What is Agile Product Development Life Cycle: The Guide

November 8, 2022
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Keeping up with the ever-evolving market trends and customer demands is not easy. Well, this is unless you use an Agile product development life cycle. 71% of companies use agile approaches.If you are not one of them, consider reviewing your practices and learning about agile product development life cycle methodology.
Since you are already reading this, we believe you want to learn more about agile approaches. In this article, we will discuss its meaning, six vital stages, benefits, and how to implement the agile iteration workflow. 

What is Agile Software Development?

Agile Software Development, or simply Agile, is an umbrella term for frameworks and development methodologies. It emphasizes the need for flexibility and applies pragmatism to delivering the finished product. This product development life cycle methodology is based on the Manifesto for Agile Software Development and the 12 principles behind it, which 17 independent-minded software practitioners wrote in 2001.

Agile software development focuses on the clean delivery of individual pieces or parts of the software, not the entire application. Therefore, companies may require a cultural shift to practice this product development life cycle methodology. Solutions are discovered and evolved through collaboration between self-organizing and cross-functional teams. Unlike other product development life cycle methodologies, Agile focuses on the people doing the work and how they work together.

The Six Phases of Agile Product Development

Here are the six vital stages of the agile product development life cycle-

Conceptualization 

Product managers will outline and develop the product concept in the first stage of this product development life cycle methodology. This is the first time you plan and envision your project. If there are already pending projects at hand, you will prioritize the most important ones after identifying their scope.

The product manager will discuss the key requirements with the client and prepare the documentation, including the product outline and features. The minimal the requirements, the better it is to envision and plan the product. Any extra requirements and features can be added in the later stages when the workflow is more organized and streamlined.

The product manager will also estimate the time and cost, and other requirements of the potential projects. Based on the analysis, you can assess the technical and monetary feasibility. This will help you identify your capabilities and feasibility for pursuing the project.

Inception

After the concept is outlined and finalized, it is time to identify and build the development team you want to work with. You will create your sprint teams and assign them respective tasks and responsibilities during this time. Funding resources will be allocated to the respective teams, along with project timeframes and deadlines.

The product manager will consult with their colleagues and pick the best people for the project. This is the stage to start the product design process. The team will create a user interface model along with the project architecture. The stakeholders will provide their inputs to help the team carve out the requirements on a diagram and determine the product functionality. It is important to go for regular check-ins and reviews to ensure that the work is flowing in the correct order.

Iteration

The iteration or the construction phase is often the longest phase of this product development life cycle methodology, as most work is carried out here. All the teams will start working on their respective tasks. The developers and the UX designers will work together to combine all product requirements and customer feedback and turn the design into code.

The first goal is to build a skeleton model with bare functionality by the end of the iteration or sprint. After the model is carefully scrutinized and reviewed, additional features and tweaks can be added in later iterations. Iteration is the most important stage enabling developers to create working software and continuously make improvements to meet clients’ expectations.

Release

After all the iterations, the product is finally ready for release. But before the release, the quality assurance team will perform some tests to ensure the software’s integrity and functionality. The agile team members will test the system to determine if the code is clean, or if there are any potential bugs or defects. If any of these is detected in the software, the developers must address the issues before releasing it.

After retouching the software and addressing the issues, it is finally released to the customers and stakeholders for feedback. After considering all the feedback, the developers will enhance the product features and capabilities. In this phase of the product development life cycle methodology, user training will also take place, requiring more documentation.

Maintenance

During this phase of the agile product development lifecycle, the software is ready to be fully deployed and available to the customers. During this phase, the software development team will provide ongoing support to help the users with the onboarding process and keep a check on the system. If any new issues or bugs with the software arise, the team can immediately address them.

The development team will also offer users additional training and resource materials to help them use the product efficiently. New iterations can happen over time to upgrade the existing product with additional features.

Retirement

With the retirement phase, this product development life cycle methodology ends. The team will notify the users that the software is being retired and announce a replacement, if any, i.e., the users will be migrated into a new system.

A product will enter into the retirement phase for two primary reasons- either being replaced with new software, or the system has become obsolete over time. The developers will carry out any remaining end-of-life activities, remove support for the existing software and prepare the new product or the migration of the new software.

Benefits of Agile Product Development

Customer satisfaction

In the agile product development lifecycle, the customer is a central element influencing the decision-making process of the product teams. All the decisions are based on the feedback and reviews given by the customer. Agile teams keep them in the loop to show them that their opinions and roles are valued. This process can help in greater customer satisfaction and retention.

In the traditional framework, the customers are involved only in the initial planning phase and not in the execution phase, which affects the flexibility and adaptability of the product. Keeping the customers in the loop will ensure that the final product is delivered according to their expectations.

Enhanced product quality

In agile product development life cycle methodology, product development occurs in iterations or small sections. Improvement and quality control are core principles of the Agile product development life cycle. The processes are analyzed and improved in each iteration, which means that the overall quality of the final product is improved. The client is also involved throughout the development process and can give feedback anytime.

Improved flexibility

One of the core elements of the agile product development lifecycle is flexibility. With its implementation, agile teams are empowered with unparalleled flexibility. Teams work in sprints and are constantly supplemented with the feedback and involvement of the product owner. Agile teams are highly responsive to changes and can adapt without many difficulties. Being adaptable means that the team can fit in and adjust to customers' changing demands and requirements.

Minimized Risk

Any project implementing the agile product development lifecycle has minimum chances of failure.  Agile works on iterations and sprints that focus on continuous improvement. This means they have better visibility into the project and can spot potential obstacles or threats very quickly. Before minor issues escalate, they can be managed to create an effective risk mitigation process, thereby increasing the chances of success.

Continuous improvement

As we have already discussed, the agile product development lifecycle methodology works in interactions and sprints. With continuous feedback, each sprint is improved to be better than the last one so that the previous mistakes are not repeated. Agile methodologies provide a culture for idea exchange and collaboration, enabling team members to learn and improve together.

Tips and Best Practices For Agile Product Development

The agile approach can get chaotic if it is not implemented properly. Here are some tips and best practices to ensure the successful implementation of agile product development lifecycle methodology-

Work in sprints

The central theme of agile product development lifecycle methodology is to work in sprints or short iterations. If you could effectively prioritize work items, accomplish tasks and deliver items in shorter bursts of highly focused iterations, the rest of the process would follow smoothly.

Segmenting tasks and organizing them into shorter, high-focussed sprints will allow your team to work efficiently with the most important issues. It will ensure your team stays focused and away from confusion and distractions. When you limit the time between deliveries, developers have no choice but to draw clear definitions of what needs to be done and how to do it. Using this product development lifecycle methodology, even highly targeted software can rapidly develop with discipline and minimum errors.

Using a sprint structure allows self-organizing teams of developers or managers to set a working velocity or relative baseline for the time and effort required to complete tasks. Working on a velocity allows teams to plan work and make better estimations accurately.

Deliver work regularly

Delivering work frequently ensures cross-functional teams remain committed to the agile framework and the items due. It also ensures to please the stakeholders and protect the developers. When you deliver the product early and regularly, you will keep your customers satisfied while being able to work on the feedback continuously. It will also keep the developers happy as things are streamlined, prioritized and organized well, saving them from the issues of overscheduling or overpromising.

It will also ensure your developers don’t run behind schedule, a common issue in product development. Frequent delivery of work also ensures fewer product backlogs since work delivery goals are frequently met. Completing work in shorter periods makes reacting to or recovering from any changes easier.

Enhance team communication 

Miscommunication not only delays your work but also affects team dynamics. It is vital for your team to understand each other and how they work. A team must have sync to maintain your progress. Agile developers must communicate with one another to clearly understand team goals and responsibilities. Each product team member must have a deep understanding of user stories, product requirements, and customer needs to deliver the team's goals effectively. 

The developers must know what the stakeholders want, and the stakeholders should be aware of the capabilities of your developers. This means developers and product managers must carefully communicate suggestions, problems, solutions and timelines throughout the product development process. This also includes keeping the stakeholders informed about any important event in the development process.

Produce value

Everything you do in an agile sprint should create value as defined by the product owner. To ensure your development process shows consistent progress, you must know your goal, design each sprint around a specific goal, and deliver, discuss and apply feedback.

You should deeply understand the purpose of the things you are going to produce. There is no room for producing unnecessary items. Try to question the value of every item in your backlog to eliminate fluff items and produce clean and powerful software in the required amount of time.

Producing value will result in faster deliveries and better products. Additionally, it will mean that you have incorporated feedback from your product owner, and if you have failed to deliver value, you will analyze why.

Honor the client’s vision

Your clients, product owners, or stakeholders are the only people who can define the success of a project. Therefore, the agile team must respect the stakeholder’s vision and use it as a foundation to limit all activities and strategies in the product roadmap.

The client’s vision is the heartbeat of your project, so every detail of the product should reflect the want and desires of the client. It is very important to listen to your client carefully and apply their feedback. Whenever in doubt, always contact your clients to clarify a critical issue. If there are any delivery barriers, don’t forget to keep them informed.

As a developer and facilitator, you may have some advice or suggestions to give. The client may want your guidance, but at the end of the day, they are the ultimate decision maker, and you have to respect whatever their vision is.

The Agile Iteration Workflow

Agile iteration workflow is a set of practices or stages involved in completing projects successfully. It works in short sprints and continuously delivers small tasks by working on the feedback given by the stakeholders. Agile iterations are usually two to four weeks long. To create your agile iteration workflow, follow these tips-

Perform the right agile practices

Adopting agile practices involves a shift in mindset and the work culture of your whole team. You will need a deep understanding of agile principles. As a product manager, you must learn these principles and capacitate your team with resources and training to understand the agile product development life cycle.

Choose an appropriate framework 

There are multiple frameworks for agile iteration workflow. Two of the most used ones are Scrum and Kanban. You can use any of these and other frameworks after determining your suitability with your organization.

Build a product roadmap

A product roadmap is a visual tool that acts as a blueprint to guide the product development process. It has the product strategies and initiatives to help your sprint teams achieve the project goals. As a product manager, you must plan the process, develop product backlogs, prioritize tasks, define timelines, and prepare workflow tools.

Assign sprint teams

Define the roles of each member and form sprint teams. This will include assigning specific tasks and responsibilities to the team’s expertise and technical knowledge. Ensure to understand each team member's professional and technical capabilities before assigning any task and responsibility.

Implement the agile workflow

You can start implementing the agile development workflow after you have the product requirements and sprint teams in place. Make sure to work in sprints and iterations to enhance productivity and focus on quick delivery and improvement.

Final Thoughts 

Adopting an Agile product development life cycle methodology is the key to developing a powerful product while ensuring stakeholders' satisfaction. However, if you want to adopt Agile, you may have to change the existing work culture and upgrade your tools to fit in perfectly.

The tools you use in your Agile journey can significantly impact your team’s efficiency. That is why we have Zeda.io. It is a complete product management suite that allows project teams to collaborate, share and communicate together. You can create product roadmaps, collaborate, prioritize features,and effectively manage feedback.Sign up now to get started!

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