Software systems are often very complex, involving massive numbers of diverse functions that interact with each other in myriad ways. However, the more complex the systems are, the more challenging they become to work with. This is where Agile modelling plays an important role.
Agile, as you know, is a flexible and iterative framework that has achieved huge popularity due to its high success rates, even in the face of projects with volatile requirements. Agile methods help to cut through complexity, breaking down huge quantities of work into small and manageable chunks. Agile teams represent complex software systems in simple, comprehensible ways through Agile modelling systems, which are easy to visualize and can be understood even by a layperson.
In this blog, we’ll help you understand the goal of Agile modelling, the principles and values, and the best practices in using Agile modelling to depict complex software systems in the simplest of ways.
What is Agile Modelling? Definition & Primary Goal
Agile Modelling can be defined as a practice-based methodology, based on a collection of values, principles, and practices, for modelling and documenting software-based systems. What is does is to represent the vision and goals of an Agile project in clear and logical ways that can be easily understood by the whole team.
The primary goal of a good Agile Modelling model is to improve communication and comprehension across the entire team.
Keeping this in mind, the effort to create a model should be taken up only if it will add clarity and improve communications, offering a better understanding of the software being created—and not if it will lead to more complexity by generating unnecessary amounts of documentation. Quite often, software modelling tools end up creating documented models that quickly become obsolete as the project progresses. If this is likely to happen, then the whole purpose is lost.
The Need for a Better Modelling Methodology
Software development is inherently prone to errors. In fact, failure rates are often as high as 50 to 75%, and by creating the right Agile model you can bring in transparency and clarity on the project tasks, greatly increasing chances of development success.
It is important that developers should have the courage to commit the right people and resources to the project, empowering them to cope with the many changes that form a part and parcel of any Agile project.
Agile modelling strives to put in place the right values, and follows the right principles that reduce the rate of system development failures. All the people working on the model must keep these principles, best practices, and values in mind and make decisions based on them.
Four Values of Agile Modelling
There are four values at the heart of Agile modelling, that inform everything that the developers do. These values create the right environment for project success. They are:
- Communication: Agile models enable everyone to understand what is happening on the project. This smoothens lines of communication between the team and the stakeholders.
- Simplicity: The goal of Agile modelling is to make concepts and processes simple to understand. It is meant to make software development easier and to set up clear guidelines for developing models.
- Feedback: Early and frequent feedback reduces confusion and the need for unnecessary rework. Feedback is an important part of Agile methodology and is built into Agile development processes.
- Courage: You might need to make difficult decisions along the way, and having the courage to take a step back and course correct is an important Agile value that will enhance quality and help the team to stay true to customer needs.
The Basic Principles of Agile Modelling
Agile is based on a set of core principles that create the foundation for the Agile culture and mindset and inform Agile ways of working. These principles are outlined below:
Before you begin, pause and think: why are you developing the model, and for whom? Being clear about the purpose will guide the way forward.
Agile is all about being simple. The basic idea behind Agile modelling is to cut through complexity, so make sure that you keep models as simple as they can possibly be. You can always revisit the model later if the need arises.
As you gain more understanding about the project, the model will most likely undergo change. Be open to rebuilding the model to keep up with evolving changes.
Enable Continuing Effort
Imagine a scenario where you might need to leave the project, and someone else will take over or improve the work you have done. Maintain enough documentation and references so that they can understand the work you have done and carry on with it.
As the work is done in iterations, the model also might require small changes after each iteration. Requirements may change and features and tasks will also change accordingly.
Maximize ROI for Stakeholders
The end goal of any project is to ensure stakeholder satisfaction, and for this to happen they must get the highest ROI. Maximising the stakeholder’s investment should always be a top priority for the team.
Out of all the possible ways of modelling, choose what works best for your current situation.
Delivering products and solutions that are of the highest quality is paramount in any Agile project. Ensure that the quality meets and exceeds the expectations of the stakeholders as well as the team.
After every Agile cycle, stakeholders are required to give their feedback. This helps the team to close the loop of understanding and align themselves with stakeholder’s expectations.
The goal is the creation of software, which should always be the focus. Ensure that this goal does not get lost in the midst of too much documentation.
Agile Modelling Best Practices
1. Active Stakeholder Participation-
Stakeholders are involved across all stages of the Agile software development project. Not only are they required to provide information in a timely manner, but they should make the right decisions at the right time and be actively involved in the development process using real-time tools and by participating in regular feedback cycles.
2. Architecture Envisioning-
The product vision is created at the beginning of an agile project, and the team gets together to create a high-level model that helps to identify the most appropriate technical strategy they can start with.
3. Iteration Models –
While planning each iteration, a small iteration model should be created that can give clarity on the way forward.
4. Just Enough -
Each model or document should have just enough information, and no more. Too much information will cloud the situation at hand and slow down the work.
5. Lookahead Modelling –
This is required to plan ahead and reduce the risk involved in the project.
6. Model Storming –
The developers tackle the problem in hand as a team, putting their heads together in a model storming session. This is done on a Just in Time basis for a short while, usually while they ideate on a complex design issue.
7. Using Multiple Models-
It might not be enough to use a single Agile model for a project, as each type of model has its advantages and disadvantages. By applying the right model for each situation, you can get the best results.
8. Order Requirements –
Requirements are prioritized according to the order in which they maximise the return on investment, as defined by stakeholders.
9. Envisioning requirements –
Towards the start of an agile project, the team must set aside time to identify the scope of the project and outline the initial requirements.
10. Test Driven Development (TDD) –
Test Driven Development (TDD) is a popular Agile practice that uses the Just In Time development method to work on a specific requirement, writing just enough code to fulfil the test.
In today’s world, technologies keep evolving at a frenetic pace, and this often results in highly complex software systems and solutions that are very difficult to navigate through and manage. Agile models help to add clarity and simplicity, thus increasing the chances of project success multifold.
As an Agile leader, it’s important to be clued in to the best ways of deploying Agile models to improve communication and collaboration across the team, reduce errors, and enhance chances of software development success.