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Agile Programming 101: An Executive Guide to Agile Programming

Agile Programming 101: An Executive Guide to Agile Programming

Agile programming strategy can help reduce application costs, improve application quality and ensure everyone is involved in the creation process. We explain the basics to help you get started with iterations, extreme programming, Scrum and other related programming methodologies.

Every manager knows about the nightmare programming project. The project that takes twice as long as expected, has massive cost overruns — and there's no end in sight. When you presented the partial application to users, they hated it, yet your company really needs the application to meet certain goals, such as increased production capacity.

Fortunately, you don't have to live with the problems that the old iterative software development process creates; you can use Agile programming to overcome the issues.

What Are the Business Reasons for Using Agile?

Businesses need a way to reduce development costs, improve software reliability, decrease time to development and ensure applications actually work with the users, rather than against them. These four issues are a tall order for anyone to fill, but Agile programming techniques can do it in many application programming scenarios. Agile makes business sense because you can reduce development costs by reducing the number of errors developers make when designing and building applications. In addition, Agile programming techniques can eliminate that most expensive development cost of all: the failed application.

However, even when an application makes it out the door and you have it installed on your server, reliability costs can eat up any potential gain from an application. The five 9's of reliability that most companies strive to achieve can happen only with a well-designed application that doesn't spend more time in the digital repair shop than it does answering users' needs. Agile accomplishes this task by reducing the number of potential development errors per module and by providing constant testing that locates errors quickly.

Many businesses are looking to obtain a quick return on investment for any development project. Instead, most projects languish for years as the company waits for the developer to complete the application as a whole. Rather than wait for the entire application, Agile programming techniques help you use at least part of the application today, which means you obtain a significantly faster benefit from the application. In short, you can obtain part of the application free because the cost savings you realise go into the development of the remainder of the application.

Applications that work with the user might not seem like such a big deal, but it really can spell the difference between an application that saves (or makes) money and one that doesn't. A project at a large clothing vendor illustrates this fact. The developer assumed that users would rely on the mouse to select items on screen when taking orders. After the vendor's new application was installed on the production servers, the company realised a significant loss of employee performance, rather than the gain it had expected. It turns out that the employees use the keyboard exclusively; moving their hands from the keyboard to the mouse to work with the application cost precious minutes for each order.

Agile programming helps you avoid this scenario by involving the user early in the development process. If the clothing vendor had followed this approach, the first iteration of the application would have helped the company realise the expected performance gain. Instead, the company spent time and still more money reworking the application.

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