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The history of agile

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

The agile method has its roots in the project management methodology that emphasizes flexibility, collaboration, and iterative development. Agile development is a reaction to traditional project management methods, which are often rigid, hierarchical, and based on a top-down approach. The agile method was first introduced in 2001 through the publication of the Agile Manifesto, which was created by a group of software developers who sought to develop a more flexible and collaborative approach to software development.

Agile Development Before the Manifesto

The origins of the agile method can be traced back to the 1990s, when several software development methodologies emerged in response to the limitations of traditional project management methods. These methodologies included Scrum, Extreme Programming (XP), Crystal, and Feature-Driven Development (FDD). Each of these methodologies emphasized collaboration, communication, and iterative development.

For example, Scrum was developed in the mid-1990s by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber, who sought to create a more flexible and adaptive approach to software development. Scrum is based on a series of sprints, which are short periods of time during which a team works on a specific set of tasks. At the end of each sprint, the team reviews its progress and makes adjustments as needed.

Similarly, XP was developed by Kent Beck in the late 1990s, and it emphasizes teamwork, communication, and customer involvement. XP is based on a series of practices, such as pair programming, continuous integration, and test-driven development, that are intended to improve software quality and speed up development.

The Agile Manifesto

The agile method as we know it today was formalized in 2001 through the publication of the Agile Manifesto. The manifesto was created by a group of 17 software developers who met in Snowbird, Utah, to discuss the state of software development at the time and to propose a new approach. The developers included Kent Beck, Ward Cunningham, Martin Fowler, and Jim Highsmith, among others.

The Agile Manifesto consists of four core values and 12 principles, which are intended to guide software development teams in their work. The four core values are:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation

  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

  4. Responding to change over following a plan

These values emphasize the importance of communication, collaboration, and flexibility in software development. They also prioritize the needs of the customer and the delivery of working software over strict adherence to processes and documentation. The 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto expand on these core values and provide more specific guidance for software development teams. These principles include:

  1. Customer satisfaction through early and continuous delivery of valuable software

  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development

  3. Deliver working software frequently, with a preference for shorter timescales

  4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project

  5. Build projects around motivated individuals and give them the support they need

  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation

  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress

  8. Sustainable development, able to maintain a constant pace

  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility

  10. Simplicity--the art of maximizing the amount of work not done--is essential

  11. Self-organizing teams encourage great architectures, requirements, and designs

  12. Regularly reflect on the team's performance and adjust accordingly

Agile in Practice

Since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the agile method has become widely adopted in software development and has influenced other fields such as marketing, project management, and even education. Agile development is used by organizations of all sizes, from startups to large corporations, and has been applied in a variety of industries, including healthcare, finance, and government.

One of the key features of agile development is its emphasis on collaboration and teamwork. Agile teams are typically small and cross-functional, with team members from different disciplines working together to achieve a common goal. The team works together in short iterations or sprints, with frequent check-ins and feedback loops to ensure that the work is on track and aligned with the customer's needs.

Another important aspect of agile development is its focus on delivering value to the customer early and often. This means that agile teams prioritize the most important features and work on them first, delivering working software at the end of each iteration. This approach allows the team to receive feedback from the customer early in the process and make adjustments as needed.

Agile development also places a strong emphasis on continuous improvement. Teams regularly reflect on their performance and make adjustments to their processes and practices to improve efficiency and quality. This constant focus on improvement helps agile teams to adapt to changing circumstances and to continuously deliver value to the customer.

Agile Method Variations

While the Agile Manifesto and its principles provide a common framework for agile development, there are many variations of the agile method in practice. Some common variations include:

  1. Scrum: Scrum is a popular agile framework that emphasizes teamwork, communication, and iterative development. It is based on a series of sprints, with a focus on delivering working software at the end of each sprint.

  2. Kanban: Kanban is an agile framework that focuses on visualizing the work and limiting work in progress. It emphasizes continuous improvement and emphasizes the importance of delivering value to the customer.

  3. Lean: Lean is a methodology that emphasizes eliminating waste and delivering value to the customer. It is based on the principles of the Toyota Production System and has been adapted for use in software development.

  4. XP: Extreme Programming (XP) is an agile methodology that emphasizes teamwork, communication, and technical excellence. It is based on a series of practices, such as pair programming, continuous integration, and test-driven development

In conclusion

In conclusion, the agile method has a rich history that dates back to the 1990s, when software developers began seeking alternatives to traditional project management methods. The Agile Manifesto, published in 2001, formalized the core values and principles of the agile method, which prioritize flexibility, collaboration, and iterative development. Today, agile development is widely adopted across industries and has influenced project management practices beyond software development. The continued growth and evolution of agile development is a testament to its effectiveness in improving team collaboration, software quality, and customer satisfaction.

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