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Does Agile Work WIth Complex Applications?

5 minutes read

When it comes to creating business applications, too many of us live in denial. It’s so tempting to believe that we can accurately predict how long it will take our team to build software that meets our requirements and exceeds expectations. We believe that we know what the requirements are upfront and that they won’t change throughout the entire process. It’s easy to think this way because that’s the way everything else in life normally works, isn’t it?

Everyone knows that’s not true. Nobody predicts anything in life accurately and software development is no different. We can’t have concrete requirements upfront and we can’t keep them from changing. Because we deny these realities, many software teams are still using antiquated development processes that don’t work and just leave everyone involved frustrated.

That’s where Agile steps in. It’s rooted in reality and in turn reduces risk by focusing on real business value, accommodating changes and creating transparency in the development process. Starting any sort of software project in this way can be intimidating, and why shouldn’t it be? It’s the complete opposite of everything that exists in a business comfort zone. The truth is Agile processes are not only better for the development teams, but the people that pay them as well.

Agile and Stakeholder Involvement

One of the biggest challenges in software development is the same challenge many of us have been facing the last couple years: Uncertainty. When we start a development project, there’s no promise that we’ve defined the requirements correctly and even more so, there’s no promise that those requirements won’t change as the product grows.

Traditional development processes do their best to ignore this. They pretend uncertainty doesn’t exist. A team might create an incredibly detailed plan with precise schedules and deadlines before even attempting to write a line of code. But as anyone who’s tried to develop this way will tell you, “A software project will take twice as long, and cost twice as much.” Not to mention the staggering statistics of projects that fail.

Software projects are notoriously unruly. Creating stable requirements upfront is virtually impossible. Mostly because people don’t know what they want until they see it. And since every software project requires innovation, uncertainty is unavoidable.

Traditional processes actively work against these realities. Agile is different. Agile is designed specifically for this situation. It’s literally in the name. As requirements change, teams need to act with agility to add, remove, and modify the requirements throughout the development process. Not just at the end. It’s equally as important to acknowledge that short-term plans are more stable than long-term plans. You might not know what you’ll want three months from now, but you definitely know what progress you want to see in three weeks.

To accomplish this, Agile relies on iterations. Instead of defining everything upfront, writing all of the code, then testing all the code, Agile does this all at once in smaller iterations which are called sprints. At the end of your first sprint, your team should have a minimum viable product. After that you redefine and modify the original requirements as you go. Because requirements are assessed at the beginning and end of each sprint, Agile is very accommodating to change, which as we already discussed is inevitable.

Enforcing Project Success

It’s easy to see why developers like Agile, it gives them more autonomy while giving them an increasingly more clear idea of the direction development should take. While developer happiness is important, it shouldn’t be the only reason you adopt Agile. There are also numerous business benefits that go along with it such as creating a product the end-user will actually enjoy using, changing the way a development team interacts with the customer, and overall reducing the risk of a failed project.

The key aspect of Agile development is stakeholder involvement. At every step the customer should be present to discuss removing requirements, re-prioritizing them, and anything else they would like adjusted within the app. Rather than providing requirements upfront and hoping that the team is able to deliver them months or years later, the customer plays a crucial role in each iteration. Being involved in each iteration means the customer should be able to see continually improved business value, expressed by working software, in each iteration of their application.

By adopting Agile, teams are more likely to create a product the business actually needs. By keeping the lines of communication open between the customer, the product owner, and the team, developers are able to prioritize and build the most important aspects first. The customer is more likely to get what they need most even if resource constraints mean the team can’t deliver everything the customer wants. Also, because the process is so involved from every side, it offers plenty of room and opportunities to make changes, even if the product is almost finished.

This all combines for the most important aspect of Agile development, reduced risk. Agile’s repetitious approach lets you measure and keeps teams focused on whether you’re getting the software you want. In traditional processes, you can only measure whether the project matches the plan, which isn’t what you care about. You care about getting a functional application that your users enjoy using, and you care about getting it done fast. With traditional methods, you would be kept in the dark about whether the application is what you need it to be until the project is over, when it’s too late to do anything about it. Agile keeps you in the game the entire time and allows teams to guarantee that the product you need is the one that you’re getting.


We developed Servoy’s Appsurance program with all of this in mind. We know that performing a modernization or rewriting a complex application is a huge undertaking. And we know it’s scary. Again, the uncertainty we mentioned previously is looming. You know what your customers want and we have the platform and expertise to help your team get there. Click below for more information.

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