Agile and DevOps: Understanding the Relationship

Justin ReynoldsTue, 12/10/2019 - 11:36

Software development has evolved drastically over the last two decades.

It wasn’t too long ago when software updates were made every few years. For example, think back to when Office 95 dominated the market. It took Microsoft 15 months to release the next main update to the Office suite, Office 97. Three years after that, Office 2000 followed suit.

You get the gist.

Today, Microsoft still has an Office 2019 product. But the company is more invested in promoting Office 365, a software as a service (SaaS) offering of their Office suite. Due to its online nature, Office 365 receives updates on a regular basis—not just once every few years. Microsoft’s movement from a desktop-oriented Office product to a SaaS service that’s delivered through the cloud illustrates how software development has changed in recent years.

In fact, today’s leading companies are continuously updating and improving their software. A lot of the time, these updates occur in the background—without the end user even knowing. In large part, this is due to the emergence of new tools designed to increase transparency and streamline collaboration across development teams. Simply put, these tools help developers build more powerful software in less time.

We can thank the Agile software development movement and the corresponding rise of the DevOps engineer for this shift in how software and apps are made. If you want to learn more about Agile and DevOps—and how the two philosophies tie into one another—you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to learn more about what Agile and DevOps are and how they’re different. You’ll also find out why they increasingly go hand in hand.

What Is Agile?

The term Agile describes the agile software development movement, which traces its roots back to the Agile Manifesto. Very generally, the Agile Manifesto outlines a new framework for software development:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Agile is all about encouraging development teams to move faster and be more responsive to change. By improving collaboration and roping end users into the development process, teams get better feedback they can use to build better products.

Under the agile philosophy, developers, business teams, and customers are all encouraged to openly communicate with one another. While the legacy approach tends to overly focus on documentation, processes, and paperwork, agile focuses on people, communication, and transparency. What’s more, one of agile’s basic tenets is being responsive to customer requests at every stage of the development process.

Here’s a real-life example of the legacy approach versus the agile approach.

Let’s say a developer (who we can call Nancy) is working on a new mobile app for a client. Nancy has a question about how one of the features should be built. Is it efficient for Nancy to search through hundreds of pages of programming documents to find the answer? (That’s the legacy approach.) Wouldn’t it be easier for her to openly discuss the question with her team and with the client? (That’s the agile approach.) The answer should be obvious.

Benefits of Agile Development

Development teams are increasingly embracing agile philosophies because they almost always lead to better software outcomes. By improving collaboration and communication across teams and customers, software is informed by a variety of perspectives. As an added bonus, customers become happier, too, because they can influence the roadmap.

Agile is becoming more and more common because of the tremendous benefits it provides. In fact, 71 percent of companies use agile project management, and over 85 percent of developers are using agile, too. What’s more, agile projects are 28 percent more successful than projects completed the old-fashioned way.

This is due to the fact that agile is more conducive to the modern world. Instead of taking a static approach to development, agile recognizes that things change. The best organizations, then, are driven by agile. It enables them to pivot rapidly when needs change and markets shift.

Now that you have a better idea of the agile approach to software development, let’s take a look at its relative: DevOps.

What Is DevOps?

DevOps is an approach to software development and delivery inspired by the agile philosophy. At its core, DevOps aims to speed up development lifecycles by increasing collaboration and transparency among developers (the “Dev” part) and IT operations (the “Ops” part).

Rather than business units operating in separate silos, DevOps workflows help different teams work together as one. In addition to taking care of their own tasks, developers handle operations, and operations handles development.

What’s more, businesses use DevOps to organize and coordinate an entire project’s lifecycle from inception until customer delivery. Once software is released, DevOps teams work with customers to gauge the response and figure out how to continuously improve their products.

DevOps already plays a huge role in all of our lives. If you think about your iPhone or Android device, you can thank DevOps teams every time your apps or operating system updates.

Benefits of DevOps

Today’s leading organizations—like Amazon, Netflix, and Target—are actively embracing DevOps. This is because enterprises that prioritize DevOps workflows produce better products in less time.

According to a recent study, DevOps is having a profound impact on organizations of all shapes and sizes. Here are some statistics that jump out:

  • 63% of organizations that practice DevOps produce feature-rich software that’s updated more frequently
  • 55% of companies experience improved collaboration among teams and accelerated decision-making
  • 38% report that the quality of the software they produce is better

To sum: DevOps accelerates development lifecycles while reducing costs, improving team camaraderie, and delivering stronger user experiences.

When you look at it through that lens, how can teams not afford to adopt DevOps workflows?

What Do Agile and DevOps Have in Common?

While Agile and DevOps are very similar, the two concepts are slightly different. Agile came first. But at the same time, DevOps wouldn’t be DevOps if it weren’t for the Agile Manifesto.

Agile is the background methodology behind the DevOps workflows that enterprises use each day to develop software. In taking an Agile approach, companies adopt DevOps workflows to increase collaboration, transparency, and efficiency among their teams. As a result, the business achieves better outcomes and deliver better software to its users.

Without the existence of Agile methodology, DevOps workflows might never have come to fruition, however. That said, without the DevOps approach to development, enterprises might not have an actionable platform for executing agile software development techniques.

Agile and DevOps Work Better Together

The most successful software teams embrace Agile software development principles and implement DevOps workflows. It’s that simple. As a result, they’re driven by an Agile framework and powered by a fast-moving development team.

This enables them to build better software solutions faster—and more affordably. It also enables them to rapidly respond to incidents or patch bugs in their software. Of course, since customers are part of the development process, too, the user experience improves.

Add it all up, and modern organizations that build software simply can’t afford to ignore Agile and DevOps. Otherwise, their forward-thinking competitors will leave them in the dust.

If you’re unsure of how to implement agile and DevOps within your organization, ASPE’s Agile-Driven DevOps Workshop can help. Click the link and learn how you can transform your approach to development and build a stronger business.