamental ideas of XP is that no one process fits every project, but rather that practices should be tailored to the needs of individual projects. Partial adoption of XP practices, as suggested by Beck, has been reported on several occasions.[13] A tailoring practice is proposed by Mehdi Mirakhorli which provides sufficient roadmap and guideline for adapting all the practices. RDP Practice is designed for customizing XP. This practice, first proposed as a long research paper in the APSO workshop at the ICSE 2008 conference, is currently the only proposed and applicable method for customizing XP. Although it is specifically a solution for XP, this practice has the capability of extending to other methodologies. At first glance, this practice seems to be in the category of static method adaptation but experiences with RDP Practice says that it can be treated like dynamic method adaptation. The distinction between static method adaptation and dynamic method adaptation is subtle.[14] The key assumption behind static method adaptation is that the project context is given at the start of a project and remains fixed during project execution. The result is a static definition of the project context. Given such a definition, route maps can be used in order to determine which structured method fragments should be used for that particular project, based on predefined sets of criteria. Dynamic method adaptation, in contrast, assumes that projects are situated in an emergent context. An emergent context implies that a project has to deal with emergent factors that affect relevant conditions but are not predictable. This also means that a project context is not fixed, but changing during project execution. In such a case prescriptive route maps are not appropriate. The practical implication of dynamic method adaptation is that project managers often have to modify structured fragments or even innovate new fragments, during the execution of a project (Aydin et al., 2005).[14]

Measuring agility


While agility can be seen as a means to an end, a number of approaches have been proposed to quantify agility. Agility Index Measurements (AIM)[15] score projects against a number of agility factors to achieve a total. The similarly-named Agility Measurement Index,[16] scores developments against five dimensions of a software project (duration, risk, novelty, effort, and interaction). Other techniques are based on measurable goals.[17] Another study using fuzzy mathematics[18] has suggested that project velocity can be used as a metric of agility. There are agile self assessments to determine whether a team is using agile practices (Nokia test,[19] Karlskrona test,[20] 42 points test[21]).

While such approaches have been proposed to measure agility, the practical application of such metrics has yet to be seen.

Experience and reception


One of the early studies reporting gains in quality, productivity, and business satisfaction by using Agile methods was a survey conducted by Shine Technologies from November 2002 to January 2003.[22] A similar survey conducted in 2006 by Scott Ambler, the Practice Leader for Agile Development with IBM Rational's Methods Group reported similar benefits.[23] In a survey conducted by VersionOne in 2008, 55% of respondents answered that Agile methods had been successful in 90-100% of cases.[24] Others claim that agile development methods are still too young to require extensive academic proof of their success.[25]



Large-scale agile software development remains an active research area.[26][27]

Agile development has been widely documented (see Experience Reports, below, as well as Beck[28] pg. 157, and Boehm and Turner[29]) as working well for small (<10 developers) co-located teams.

Some things that may negatively impact the success of an agile project are:

  • Large-scale development efforts (>20 developers), though scaling strategies[27] and evidence of some large projects[30] have been described.
  • Distributed development efforts (non-colocated teams). Strategies have been described in Bridging the Distance[31] and Using an Agile Software Process with Offshore Development[32]
  • Forcing an agile process on a development team[33]
  • Mission-critical systems where failure is not an option at any cost (e.g. software for surgical procedures).

Several successful large-scale agile projects have been documented.Template:Where BT has had several hundred developers situated in the UK, Ireland and India working collaboratively on projects and using Agile methods.[citation needed]

In terms of outsourcing agile development, Michael Hackett, Sr. Vice President of LogiGear Corporation has stated that "the offshore team. . . should have expertise, experience, good communication skills, inter-cultural understanding, trust and understanding between members and groups and with each other."[34]

Barry Boehm and Richard Turner suggest that risk analysis be used to choose between adaptive ("agile") and predictive ("plan-driven") methods.[29] The authors suggest that each side of the continuum has its own home ground as follows:

Agile home ground:[29]

  • Low criticality
  • Senior developers
  • Requirements change often
  • Small number of developers
  • Culture that thrives on chaos

Plan-driven home ground:[29]

  • High criticality
  • Junior developers
  • Requirements do not change often
  • Large number of developers
  • Culture that demands order

Formal methods:

  • Extreme criticality
  • Senior developers
  • Limited requirements, limited features see Wirth's law
  • Requirements that can be modeled
  • Extreme quality

Experience reports


Agile development has been the subject of several conferences. Some of these conferences have had academic backing and included peer-reviewed papers, including a peer-reviewed experience report track. The experience reports share industry experiences with agile software development.

As of 2006, experience reports have been or will be presented at the following conferences:

  • XP (2000,[35] 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006,[36] 2010 (proceedings published by IEEE)[37])
  • XP Universe (2001[38])
  • XP/Agile Universe (2002,[39] 2003,[40] 2004[41])
  • Agile Development Conference[42] (2003,2004,2007,2008) (peer-reviewed; proceedings published by IEEE)


  1. a b c Beck, Kent; et al. (2001). "Manifesto for Agile Software Development". Agile Alliance. Retrieved 2010-06-14. {{cite web}}: Explicit use of et al. in: |author2= (help)
  2. a b Gerald M. Weinberg, as quoted in Larman, Craig; Basili, Victor R. (2003). "Iterative and Incremental Development: A Brief History". Computer. 36 (6): 47–56. doi:10.1109/MC.2003.1204375. ISSN 0018-9162. We were doing incremental development as early as 1957, in Los Angeles, under the direction of Bernie Dimsdale [at IBM's ServiceBureau Corporation]. He was a colleague of John von Neumann, so perhaps he learned it there, or assumed it as totally natural. I do remember Herb Jacobs (primarily, though we all participated) developing a large simulation for Motorola, where the technique used was, as far as I can tell .... All of us, as far as I can remember, thought waterfalling of a huge project was rather stupid, or at least ignorant of the realities. I think what the waterfall description did for us was make us realize that we were doing something else, something unnamed except for 'software development.' {{cite journal}}: |access-date= requires |url= (help); Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  3. Edmonds, E. A. (1974). "A Process for the Development of Software for Nontechnical Users as an Adaptive System". General Systems. 19: 215–18.
  4. Larman, Craig (2004). Agile and Iterative Development: A Manager's Guide. Addison-Wesley. p. 27. ISBN 9780131111554.
  5. Kent Beck, Mike Beedle, Arie van Bennekum, Alistair Cockburn, Ward Cunningham, Martin Fowler, James Grenning, Jim Highsmith, Andrew Hunt, Ron Jeffries, Jon Kern, Brian Marick, Robert C. Martin, Stephen J. Mellor, Ken Schwaber, Jeff Sutherland, and Dave Thomas
  6. Beck, Kent; et al. (2001). "Principles behind the Agile Manifesto". Agile Alliance. Retrieved 2010-06-06. {{cite web}}: Explicit use of et al. in: |author2= (help)
  7. Anderson, David (2005). "Declaration of Interdependence".
  8. Beck, Kent (1999). "Embracing Change with Extreme Programming". Computer. 32 (10): 70–77. doi:10.1109/2.796139.
  9. Black, S. E.; Boca., P. P.; Bowen, J. P.; Gorman, J.; Hinchey, M. G. (2009). "Formal versus agile: Survival of the fittest". IEEE Computer. 49 (9): 39–45. {{cite journal}}: Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  10. Boehm, B. (2004). Balancing Agility and Discipline: A Guide for the Perplexed. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0-321-18612-5. {{cite book}}: Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help) Appendix A, pages 165-194
  11. a b Aydin, M.N., Harmsen, F., Slooten, K. v., & Stagwee, R. A. (2004). An Agile Information Systems Development Method in use. Turk J Elec Engin, 12(2), 127-138
  12. Abrahamsson, P., Warsta, J., Siponen, M.T., & Ronkainen, J. (2003). New Directions on Agile Methods: A Comparative Analysis. Proceedings of ICSE'03, 244-254
  13. Abrahamsson, P., Salo, O., Ronkainen, J., & Warsta, J. (2002). Agile Software Development Methods: Review and Analysis. VTT Publications 478
  14. a b Aydin, M.N., Harmsen, F., Slooten van K., & Stegwee, R.A. (2005). On the Adaptation of An Agile Information(Suren) Systems Development Method. Journal of Database Management Special issue on Agile Analysis, Design, and Implementation, 16(4), 20-24
  15. "David Bock's Weblog : Weblog". Retrieved 2010-04-02.
  16. "Agility measurement index". Retrieved 2010-04-02.
  17. Peter Lappo. "Assessing Agility" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-06-06. {{cite web}}: Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  18. Kurian, Tisni (2006). "Agility Metrics: A Quantitative Fuzzy Based Approach for Measuring Agility of a Software Process" ISAM-Proceedings of International Conference on Agile Manufacturing'06(ICAM-2006), Norfolk, U.S.
  19. Joe Little (2007-12-02). "Nokia test, A Scrum specific test". Retrieved 2010-06-06.
  20. Mark Seuffert, Piratson Technologies, Sweden. "Karlskrona test, A generic agile adoption test". Retrieved 2010-06-06.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  21. "How agile are you, A Scrum specific test". Retrieved 2010-06-06.
  22. "Agile Methodologies Survey Results" (PDF). Shine Technologies. 2003. Retrieved 2010-06-03. 95% [stated] that there was either no effect or a cost reduction . . . 93% stated that productivity was better or significantly better . . . 88% stated that quality was better or significantly better . . . 83% stated that business satisfaction was better or significantly better {{cite web}}: External link in |publisher= (help); Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  23. Ambler, Scott (August 3, 2006). "Survey Says: Agile Works in Practice". Dr. Dobb's. Retrieved 2010-06-03. Only 6 percent indicated that their productivity was lowered . . . No change in productivity was reported by 34 percent of respondents and 60 percent reported increased productivity. . . . 66 percent [responded] that the quality is higher. . . . 58 percent of organizations report improved satisfaction, whereas only 3 percent report reduced satisfaction.
  24. "The State of Agile Development" (PDF). VersionOne, Inc. 2008. Retrieved 2010-07-03. Agile delivers
  25. "Answering the "Where is the Proof That Agile Methods Work" Question". 2007-01-19. Retrieved 2010-04-02.
  26. Agile Processes Workshop II Managing Multiple Concurrent Agile Projects. Washington: OOPSLA 2002
  27. a b W. Scott Ambler (2006) "Supersize Me" in Dr. Dobb's Journal, February 15, 2006.
  28. Beck, K. (1999). Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace Change. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0-321-27865-8.
  29. a b c d Boehm, B. (2004). Balancing Agility and Discipline: A Guide for the Perplexed. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley. pp. 55–57. ISBN 0-321-18612-5. {{cite book}}: Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  30. Schaaf, R.J. (2007). "Agility XL", Systems and Software Technology Conference 2007, Tampa, FL
  31. "Bridging the Distance". Retrieved 2011-02-01.
  32. Martin Fowler. "Using an Agile Software Process with Offshore Development". Retrieved 2010-06-06.
  33. [The Art of Agile Development James Shore & Shane Warden pg 47]
  34. [1] LogiGear, PC World Viet Nam, Jan 2011
  35. 2000
  36. "2006". Retrieved 2010-06-06.
  37. "2010". Retrieved 2010-06-06.
  38. 2001
  39. 2002
  40. 2003
  41. 2004
  42. "Agile Development Conference". Retrieved 2010-06-06.

Further reading