Transition to agile software development

Do you want to transition from waterfall to agile? Like so many other companies, you may also seek to replace waterfall with agile in a quest to shorten the time-to-market and deliver high-quality software faster, more frequently and at a lower cost. The road to agile, however, can be a rocky one. That’s why we have put together a few lessons and tips that will help you in succeeding in agile software development.

# 1: Embrace the change in mindset and culture.

More than anything, agile requires a change in mindset and culture throughout the entire company. The key to success is that everyone involved knows what to expect, is patient and, most importantly, embraces change. Agile is about adjusting. It’s about continuously assessing if requirements and goals are still valid. This new learning culture is a big challenge.

# 2: Make the transition to agile a joint company process.

You won’t be able to reap the rewards of agile without engaging both the management and the team. If not everyone involved is committed and participates effectively, you’ll unavoidably run into problems. That’s why you have to make sure that the transition to agile is a joint activity. Communication, effective contribution by everyone involved and continuous planning is required to get all interest groups on board, and avoid tension between how the teams operate and how management runs the company.

# 3: Roles and responsibilities change throughout the company.

Undoubtedly, the shift to agile affects roles and responsibilities within a company. A top-down command-and-control culture should be replaced with horizontal conversations. Management helps to remove impediments, encourages teams and ensures the business alignment of projects. It has become a facilitator and is in charge of creating an environment in which teams can grow. The team itself is a group of experts, who know best themselves what should be done by who and how. They are self-organizing and self-reliant.

# 4: Encourage transparency and exchange between teams.

In an agile environment, small teams that communicate and work together efficiently are important. Consequently, transparency is key to success. Be open about failures, discuss impediments and work on a solution together. This will create unity in the team and build towards a better product. At the same time, you need to encourage exchange between those highly productive units so as to avoid isolation of individual teams.

# 5: Agile is not a linear process.

In waterfall projects, teams were used to working in a sequential manner: requirements, design, implementation, then testing and maintenance. Everything was strictly planned and scheduled. In contrast, software is developed and delivered in small chunks in agile. To ensure it meets actual market needs, the software is continuously adjusted according to changing requirements as well as to feedback from customers and stakeholders. Business managers, developers and testers have to work together closely and stay in sync to evaluate the situation and determine the right next steps.

# 6: The team is responsible for quality.

The team needs to collaborate right from the beginning: when it comes to defining requirements, the scope of projects and what is needed to assure the quality of the software. As software quality is a continuous process that requires commitment from everyone involved, the whole team is in charge of testing.

# 7: Test early and often.

As software is developed incrementally, code is constantly changing. Every time you check in new code, you have to ensure that it meets its requirements and does not break existing functionality. The frequency of code commitment requires fast feedback from UI tests that can only be achieved with automation. When you integrate tests into your continuous integration process, each code change is automatically tested. The goal is a near real-time feedback, which helps you in reacting to potential errors as soon as possible.

# 8: Automation is a necessity, not a necessary evil in agile software development.

Agile software development will not succeed without test automation. Manual testing is slow, labor intensive, inconsistent and prone to errors. If you want to reduce the time-to market and release small increments of software in frequent iterations, agile test automation has to be an integral part of the project from the beginning. Well-designed automated tests are faster, provide continuous feedback on software quality, increase risk-coverage and will give you confidence in your application.

# 9: Early feedback from automated tests is important.

The earlier you find bugs in your software, the easier and cheaper they are to fix. The key is to understand what to automate and when, in order to get quality feedback from your automated tests. If you want to get early feedback on the quality of your code, you need to shift testing left and perform more automated testing on a unit and mid-tier level. The iterative feedback increases transparency and enables you to react to potential problems faster, decreasing the risk of release delays and software failure.

# 10: Test automation tools have to enable team collaboration.

In agile software development, it’s all about continuous testing and team collaboration on agile test automation projects. When you choose a test automation tool for your team, make sure that it fosters this collaborative dynamic in cross-functional teams, enables you to start with test automation early in the development cycle, supports reusability of tests and encourages communication and feedback. Always keep in mind that after all, your team is one of your greatest assets.

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