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Learn how Agile and DevOps Interrelate for Software Development

Project management and software development are about creating value and solutions to business needs. Different organizations and individuals go about this using different approaches, methodologies, tools, and techniques.

For software development, while Agile is one of the common approaches by teams all over the world since its inception, DevOps happens to be another which is arguably even more popular among development teams.

According to Statista, about 47 percent of respondents state using DevOps or a DevSecOps method for software development in 2022, while about 37% mainly use an Agile methodology. So how about teams using a hybrid of both, and how do Agile and DevOps interrelate?

Understanding the relationship between these methodologies can be a game-changer when it comes to the efficiency and effectiveness of your development team. This post will provide insights into the relationship, and how it can be used for creating solutions for complex business needs.

Agile vs DevOps: Overview

What is Agile?

Agile is an iterative approach to project management and software product development that originated in 2001 with the Agile Manifesto for software development. This manifesto is based on 4 values and 12 supporting Principles that guide the Agile methodologies.

Agile is a change-driven methodology with the aim of developing products incrementally in bits via collaboration, frequent releases, rapid feedback, and continuous improvement.

Scrum, Kanban, and XP are common frameworks that operate under the Agile umbrella. Each of these approaches is based on the Agile Manifesto values and principles and follow its kaizen-focused guiding principles (continuous improvement).

By splitting the work required to develop the product into user stories, the actual development is done in time-boxed iterations ranging from 1 to 4 weeks called Sprints, and features are added incrementally over the course of each Sprint.

This offers the chance for quick process improvements based on ongoing feedback from users and stakeholders. Through regulated and tested procedures, Agile enables the building of capacity for delivering high-quality and high-priority work.

Key Aspects of Agile

The key aspects of Agile include:

  1. Iterative and Incremental Development: Agile breaks down projects into small, manageable units called iterations or sprints. Each iteration is a complete project cycle, resulting in a working product increment.
  2. Collaboration and Teamwork: Agile emphasizes close collaboration between the business stakeholders and the development team. The team is self-organizing and cross-functional, meaning they manage their own work and have all skills necessary to deliver the product increment.
  3. Customer Involvement: Agile encourages active ‘user’ involvement throughout the product’s development and includes the delivery of a fully functional product after each iteration.
  4. Adaptability: Agile methodologies prioritize flexibility and adaptability. They embrace change, allowing teams to adjust their plans and direction throughout the project based on feedback and learning.
  5. Continuous Improvement: Agile teams regularly reflect on their performance and processes to learn and improve. This is often done in the form of retrospectives at the end of each sprint.
  6. Value Delivery: Agile focuses on delivering maximum value to the customer by prioritizing work based on its value and impact, usually managed through a backlog of user stories or features.
  7. Working Software: Agile values working software over comprehensive documentation. The goal is to deliver a working product increment with each iteration.

What is DevOps?

DevOps is an approach to software development that integrates the processes between development teams and IT operations teams to help build, test, and release software in a quicker and more reliable way.

DevOps uses a collection of tools, processes, and practices that are designed to improve communication and collaboration between software developers and IT operations personnel or system administrators.

The ultimate goal of DevOps is to create a culture and environment where building, testing, and releasing software can occur rapidly, frequently, and more reliably, enhancing business value and customer satisfaction.

Key Aspects of DevOps

  1. Collaboration: DevOps emphasizes a culture of collaboration and shared responsibility between the software development team and IT operations team. This collaboration facilitates better communication and reduces inefficiencies.
  2. Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD): In a DevOps model, developers regularly commit their code changes to a central repository, which is then automatically built and tested. This continual integration of code changes allows teams to detect and fix bugs earlier. Continuous Delivery extends this by ensuring that the code is always in a deployable state, improving the speed and frequency of releases.
  3. Automation and Orchestration: DevOps encourages automating repetitive tasks (like testing, deployment, and configuration) to increase efficiency and reduce errors. Orchestration involves managing and coordinating these automated tasks and processes.
  4. Monitoring and Logging: Regular monitoring of applications and infrastructure is a key aspect of DevOps. Collecting and analyzing log files and performance metrics helps teams quickly identify and resolve issues.
  5. Infrastructure as Code (IaC): DevOps teams often treat infrastructure setup and management (like servers, storage, networking) as if it’s software code. This approach, known as Infrastructure as Code, allows teams to automate the setup, scaling, and management of infrastructure.
  6. Microservices Architecture: DevOps often goes hand-in-hand with a microservices architecture, where applications are broken down into small, loosely coupled services. This allows teams to deploy, scale, and update each service independently, improving speed and resilience.

How do Agile and DevOps Interrelate?

How do Agile and DevOps Interrelate?

Agile and DevOps, although distinct methodologies are not mutually exclusive as people often think. Instead, they complement each other and can be integrated to create a more efficient, effective, and high-quality software development and delivery process that covers the entire software development lifecycle from planning and development to deployment and feedback.

Here’s how:

1. Shared Objectives

Both Agile and DevOps aim for efficient software development and accelerated product releases. Agile breaks down the development process into manageable parts, fostering transparency, adaptation, and inspection, while DevOps focuses on streamlining and automating the entire delivery pipeline to accelerate releases.

2. Complementary Testing Approaches

Agile involves a rigorous testing process where every team member plays a role in ensuring quality. DevOps complements this by automating repetitive testing tasks, thereby enhancing the speed and reliability of testing. Together, they ensure a high standard of quality assurance.

3. Continuous Integration and Delivery

Both Agile and DevOps leverage Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD). Agile involves integrating small pieces of work into a larger whole, and DevOps automates these integrations to accelerate releases. The result is a reliable, efficient, and effective delivery pipeline.

4. Modular Design

Agile principles promote reusable and modular designs, fostering an environment of experimentation and learning. DevOps tools, like Git repositories or containers, can help scale these principles by managing modular components efficiently.

5. Enhanced Development Flow

Agile sets the stage for learning, skill development, and team input, while DevOps automates operational tasks to enhance collaboration and responsibility among teams. Together, they improve project flow and help teams achieve their goals more effectively.

6. Feedback Cycles

Both Agile and DevOps emphasize fast feedback cycles. Agile uses Sprints and Scrum for fast feedback from stakeholders, while DevOps supports this by automating the identification and flagging of failures. Together, they ensure product quality improves in line with user expectations.

what is a common misconception about agile and devops

What Is A Common Misconception About Agile And DevOps?

A common misconception about Agile and DevOps is that they are mutually exclusive or that they cannot be used together.

Some people may view Agile as a methodology solely for software development and DevOps as a practice only for operations and deployment. Thus, they believe that an organization must choose one over the other.

However, this is not the case. Agile and DevOps are indeed different in their focus areas, but they are complementary and can be integrated together for an end-to-end approach to software development and delivery.

Agile focuses on iterative and incremental development, with a strong emphasis on collaboration, customer feedback, and flexibility to changes.

DevOps, on the other hand, aims to bridge the traditional divide between development and operations, focusing on continuous integration, delivery, and deployment, as well as close collaboration between all parties involved in the software delivery lifecycle.

These two methodologies can work hand-in-hand. Agile can help produce high-quality software rapidly and iteratively, and DevOps can ensure that software is reliably and efficiently tested, deployed, and monitored.

Together, they can help organizations deliver valuable software to customers more rapidly, reliably, and in line with user needs.

What are the Similarities Between Agile and DevOps Methodologies?

  1. Shared Philosophy: Both Agile and DevOps emphasize collaboration, transparency, and responsiveness to change. They share a focus on delivering value to the customer quickly and efficiently.
  2. Seamless Delivery: Agile’s iterative development and frequent releases dovetail with DevOps’ emphasis on continuous integration, testing, and deployment. Agile produces software ready for deployment, and DevOps ensures this software is reliably and rapidly delivered to the customer.
  3. Feedback Loops: Agile involves frequent feedback from stakeholders to guide development, while DevOps includes monitoring and logging to gather feedback on the performance of the released software. This continuous feedback helps both methodologies improve and adapt over time.
  4. Culture of Learning and Improvement: Both methodologies emphasize a culture of learning, experimenting, and improving. Agile encourages retrospectives after each sprint to improve the development process, while DevOps encourages learning from operational data and feedback.
  5. Automation: Automation is a key principle in both methodologies. In Agile, automation can be used for testing to ensure each iteration is potentially shippable. In DevOps, automation is used extensively in the deployment pipeline, from integration to testing to deployment, to increase reliability and speed.

How to Integrate Agile and DevOps

Integrating Agile and DevOps can create a seamless, end-to-end process for software development, from initial planning and development to testing, deployment, and monitoring.

Important to note that Integrating Agile and DevOps is not just about combining practices or using certain tools. It’s about creating a culture and environment where development and operations work together seamlessly, and where delivering value to the customer is at the heart of everything the team does.

Here are some steps to integrate these methodologies:

  1. Shared Culture and Mindset: Foster a shared culture of collaboration, transparency, and continuous improvement across all teams. This includes breaking down silos, encouraging open communication, and aligning everyone around the common goal of delivering value to the customer.
  2. Unified Teams: Cross-functional teams that include developers, testers, operations, and business stakeholders can help bridge the gap between development and operations. This aids in creating a smoother transition from development to deployment.
  3. Automation: Both Agile and DevOps value automation as a means to increase efficiency and reduce errors. This could involve automating testing (a practice in Agile) and automating integration and deployment (key practices in DevOps). Utilize tools that support Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) to automate the build, test, and deployment processes.
  4. Work in Small, Iterative Increments: In line with Agile practices, break down work into small, manageable pieces. This allows for faster feedback and easier troubleshooting, as changes are smaller and less complex.
  5. Continuous Feedback and Improvement: Collect feedback regularly and use it to drive improvements. In Agile, this can involve sprint retrospectives to reflect on the team’s work processes. In DevOps, this can involve monitoring and logging to gather feedback on the performance of the released software.
  6. Infrastructure as Code (IaC): Treat your infrastructure the same way you treat your application code. This practice, common in DevOps, allows you to version control, test, and automate your infrastructure, making it more reliable and easier to replicate.
  7. Shift-Left Testing: Introduce testing earlier in the life cycle (“shift left”) to find and rectify bugs sooner rather than later. This is a common practice in both Agile and DevOps and can help ensure a higher quality product and smoother deployments.

Benefits of using Agile and DevOps together

Combining Agile and DevOps can bring a multitude of benefits to the software development process:

  1. Faster Time-to-Market: Agile’s iterative approach, combined with DevOps’ automation of the delivery pipeline, can significantly reduce the time it takes to get a product or feature to market.
  2. Improved Quality: Agile’s focus on customer feedback and DevOps’ emphasis on continuous testing and monitoring can improve the quality of the software. Issues can be detected and fixed earlier, and the product more closely aligns with customer needs.
  3. Increased Efficiency: Automation, a core principle in both Agile and DevOps, can increase efficiency by reducing manual, repetitive tasks. This allows the team to focus more on delivering value to the customer.
  4. Enhanced Collaboration: Both Agile and DevOps promote a culture of collaboration and shared responsibility. This can break down silos, improve communication, and lead to more effective teams.
  5. Greater Adaptability: Agile’s responsiveness to change and DevOps’ continuous feedback from monitoring can make the team more adaptable. They can respond more quickly and effectively to changing customer needs, market trends, or issues in the software.
  6. Reduced Risk: By integrating and deploying changes more frequently, the changes are smaller and less complex. This can reduce the risk of deployments and make it easier to troubleshoot and roll back issues.
  7. Continuous Improvement: Both Agile and DevOps promote a mindset of continuous learning and improvement. By regularly reflecting on their processes and using feedback to drive improvements, teams can become more effective over time.

How Do Agile and DevOps Interrelate: Example

Let’s consider a scenario where a software development team is working on a web-based application.

Agile comes into play in managing the development work:

  1. The project is divided into several iterations or Sprints, each lasting a couple of weeks.
  2. Each Sprint starts with a planning meeting where the team decides on the tasks (often in the form of user stories) to be taken from the Product Backlog for the upcoming Sprint.
  3. During the Sprint, the team codes, tests, and integrates new features or changes.
  4. At the end of each Sprint, a potentially shippable increment of the product is ready. The team conducts a Sprint Review with stakeholders to gather feedback, followed by a retrospective to reflect on their process and make improvements.

DevOps comes into play in the testing, integration, and deployment of the software:

  1. As developers complete coding tasks, they commit their changes to a shared code repository. This triggers the Continuous Integration (CI) process, where the new code is automatically built and tested.
  2. If the CI process is successful, the new code is merged with the main codebase. If any issues are found, they are addressed immediately, ensuring the codebase is always in a releasable state.
  3. This leads into Continuous Deployment (CD), where the new features are automatically deployed to a staging environment for further testing, and then to production if no issues are found.
  4. The operations team monitors the application in production, collecting data on performance and any issues that arise. This feedback is used to identify areas for improvement in the next development cycle.

In this way, Agile and DevOps work together to create a cohesive, end-to-end approach to software development.

Agile helps manage the development work and ensure the product aligns with user needs, while DevOps ensures the software is reliably and rapidly tested, integrated, and deployed, and that feedback from the live application is used to inform future development work.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Agile and DevOps, while distinct methodologies that emerged from shifts in software development patterns, share a common goal: rapid and efficient delivery of high-quality software that satisfies users.

Far from being mutually exclusive, Agile and DevOps can be integrated in a manner that leverages the strengths of both methodologies, resulting in a highly effective end-to-end software development lifecycle.

The interrelation of Agile and DevOps not only leads to more satisfied users but also contributes to higher business growth, proving the value of this powerful combination in our fast-paced digital business world.

FAQs

Which Technology Combined with Agile and DevOps?

Technologies often combined with Agile and DevOps include Cloud Computing, Containerization (Docker), Orchestration (Kubernetes), Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (Jenkins, CircleCI), Infrastructure as Code (Terraform), and Version Control Systems (Git). These tools support collaboration, automation, and efficient deployment, enhancing the Agile and DevOps methodologies.

What type of Software can Agile and DevOps be applied to?

Agile and DevOps can be applied to all types of software development projects, irrespective of size or complexity. This includes web applications, mobile apps, enterprise systems, and more. Their methodologies enhance collaboration, efficiency, and quality throughout the software development lifecycle.

Can DevOps and Agile be used together?

Yes, DevOps and Agile can be used together. Agile focuses on iterative development and collaboration, while DevOps emphasizes seamless integration and automation. By combining Agile’s flexibility with DevOps’ continuous delivery and deployment practices, organizations can achieve faster development cycles, improved quality, and enhanced collaboration throughout the software development lifecycle.

Can DevOps be used with Scrum?

Yes, DevOps can be used with Scrum. Scrum, an Agile framework, focuses on iterative development, while DevOps streamlines deployment and operations. Together, they cover the full software development lifecycle, fostering collaboration, continuous integration, testing, and delivery, leading to high-quality software and faster releases.

David Usifo (PSM, MBCS, PMP®)
David Usifo (PSM, MBCS, PMP®)

David Usifo is a certified Project Management professional, professional Scrum Master, and a BCS certified Business Analyst with a background in product development and database management.

He enjoys using his knowledge and skills to share with aspiring and experienced Project Managers and Business Analysts the core concept of value-creation through adaptive solutions.

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