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August 15, 2022

5 Mistakes to Avoid with Agile Development

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August 15, 2022
Andrew Baisden
Community Collaborator

Table of Contents

Andrew Baisden, Software Developer with over 8 years of experience, shares some of the most common mistakes to avoid with Agile software development.

What is Agile Methodology

Agile helps software development teams provide value to their clients quicker and with fewer difficulties through an incremental approach to project development and system design. An Agile team produces work in manageable, small-scale increments rather than staking everything on an "all or nothing" launch plan.

There are countless advantages to implementing Agile practices within your company. The fact that Agile methodologies have a high adoption rate within businesses is a testament to how much better they can make a team perform when working on a project. Despite this fact, Agile development is not without its own drawbacks and teams need to take good care when working with this structure because it can lead to time being lost and developers not working to high performance.

In this article, you will learn about some of the disadvantages of working in an Agile development environment and how this can negatively affect a team's ability to complete Agile sprints on time.

1: Time Constraints

Time management has got to be one of the biggest drawbacks when working with an Agile development structure. It is a well-known fact that if we had more time in our lives we would be able to accomplish so much more, and time is the one thing in life that we usually never get back. This can be quite a significant challenge for Agile teams to overcome.

Members of the team must attend daily standup meetings, which can impede their workflow. Furthermore, the Agile mindset necessitates ongoing collaboration between developers, testers, clients, and other stakeholders. Agile development team members' time management skills may be dramatically affected by this intense level of interaction. Throughout the Agile sprint, team members will be required to attend many other ceremonies which are essentially different meetings.

These meetings can include sprint planning, refinement, retrospective, daily scrums and even a client demo. It is not outside of the realm of possibility that ceremonies could take up half a day and I have experienced this before when working for various companies. That's half a day of meetings which are essentially blocking you from working on your tasks for that day. Don't get me wrong, meetings can be extremely important, however they need to run smoothly and not take up too much time during the day.

Meetings can act as distractions and it is very hard for a developer to focus on completing a task when they are constantly getting interrupted and have to switch their focus between multiple things happening at the same time. Allegedly in multiple studies, they found out that it can take an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task you were working on after a distraction.

2: Unclear Task Briefs

Another important factor to take into consideration is that sometimes task briefs can be quite convoluted and difficult to understand at first glance. Agile teams compress enormous amounts of data into shorter user stories with minimally detailed information. These user stories tend to use the following structure:

As a (description of the user),

I want (the functionality),

So that (the benefits)

This can make it more difficult for a programmer to understand the precise client needs. When progressing through project stages without a clearly stated strategy or an established method to follow, team members might easily become lost. Inadequate documentation can lead to a developer becoming confused by the lack of clarification provided. In most cases, they would be required to seek more information from the person who wrote the user stories because they are the ones who have direct contact with the clients.

A better solution would be to have a wiki or place for the documentation that is linked to the user stories so the developers that are working on the tickets have all of the information they need to work on the brief. The last thing anyone needs is work which has been done incorrectly which can cause blockers and delays during a sprint. Or in a worst-case scenario, two developers working on different stories for a ticket that requires the same functionality to be created which can lead to duplication. As rare as that may seem I have seen it happen first-hand.

3: Constantly Changing Requirements

This is an area that can result in a severely increased workload for the team to work on which can lead to burnout and team members becoming overwhelmed with all of the additional work they are having to do. Clients often change their minds because there is no limit to the number of ideas and feature requests that they might want to implement. In the industry, this is referred to as "scope creep," "feature creep," and "requirement creep".

Basically, it describes how a project can change throughout its lifecycle as more and more features are requested by the customer. The downside to this is that it may cause project delays, obstacles, or budget overruns, which is not a desirable outcome. Teams could become overloaded and lose sight of what their goals should be because they are not sure which ones to prioritise.

What began as a solitary release can become seven or eight, weighing down the product backlog. Or in another case say you had a product that began with two critical features and must now have seven. The customer's needs can change midway through a project, necessitating a reassessment of the project requirements, which can lead to agile sprints that can blow their budget of assigned story points. Story points, in conjunction with sprint velocity, provide a guideline for the stories to be completed in the upcoming sprints. An estimate is provided at the start and the scrum master tries to not go over the assigned number total.

4: Long-Term Projects Don't Work Well with Agile

Trying to make Agile development work with longer-term projects tends to end with failure or undesirable results. The whole point of Agile is to create small pieces of a product through agile sprints. Changes are likely to occur throughout the Agile sprint which is fine for short-term projects. In comparison, and let's use manufacturing as an example, if you were building a car the final design is fixed and changes would not be suitable.

Agile development is built on the concept that teams are unlikely to know what their ultimate result will look like. Or what the next phase of deliverables will look like, it becomes impossible to exactly anticipate the financial aspect, time resources, or specifications required to start the project.

5: It is hard to maintain peak efficiency

When working in Agile development, a team needs to maintain high performance while also collaborating alongside other team members and additional teams working on the same products. This is not always easy to achieve because it is quite common for other members within the team to have other commitments inside of other teams which can deplete the resources available for working on tasks. Thus, it is important to ensure that your teams implement cross-functional collaboration and communication.

When used appropriately, the Agile methodology may be a captivating and transforming system. However, success requires a significant investment from just about everyone associated with the project, including your clients. In one example a developer could be required to work in other teams on more high-priority areas which can reduce the resources available to another squad. This is a problem because developers need to be available for approvals and to get a product ready for production. Blockers can occur which can slow down a sprint, forcing tickets to be pushed to the next sprint which can be seen as a delay by the client.

Final thoughts

Today you learned about Agile development and 5 mistakes to avoid when using it. Agile development can really drive your business to achieve a lot of success when utilized correctly. Just ensure that you are taking the necessary steps to get the best out of your Agile development and your team of developers will be able to work at a good level.

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