Agile – or How to Stop Worrying About Deadlines

Whether you’re working for a full-fledged software firm or are just a lone dev, the deadline is something we all tend to worry about. Despite how talented or creative you are, deadlines will always come as a cumbersome and redundant nightmare for even the best of us. So, how do you cope with it? If you’re a developer interested to know how the industry adapts to fast approaching deadlines and deliver products regularly in time, you have come to the right place. In today’s guide, we’ll discuss the ins and out of how big corporations like Google, Microsoft or independent businesses like us tackle their project deadline effectively.

However, before we proceed I want to draw your attention to a particular advantage we found associated with tight deadlines. They let dev teams or you the power to focus on only the final product. Let us take a look at some common everyday cases. Suppose, a client approaches you with a big project spanning 3 months between briefing and delivery. After your delivery, chances are many aspects of your project’s approach will vary that off of the client. The client may have anticipated a feature somewhat in a different way than your final deliverable. He or she will then ask you again to polish some parts of the product differently. Thus involving you in extra works that you didn’t plan for.

Whereas, on tightly scheduled projects like building a web API in 3 days, the client will only focus on the technical parts of the project. They will not bring you further hassles down the road regarding the creative elements of the project, instead, will want a working and technically viable solution. This lets devs like you the ability to earn quick revenue by working a few extra nights. So, tight schedules are actually not that bad as they sound.

However, as a professional, you always need to deliver top-notch products within a priorly anticipated deadline. Luckily for you, we’ve advanced to a time where we have access to modern and useful project management tools and services such as SaaS(Software as a Service), that let our devs manage tight schedules much more effectively. We’ll outline some of such utilities and highlight why you should use them in this guide. Hopefully, we can aid you with some essential insights into the professional management of tight schedules or deadlines. Stay with us throughout this guide to learn how we, at Netcore, deliver successful projects while maintaining very tight schedules at the same time.

Agile Development: Traditional method vs. Current ones

Agile development is an approach that was designed to meet the target of delivering fast software products to clients. In this development paradigm, developers focus on building the key features first. After those get approved by the client, they move their attention to the next set of core features or functionalities. This is credited to increase developer productivity tremendously and aims at producing fast and effective products.

Before the inception of this development style, dev teams usually relied on traditional waterfall models when delivering products to their customers. In this conventional model, dev teams worked together to build the software sequentially from one step to the next. Although effective at first glance, this model posed unique challenges to devs and decreased their productivity significantly. So, as soon as agile development stepped up into the game, dev teams all over the world embraced it. Today, agile development is something every modern and top-level software firm regularly incorporates for delivering custom products within a tight schedule.

Useful Tools for Building Fast Solutions

Agile development relies heavily on a set of useful development or builds tools. These tools not only make the life of your devs easier but also provide them with greater control over their projects. We now live at a time where no software is programmed from scratch. Instead, developers have access to high-level managing tools and open source codebases that ensure you can deliver useful products to your clients within a very tight deadline.

Below we’re outlining some de-facto tools you’ll work with when developing your next product in an Agile approach. Do not forget to check them out and side with those that suit your project the most.

Scrum

If you’re new to this fantastic world of Agile development, chances are you’ve already stumbled across the term Scrum quite a few times. So, what is this Scrum and what it has to do with delivering fast solutions to your clients?

Scrum is nothing more than just a set of methodologies. The term was introduced to us first by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka, two Japanese researchers. They curated a compelling list of methods that gives developers the ability to deliver first software or any other product within short timelines on their famous 1986 paper titled “The New New Product Development Game“.

However, we encourage you to view Scrum as a framework for the Agile development process, rather than a mere set of methodologies. Scrum development encourages teams to work in ‘sprints’ instead of sequential tasks such as Entry criteria, Task definitions, Validation criteria, Exit criteria, and others used in most traditional software development approaches. In the Scrum world, sprints represent the dev team’s commitment to a new set of features for delivering in the next iteration.

In the Scrum development approach, the teams are small and cross-functional. Instead of a primary team leader who assigns distinct roles to different team members, everything in this paradigm is controlled by the ScrumMaster, a sort of coach or guru who helps devs use the Scrum process effectively. The teams are cross-functional in the essence that each member works dynamically to build the next set of features within a close collaboration. The Scrum process of development is prevalent among pragmatic software developers as it allows them to deliver high-speed products within a very tight deadline.

Kanban

Another agile development style that has been gaining rapid momentum, Kanban is very similar to Scrum, yet very distinct from it at the same time. This Agile framework requires real-time communication aided with a fully transparent workflow. A lot of professional companies like Netcore are embracing the Kanban framework due to its highly flexible, yet simplistic approach to deliver fast products.

Although somewhat of a new addition to the agile development process, the inception of this framework dates back to the 40s. It was first employed in the Toyota workshops to increase the productivity of their engineers. The Kanban method was inspired by the approach supermarkets used to take when stocking their products.

This agile development framework is based on the JIT(Just In Time) principle Toyota utilized to reduce the cost and amount of unnecessary materials. This JIT principle is now a common approach taken by most prominent corporations of the world. The kanban framework aims at scheduling only the amount of work in progress(WIP) that can be effectively tackled by the dev team. This approach increases the dev teams flexibility, overall control of the project, focus, transparency, and outputs faster solutions to the customers.

The Kanban framework introduces two basic yet versatile tools to developers- boards and cards! The Kanban board is a board that helps devs visualize the work they need to do and their progress. It has 3 step workflow- To Do, In Progress, and Done. You can, however, map these workflows to any specific and unique needs of your team members. The Kanban board can be either physical or virtual. However, we found virtual boards to be extra helpful as it provides better traceability, quicker collaboration, and accessibility from multiple locations to developers.

The Kanban cards are virtual or physical cards that represent every single task in the Kanban board. It helps developers visualize the workflow in a highly effective manner and let them plan accordingly. The Kanban framework has numerous advantages like planning flexibility, shortened time cycles, visual metrics, fewer bottlenecks, and continuous delivery. Rather than regular specified length sprints that are utilized in the Scrum process, the Kanban process is continuous at any given time.

Jira

A proprietary tool for issue tracking and project management, Jira is one of the essential tools of every agile development team. It’s used by over a hundred thousand customers all over the world and is hailed as one of the best bug tracking software utilities currently in the market.

Jira is a prevalent tool within the community. Thanks to its rich feature sets and metrics that can be integrated with the Scrum development process pretty quickly. Jira lets dev teams work flexibly and consistently at the same time. Its ability to allow a varying degree of configs to different groups makes it especially suitable for large teams that work in smaller sub-teams.

Jira makes sure developers have the transparency needed for proper incorporation of the Scrum framework. With only a little work, every Scrum team can make sure that the Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, and the Increment process is fully transparent. Jira allows the ScrumMaster the ability to inspect every potential backlog and plan accordingly.

Jira is a great tool when it comes to monitoring your Agile development progress. It provides many different ways to create projections and forecasts to visualize the growth of the project. One of the best selling points of Jira is that it lets you choose a workflow and make that your own in any way you like. The continuous integration feature of the tool helps developers integrate Jira with tools they already use in development. Thus, it can effectively increase developers productivity and help them ship products much faster.

Atlassian

It’s not a software tool in essence, but a company that produces them. Atlassian is famous for its contribution to the Agile development toolkits. It is the company behind the aforementioned Jira. Other famous products of the company that are used heavily in the industry to deliver fast software products are Bitbucket, Trello, Confluence, Sourcetree, Bamboo, and Opsgenie.

Atlassian tools power numerous giant corporations such as NASA, eBay, Airbnb, CISCO, and Docker. You can find almost any type of software or tools you may need for your next Agile development process. These tools increase developers productivity significantly and aid in much faster delivery time.

The numerous products of Atlassian allow dev teams the ability to meet continuously evolving customer demands. Their tools are clear to grasp and has excellent communication capabilities. They also integrate very quickly with every known tool used in the Agile practice. Their toolsets allow a seamless, transparent workflow, the most necessary element in every Agile development process. From managing development task to recruiting new members, Atlassian has products dedicated to every aspect of the Agile development process.

Asana

We all know the success of any product doesn’t depend solely on the feature or the quality of the software alone. They need to exploit business opportunities in a way that customers want to buy them. So, managing business ideas effectively is one of the foremost priority when developing a successful product.

Asana is a SaaS(Software as a Service) designed to allow team members to collaborate and visualize work management in a convenient way. The company was founded by  Dustin Moskovitz, a co-founder of Facebook and is currently valued at $900 million US dollar according to the latest report by Forbes.

Asana lets teams manage the big picture of a product regarding business operations. From product manager to team leaders, every top-level figure associated with a next-generation product can keep and organize their worklists with Asana. It lets members collaborate seamlessly and plan the future steps needed for the product. It’s a great addition to the Agile development ecosystem and allows a much faster delivery time needed to cope with tightly scheduled deadlines.

Final thoughts

As an Agile development practitioner, you need to embrace newer tools and workflow every day to achieve evolving customer needs. We, at Netcore, found these 5 tools a must when it comes to delivering products within a very short deadline. We usually use either the Scrum or Kanban framework based on the project’s requirement. Sometimes they both are integrated for larger and complex projects. Jira is utilized exclusively for managing tasks related to both the frontend and backend. On the other hand, Atlassian is used for project management and Asana for managing the business itself.

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