What is Agile Software Development? - Definition & Methodology

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  • 0:03 Definition?\
  • 1:28 Values
  • 3:27 Methodologies
  • 5:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephen Meyer

Stephen has worked as a Project Manager and is PMP certified, as well as certified by the Scrum Alliance.

Software development projects are becoming more prominent, but are not well-suited for traditional project methodologies. Agile provides an alternative to traditional methodologies. Learn the definition and methodology of Agile software development in this lesson.


Peter has owned a software development company for years and is always looking for ways to improve. One of the areas he has been considering is how his team approaches projects. They use a traditional methodology and sometimes feel it is rigid and focused too much on documentation. In addition, they often complete the work requested only to find out that the customer wants to make a few changes. They are considering changing their approach to Agile.

Agile is an approach to projects that focuses on collaboration and responsiveness to change. One of the common misconceptions of Agile is that it is a methodology. Although there are different methodologies that fall under the Agile approach, Agile itself is merely a way to approach managing projects. It provides an alternative to traditional project methodologies, which take a structured and sequential approach and rely heavily on documentation.

Agile attempts to provide an alternative by being incremental and iterative. These apply in some degree to each methodology that falls under Agile. It is incremental by breaking project work down so that different pieces of it can be completed separately. The project work takes the form of user stories, which are written from the perspective of and provide desired functionality for a specific user. These are completed in some form of repeated cycles, which make Agile iterative.


Once Peter and his team can define Agile, they take a closer look at its basic values. The foundation of the Agile approach is expressed in the Agile Manifesto, which was written in 2001 by a group of software developers who called themselves the Agile Alliance. They were looking for a new approach. Instead of prescribing a specific methodology, they wanted to express different values.

These Agile values include:

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

Each aspect included in the statements holds value, but the authors recognized there are always constraints. In instances where there were limitations, they wanted to express that some things are valued over others.

Two of the statements reflect an emphasis on people. The first values individuals and interactions over processes and tools. The thought behind this statement is straightforward, but often overlooked. People communicate best and come to a common understanding by interacting with each other.

The other values customer collaboration over contract negotiations. This encourages the customer and team to work alongside each other and to grow and learn as the project progresses. Each of these recognizes that everyone involved with the project is on the same team, working toward a common goal.

The remaining statements focus on the quality of what is produced by the project. Working software is more important than comprehensive documentation. The goal of the project is to produce a working product. There can be documentation of every requirement or action down to the lowest detail, but if the product is doesn't work for the customer's needs, it is unsuccessful.

In a similar line of thinking, being responsive to change is more valuable than following a plan. As the project progresses, the requirements may need to be altered. Adaptation is built in to Agile thinking.


The last aspect of Agile for Peter and his team to explore is the methodology that they will use. Agile is merely an approach, or a way of thinking, so a specific methodology is needed in order to implement it. There are a number of methodologies that fall under Agile, but Peter and his team focus on the more common ones, which include Scrum, Kanban, and Extreme Programming (or XP).

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