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Agile practices

Agile practices

by Simon Buehring
Explore the strategic advantage of Agile practices, driving productivity and success across your product development endeavours.
Agile Practices |

Introducing Agile practices

The concept of Agile practices stems from the Agile Manifesto, which was formulated by industry experts to address the limitations of traditional project management methodologies. An Agile practice can be defined as a process, technique, or method that supports the development of a product or service in an Agile working environment. These practices are designed to promote continuous iteration of development and testing throughout the lifecycle of a project.

The significance of Agile practices lies in their universal applicability across various Agile methodologies and frameworks, such as Scrum, Kanban, or Extreme Programming (XP). They provide robust procedural guidelines that facilitate flexibility, collaboration, customer satisfaction, and delivery of high-quality products. Each practice reinforces the Agile principles of incremental development, adaptability to change, and delivery of value to customers early and frequently.

With the adoption of Agile practices becoming increasingly prevalent, organisations discover the benefits of responsiveness to change and customer-centric approaches, accentuating the relevance and the efficiency of such practices in today’s dynamic market conditions.

Key Agile practices

In the sections that follow, a range of Agile practices will be outlined, all of which contribute significantly to the efficiency and effectiveness of Agile teams. These practices serve as the pillars that support the Agile philosophy, ensuring that teams can respond to the unpredictability of software development with ease and flexibility. From enhancing communication to ensuring continuous improvement, each practice offers unique benefits that help Agile teams to deliver value to their customers consistently.

Understanding and implementing these practices allows teams to work collaboratively, streamline workflows, and address issues promptly. Moreover, they facilitate the cultivation of high-quality products that not only meet but exceed customer expectations. Let us delve into each practice and explore how it aids Agile teams in achieving their project goals.

Definition of done (DoD)

The ‘Definition of Done‘ (DoD) is a crucial Agile practice, which serves as a benchmark for determining when a task or project increment is considered complete. It is a set of pre-agreed criteria that all team members understand and use to assess whether a piece of work has been completed to the required quality standards.

DoD is especially significant in Scrum, where it ensures transparency and quality control throughout the development process. By having a clear DoD, teams can avoid the pitfalls of ‘work-in-progress’ or unfinished features creeping into the Product Backlog . This clarity aids in managing stakeholder expectations and in conducting effective Sprint Reviews.

The benefits of DoD are manifold. It aids in delivering shippable increments at the end of each Sprint, ensures high standards of quality, and reduces the likelihood of technical debt. Furthermore, with a shared understanding of DoD, teams can maintain consistency in their outputs, streamline the quality assurance process, and reinforce the team’s accountability for their work.

Sprints (or iterations)

Sprints, also known as iterations, are fundamental to many Agile frameworks, particularly Scrum. They are time-boxed periods, usually one to four weeks long, during which specific work has to be completed and made ready for review. Sprints provide a structured yet flexible approach to software development, enabling teams to break down complex projects into manageable chunks of work.

The primary purpose of Sprints is to create a rhythm of delivery, allowing teams to frequently reassess their priorities and adjust their trajectory based on feedback. This iterative process helps in mitigating risks and in progressively refining the product as per user requirements.

By using Sprints, Agile teams benefit from a consistent pace of work, which promotes sustainable development practices. The regular cadence of delivery ensures that there is a tangible output at regular intervals, offering stakeholders visibility into the project’s progress and allowing for early detection of issues.

Daily Scrums (daily stand-up)

Daily stand-ups, also known as Daily Scrums, are a staple in the Scrum framework. These are short, time-boxed meetings that happen at the same time every day, typically not lasting more than 15 minutes. During a stand-up, each team member summarises what they did the previous day, what they will be doing today, and any impediments they are facing.

This Agile practice is pivotal for fostering communication, transparency, and collaboration within the team. It helps to quickly identify any blockers that could impede progress and allows for timely support and realignment of resources if necessary.

The daily stand-up enhances team accountability, keeps everyone informed about project progress, and facilitates swift decision-making. It also serves as a daily planning session that ensures the team remains focused on the most critical and immediate tasks.

Product Backlog

The Product Backlog is an ordered list of everything that is known to be needed in the product. It is the single source of requirements for any changes to be made to the product. In Agile frameworks like Scrum, the Product Backlog is dynamic and constantly evolves as the product and the environment in which it will be used evolve as well.

The Product Backlog is prioritised based on the value that items bring to the overall product, the users, or the stakeholders. This ensures that the team works on the most valuable features first. Items at the top are more detailed, while those lower down are less refined, reflecting the need for further discussion.

This practice allows for flexibility and adaptability to change, both hallmarks of the Agile approach. The Product Backlog also provides transparency into the project roadmap for all stakeholders involved, underscoring the collaborative nature of Agile product development.

Sprint Planning

Sprint Planning is an event in Scrum that marks the beginning of a Sprint. The purpose of this meeting is for the team to agree on the work that will be accomplished during the Sprint. The duration of a Sprint Planning meeting is proportionate to the length of the Sprint; for example, a two-week Sprint typically entails a few hours of planning.

During Sprint Planning, the team selects items from the Product Backlog that they can commit to completing by the end of the Sprint. This process encourages team members to discuss and collaborate on how the work will be done, fostering a deeper understanding and ownership of the tasks ahead.

The advantage of Sprint Planning lies in its ability to create focus and direction. It sets a realistic expectation of the Sprint’s deliverables, aligns the team with the goals of the Sprint, and provides a clear action plan. This methodical approach to tackling work ensures better resource management and helps to maintain a steady pace throughout the Sprint.

Sprint Review

A Sprint Review is conducted at the end of each Sprint to inspect the increment and adapt the Product Backlog if needed. During this event, the Scrum team and stakeholders collaborate to understand what was completed during the Sprint. The team presents their increment, and together with the stakeholders, they discuss feedback and what to do next.

The Sprint Review is a time for stakeholders to provide input and for the team to reflect on their achievements and challenges. This practice reinforces the principle of regular inspection and adaptation that is central to the Agile methodology.

Conducting Sprint Reviews provides the opportunity to celebrate successes, learn from failures, and make informed decisions about the future of the product. It encourages a culture of transparency and continuous feedback, which is vital for the iterative improvement of the product and the process.

Sprint Retrospective

The Sprint Retrospective is a meeting that takes place after the Sprint Review and before the next Sprint Planning. This ceremony is an opportunity for the Agile team to reflect on the past Sprint and discuss what went well, what did not, and how they can improve in the next Sprint.

The retrospective is a key component of the continuous improvement ethos of Agile. It allows the team to identify potential process improvements and to create a plan for implementing these improvements in future Sprints.

This practice strengthens team cohesion and promotes a growth mindset within the Agile team. The retrospective ensures that lessons are learned and applied, making each Sprint more effective than the last. It’s an essential mechanism for driving process optimisation, enhancing productivity, and maintaining team morale.

User stories

User stories are short, simple descriptions of a feature told from the perspective of the user or customer who desires the new capability. They typically follow a simple template: “As a [type of user], I want [an action] so that I gain [a benefit/value].” User stories are intended to be brief yet descriptive enough to convey the essence of what is needed.

In Agile development, user stories are used to create a user-focused framework for defining product requirements. The format encourages teams to think from the end-user’s perspective, which helps ensure that the product features are relevant and valuable to the customer.

One of the primary advantages of using user stories is that they facilitate conversation and collaboration. They are often accompanied by acceptance criteria, which provide a clear definition of when the story is complete. User stories are a fundamental component of backlog management and help in prioritisation and planning of development work.

Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD)

Continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) are practices that enable developers to frequently merge code changes into a central repository, after which automated builds and tests are run. The aim of continuous integration is to identify and fix integration issues early, which leads to higher quality software. Continuous delivery extends continuous integration by ensuring that code changes are automatically prepared for a release to production.

These practices are critical for Agile teams as they support the principle of delivering working software frequently. CI/CD enables rapid iterations and continuous feedback, which both contribute to a faster and more reliable release process.

The benefits of CI/CD are not limited to just reducing integration problems. They also include higher release rates, improved issue detection and resolution, and increased confidence in the software release process. For Agile teams, CI/CD streamlines the path to production, ensuring that customer value is delivered in a timely and efficient manner.

Pair programming

Pair programming is a software development technique where two programmers work together at one workstation. One, the ‘driver’, writes code while the other, the ‘observer’ or ‘navigator’, reviews each line of code as it is typed in. The two programmers switch roles frequently.

The rationale behind pair programming is that two heads are better than one. This practice can lead to higher quality code as it encourages continuous code review and collaborative problem solving. It also serves as an excellent educational approach, helping less experienced developers to rapidly increase their skills by working alongside more seasoned colleagues.

Pair programming is praised for its ability to reduce defects, share knowledge across the team, and produce more maintainable code. It is especially useful for complex or critical sections of code and can contribute to a more resilient software development process.

Burndown charts

Burndown charts are a visual tool used in Agile to track the amount of work remaining in a project or Sprint over time. They typically display the total effort against the amount of work for each day of the Sprint, providing a simple graphical representation of the team’s progress towards completing the tasks.

The main purpose of a burndown chart is to predict when all the work will be completed. It helps teams to manage their pace and to adjust their workload if the project is not progressing as expected. By making progress transparent, it also acts as a motivator for the team.

Using burndown charts allows Agile teams to quickly identify deviations from the plan and take corrective actions. It’s an effective tool for monitoring performance and ensuring that the team is on track to meet its commitments.

Agile modelling

Agile modelling is a practice that adheres to the principles of Agile software development to encourage developers to utilise modelling as an effective tool for understanding and communicating the structure and behaviour of their systems. It promotes modelling and documentation only when it’s reasonable to do so and prefers a ‘just enough’ approach.

The core of Agile modelling is flexibility and simplicity. It is about creating simple models that can be easily understood and adapting them as the project requirements evolve. This practice is beneficial because it reduces the overhead of creating and maintaining extensive documentation and allows for a more agile response to change.

Agile modelling is significant for teams as it encourages collaborative design and can improve both the technical and communication skills of team members. It ensures that knowledge is shared and that complex designs can be effectively communicated to all relevant stakeholders.

Collective code ownership

Collective code ownership is a concept where every team member has the right and responsibility to change any part of the code at any time. This practice encourages a culture of shared responsibility, enhances the flow of knowledge within the team, and helps to prevent bottlenecks where work is waiting for a specific individual.

In Agile, this practice alleviates the risks associated with ‘key-person dependencies’ by ensuring that several team members are familiar with different parts of the codebase. It promotes cross-functional learning and can lead to more resilient and adaptable team structures.

While collective code ownership can lead to more maintainable and higher quality software, it also requires a robust suite of automated tests to ensure that changes do not introduce unexpected issues. It empowers team members to contribute more broadly to the project, fostering a sense of ownership and accountability.


Refactoring is an Agile practice of altering the internal structure of the code without changing its external behaviour to improve nonfunctional attributes. Regular refactoring helps keep the codebase clean, understandable, and easy to maintain.

The key to refactoring is small, incremental changes that incrementally improve the overall design of the system. This practice is crucial for managing technical debt, which, if left unchecked, can lead to a brittle and unmaintainable codebase.

Refactoring benefits Agile teams by making it easier to adapt to new requirements and by facilitating a quicker understanding of the code for new team members. It encourages the evolution of the software design and architecture organically as the system grows and the requirements change.

Cross-functional teams

In Agile, a cross-functional team is composed of members with varying areas of expertise and skills necessary to complete a project from start to finish. These teams are structured to be self-sufficient, with the ability to deliver product increments without depending on individuals outside the team.

The concept promotes collaboration across different disciplines, leading to better problem-solving and innovation. It allows teams to address issues more rapidly and with greater agility since the necessary skills and knowledge are available within the team.

Cross-functional teams enhance communication and reduce the need for hand-offs between different departments. By having all required skills within the team, there is less waiting for external teams to contribute, resulting in faster delivery times and increased productivity.

Self-organising teams

Self-organising teams are at the heart of Agile methodology. They are empowered to make decisions about how to execute work, which fosters a sense of ownership and accountability. These teams are given the autonomy to manage their tasks and are expected to collaborate to discover the most effective way to deliver high-quality output.

The ability for a team to self-organise encourages innovation and flexibility. It allows teams to adapt their strategies and processes in real-time to address the challenges they face without waiting for direction from a hierarchical management structure.

This practice is essential for harnessing the full potential of the team members and for keeping them motivated. It requires trust from management but can lead to significant improvements in efficiency and morale. Self-organising teams are more likely to be receptive to change and better equipped to respond to the dynamic nature of software development.


Timeboxing is the practice of setting a fixed, maximum unit of time during which an activity or a stage of work is to be accomplished. In Agile, timeboxing is applied to various events such as meetings (daily stand-ups, Sprint Planning, Sprint Reviews, and Sprint Retrospectives) and to the Sprints themselves.

The purpose of timeboxing is to improve focus, enhance productivity, and prevent tasks from dragging on indefinitely. It helps teams become more disciplined about prioritising work and making decisions efficiently.

Timeboxing encourages Agile teams to break down work into smaller, more manageable pieces that can be completed within the allocated time, ensuring a steady workflow and frequent value delivery. It is particularly effective for controlling scope creep and for keeping the team aligned with the project’s goals.


Velocity is a measure used in Agile project management to determine the rate at which a team can complete work during a single Sprint or iteration. It is calculated by tallying up the points (or any other unit of measurement the team uses) for all fully completed tasks in the Sprint.

The usefulness of velocity is in its ability to help predict how much work the team can handle in future Sprints. This assists with effective Sprint Planning and managing stakeholder expectations regarding delivery timelines.

Tracking velocity also allows teams to reflect on their performance and identify areas for process improvement. However, it’s important to note that velocity is a planning tool, not a productivity measure, and should be used to foster a sustainable pace for the team rather than to pressure the team to increase output.

Facilitated workshops

Facilitated workshops are essential to Agile methodologies, offering a collaborative environment for teams to engage in focused, outcome-driven discussions. Guided by a facilitator, these sessions are interactive, structured, and aim to gather diverse inputs on project requirements, planning, or problem-solving.

The value of facilitated workshops lies in their ability to quickly align team members and stakeholders, fostering a shared understanding and collective ownership of project goals and deliverables. This alignment is critical to Agile’s iterative and incremental approach, ensuring that all parties are on the same page, which streamlines decision-making and enhances team cohesion.

By embracing the collaborative spirit of Agile, facilitated workshops tap into the collective wisdom of the group, encourage meaningful participation, and leverage diverse perspectives for richer, more effective solutions. The practice not only strengthens the team’s dynamic but also directly contributes to the Agile commitment to deliver customer-centric results efficiently.


Spiking is an investigative practice used in Agile project management to explore complex problems, answer questions, or reduce uncertainty. A spike is a time-boxed activity, usually undertaken to gain knowledge necessary for reducing risk in a story or feature, such as understanding a new technology or domain.

During a spike, a small piece of work is created to learn about the larger piece of work. It is not meant to deliver a shippable feature but to acquire information to better estimate or design a solution. Spikes are beneficial when facing significant unknowns that block progress; they allow teams to validate concepts quickly and efficiently before commitment.

In essence, spiking is about smart risk management in Agile environments. It helps teams avoid potential roadblocks down the line by investing the time upfront to research and make informed decisions, thereby facilitating a smoother development process.

Final thoughts about Agile practices

Agile practices are the cornerstone of a philosophy that prioritises adaptability, team collaboration, and customer satisfaction. They provide a diverse set of tools for teams to manage the complexities of software development and to deliver high-value products efficiently. By fostering an environment of continuous improvement and open communication, Agile teams are equipped to respond swiftly to changing requirements and to maintain a sustainable pace of development.

It is through the thoughtful application of these practices that Agile teams can realise their full potential, ensuring not only the delivery of exceptional products but also the cultivation of a dynamic and productive working culture. As the landscape of software development continues to evolve, the Agile practices outlined here will remain essential for teams seeking to navigate the challenges of modern project management.


Agile practices infographic

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