Agile Operations 101 | Lucidchart Blog
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Agile development. Agile operations. DevOps. The world of software development likes their buzzwords. But it’s easy to get lost in the jargon.  

And when definitions start to blur and meanings become squishy, these words lose their value. That’s why we’ve created this crash course in agile operations. Discover the difference between agile development and agile operations and learn what agile operations can do for your team.

Defining agile operations

The term agile operations is thrown around a lot among development teams and organizations, often with differing definitions. To understand agile operations, let’s break down the agile framework.

Agile

The Agile Alliance defines agile as:

“The ability to create and respond to change in order to succeed in an uncertain and turbulent environment.”

These are the characteristics the founders of Agile sought to embed in their new approach to software development.

Agile Software Development

Agile Software Development was created by a group of software developers in the 1990s as an alternative to the traditional Waterfall method of development. The term encapsulates the set of methodologies and practices (e.g., Scrum, XP, Crystal, DSDM, and Lean) that are based on the values outlined in the Agile Manifesto.

Agile development emphasizes iterative development across the project lifecycle and collaboration and communication between developers and end users. The goal is to be flexible and adaptable to change in order to ship useable products more quickly with greater customer satisfaction.

agile software development life cycle
Agile Software Development Life Cycle Overview (Click on image to modify online)

DevOps

We won’t go into depth on DevOps in this article, but a basic understanding is useful when talking about agile operations. DevOps is a method born out of the agile movement that focuses on bridging the gap between the development and operations teams.

Traditionally, the two units commonly butt heads and operate on different values. Where agile development teams focus on faster, more frequent releases, operations teams are responsible for maintaining a stable service. This dichotomy can lead to delays and bottlenecks as both teams work to meet their objectives (i.e., fast, functional delivery vs. safe, operational readiness).  

DevOps applies an agile mindset to both the development and operations departments with a particular focus on communication, collaboration, integration, and automation.

Agile operations

There are differing definitions for agile operations. Some use the term generally to refer to the application of agile principles to run operations. Others use the term interchangeably with DevOps.

In this context, we will use agile operations as an umbrella term to refer broadly to the application of agile principles and methods for both development and operations in an organization.

Pillars of the agile methodology

Agile’s highest priority is “to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.”

To accomplish this goal, agile operations rely on the founding principles outlined in the Agile Manifesto.

These values include the following priorities:

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

By emphasizing communication, flexibility, and functionality over time-consuming planning, process, and documentation, agile teams are able to deliver functional, competitive results more rapidly.

The agile process

Agile operations and development will look different depending on the methodology and organization. However, most will follow the same basic lifecycle and iteration workflow.

Agile development lifecycle

Agile development has six basic stages in its lifecycle.

Concept: Stakeholders envision and prioritize new projects.

Inception: The project takes shape as team members are assigned, budgets and timelines are put in place, and requirements are outlined.

Iteration/construction: The team begins active development to meet the requirements with regular customer feedback.

Release: The feature undergoes QA and testing, users are trained, and the iteration is released into production.

Production: The feature is deployed and receives ongoing operational support and maintenance.

Retirement: The feature is retired. The customer is notified and the team implements a migration process.

From concept to iteration, agile methods are primarily performed by the development team. However, the operations team gets involved during the release and production stages to ensure quality, security, and stability upon implementation. If your teams aren’t communicating well, these are the phases where competing values and objectives can send your project off track.

To enjoy a truly agile operation from concept to retirement, communication and collaboration is necessary. Whether you apply a DevOps method to bridge that gap or simply cultivate an agile culture and process between the two departments, both the development team and operations team need to be on the same page.

Agile iteration workflow

During agile product development, there will be multiple iteration stages (or sprints). Each iteration builds on the previous iteration as developers work out issues and adapt to ongoing customer feedback.

Iterations will typically follow this process:

Requirements: The requirements for the iteration are mapped out based on customer feedback and the backlog priorities.

Development: Developers design and build the feature based on the defined requirements.

Testing: Once the feature is “complete,” testers conduct QA and validation checks to ensure the iteration functions properly.

Delivery: The working iteration is shipped to production.

Feedback: Developers communicate with stakeholders (client/end users) to collect feedback and identify requirements for the next iteration.

Benefits of adopting an agile approach

There are many benefits to taking an agile approach to development and operations.

Greater customer satisfaction

Agile operations rely on constant communication and feedback with stakeholders. Because development is iterative and incremental, clients are able to identify requirements changes as the need arises and effectively build the product to their exact specifications. With such high collaboration and customization, customers tend to have greater satisfaction with the end product.    

Increased project control

In traditional development methodologies, developers were constrained by a strict schedule with little room to adapt to evolving needs. Agile’s iterative nature gives developers and clients alike greater control over the project and its outcomes. Whether a customer wants to add new requirements or there are changes in the market landscape, developers have the power to pivot and address those new factors.   

Higher product quality

Agile operations integrate testing right into the development cycle. Daily testing and validation ensures that issues are identified and addressed promptly, leading to a higher quality iteration.

Faster ROI

Instead of waiting months for a full product release under traditional Waterfall development, agile delivers features incrementally. This methodology allows customers to realize the benefits (i.e. return on investment) sooner while the product is still in active development.

agile sprint planning
Agile Sprint Planning Template (Click on image to modify online)

Use Lucidchart to track your agile operations

Although agile operations prioritize people over process and function over documentation, both are still important to an agile approach. Whether you need to create a product release plan, a product roadmap, or a simple process workflow, Lucidchart can help.

Lucidchart offers ready-made templates with a vast library of shapes to get you started quickly. Use swimlanes to clearly designate roles and assignments between team members and departments (like development and operations) and easily share your visuals at the click of a button.

Lucidchart also integrates with popular programs such as Microsoft Office and G Suite so you can continue working on your preferred platforms.

In an agile environment, communication and collaboration is crucial. Lucidchart supports your agile culture with professional visuals and intuitive sharing options so every person is on the same page from planning to release.