Agile Software Development Life Cycle: A Brief Guide

agile software development

The Agile software development life cycle is important to understand for any software developers looking to adopt Agile.

In this article, we offer a brief definition of the Agile software development life cycle, its six phases, and how it compares with a Waterfall software development life cycle.  

If you need more background on Agile, check out this post:

What is Agile?

What is Agile SDLC – a brief definition

Agile SDLC – or Agile Software Development Life Cycle – describes the practice of developing software products in a collaborative way over multiple short cycles or Sprints which typically last between two and four weeks. The SDLC approach prioritizes customer satisfaction and flexibility via an iterative method that focuses on the most important product features at any given moment.  

Key differences between Agile SDLC and Waterfall SDLC

Agile SDLC is often contrasted with Waterfall SDLC. To appreciate the differences, let’s explore how the two development models work: 

The Waterfall model

A traditional Waterfall lifecycle comprises five stages:

  1. Requirement analysis
  2. Design
  3. Implementation
  4. Verification
  5. Maintenance
agile software development

Each phase can be as long or short as needed. It can take weeks or months to reach implementation. In other words, this model does not prioritize speed or agility, but rather comming up with a solid and predictable plan and then following that as closely as possible.  

The potential issue with this approach is that initial requirements analysis can fail to include everything the project needs due to unforeseen developments. As a result, projects can often end up going over time and over budget, needing more resources than originally planned. 

The Agile model

Agile seeks to achieve the same end result as Waterfall – a quality product that meets customer requirements. However, Agile is based on breaking down large projects into smaller cycles or Sprints, which increases flexibility and the ability to deal with obstacles as they arise.  

At the end of each Sprint, the development team has produced something of value. This product should be shown to stakeholders or users to get feedback, a process which is repeated at the end of each Sprint. 

Agile is strictly sequenced so your team cannot start design until they have completed research. Similarly, development cannot begin until designs are approved. Put another way, developers, designers, business leaders, and customers all work together – or collaborate – as part of the Agile approach. As a result, we can break down the Agile development lifecycle into six phases, detailed in the next section.

The 6 phases of the Agile lifecycle

The Agile software development lifecycle consists of the following six phases: 

Phase 1: Concept

During this phase – which we can think of as the planning phase – a Product Owner determines the scope of their project. They discuss key requirements with the client and prepare documentation to outline these requirements. The Product Owner then estimates the time and cost of the project based on these requirements. This analysis helps them to decide whether a project is feasible before commencing work.

Phase 2: Inception

This phase involved putting together the software development team. The Product Owner selects the team while also providing them with the tools and resources they need. The team then starts the design process. They create a mock-up of the user interface, build the project architecture and get input from key stakeholders as they go, adjusting designs inline with the feedback they receive.

Phase 3: Iteration

This is usually the longest phase because this is when the team carries out most of the work. This is the development itself. Developers work with designers and the customer to turn all the agreed product requirements into code during a series of development Sprints. The team aims to build the basic product functionality by the end of the first Sprint, adding or tweaking features in future iterations.  

Phase 4: Release

The quality assurance team tests the software to ensure that it is fully functional, as well as testing for bugs or defects that need to be addressed. If user training is needed, this also happens during this phase. Once the testing and user training is complete, the final iteration is released into production, deployed, and made available to customers. 

Phase 5: Maintenance

During this phase, the software development team provides ongoing support to keep the system running smoothly and resolve any new bugs that may appear. If additional user training is needed, this also takes place during this phase. Over time, the team releases new iterations to refresh and upgrade the existing product.

Phase 6: Retirement

Eventually, the product comes to the end of its useful life. This is either because it is being replaced with new software, or because over time the product becomes obsolete. The software development team first notifies users that the software is being retired. If there is a replacement, the team migrates users onto the new system.

Each phase of this Agile life cycle includes multiple iterations as part of the Agile approach because this helps to optimize results and ensure the product meets customer requirements even when those requirements change. 

How to manage Agile projects on Teamhood

Teamhood’s suite of project management software tools is perfect for Agile lifecycle management, with a range of solutions and features to help your organization navigate the six phases of Agile SDLC successfully. 

Use Teamhood’s Sprint planning template to help initiate your Agile lifecycle product management. This is great for helping to outline for project goals and structure your Sprints. 

Teamhood simple Scrum board

Teamhood’s Gantt chart tool helps give you full visibility of your Agile lifecycle and enables you to map out your project phases in an easy-to-use template.

Teamhood gantt chart

You can also accelerate your Agile project development lifecycle by automating your reporting. With Teamhood’s reporting too, you get real-time insights and charts that show you your progress at a glance – as well as being easy to share with internal or external stakeholders, as appropriate. 

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The Teamhood task board is visual and easy to modify with custom columns, rows, and secondary processes to track subtasks. Use automation to move tasks between boards and ensure you deliver the optimal end result to your clients. 

You can get started with a free trial, no credit card required. 

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Co-Founder / CEO at Teamhood | Website

2019 - Present Co-founder and CEO @ Teamhood.
2015-2019 Head of software engineering department at Danske Bank.
2017-2018 Partner Associate Professor at Vilnius University. Lecturer of Software Architecture course
2011 - 2015 Managed numerous smaller IT teams at Prewise.
Co-founder of RaveIT, Eylean, No Brakes Games

Certified Agile product owner and practitioner. Managed large scale enterprise projects as well as launch of small startup products.
MSc of Software Engineering at Vilnius University.

Hobbies: Racing, MTB cycling, Windsurfing

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