Your Guide to Understanding the Agile Software Development Lifecycle

As organizations look for new ways to improve team efficiency in a constantly changing software industry, Agile development frameworks are increasing in popularity.

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by Matias Emiliano Alvarez Duran


Agile frameworks help companies divide larger projects into smaller “sprints” and iteratively release software.

Agile principles also help development teams stay flexible and responsive to any problems that arise. They emphasize close communication and collaboration to keep projects on track and produce high-quality deliverables.

Given these great benefits, you might already be considering using Agile principles in your organization.

However, your team won’t automatically start to improve their processes when company leadership implements Agile processes. Understanding the different stages of the Agile software development lifecycle is critical.

Don’t worry – we’re here to walk you through it!

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Ready to build your own custom software with a team that cares about you and your processes? We’re not code monkeys, we care about you.

Agile frameworks and workflows 

There are several existing Agile frameworks, each with their own processes and methodologies. While they are all designed to help teams stay on track and increase productivity, they do have some notable differences.

 It’s up to you to decide which one best fits the needs of your organization. 

A few of the most commonly-used Agile frameworks are:

  • Scrum

  • Kanban

  • Lean Software Development

  • Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

  • The Crystal Method

  • Adaptive Software Development

  • Feature-driven Development (FDD)

  • Dynamic Systems Development

  • Extreme Programming

If you’d like to learn more about each individual framework and its benefits, you can read Agile Software Development Frameworks to be Aware of Before Starting Your Next Project.

Regardless of your chosen methodology, creating and maintaining an Agile workflow is necessary for your team to be successful. Agile only works if teams fully invest in its principles as a mindset rather than a process. This includes having daily standups, scheduling frequent retros, and maintaining flexibility.

These brief meetings are essential to sustaining the collaborative nature of an Agile team. They give members a greater understanding of current work in progress and help them anticipate possible blocks that will need to be overcome.

Why use Agile frameworks? 

As stated above, using an Agile framework is much more than a methodology for success – it’s a mindset. A truly Agile organization won’t just embrace the written processes of their chosen Agile software development methodology. They’ll use its values to dictate their mentality and day-to-day operations when working on a project.

In addition to helping your organization deliver a stronger product to the market, using Agile frameworks will save time, eliminate waste, and improve team communication.

Using Agile instead of a traditional project management methodology, like the waterfall model, can help teams stay flexible and on track in a fast-paced industry like software.

However, if you don’t have any experience with Agile, then you might want to consider bringing in a third party to help get the ball rolling.

It can be very risky to implement Agile methods in your organization if none of your team members have any experience with it. In fact, according to the 15th Annual State of Agile Report, 42% of respondents named lack of Agile experience as a key obstacle to successful Agile practices.

At NaNLABS, we live and breathe Agile principles. We’re true believers in the Agile Manifesto, and our experienced team members understand the importance of team alignment and using Agile to keep both ourselves and our clients on track.

Agile truly is a mindset to us, and we don’t go through the processes just for the sake of it. Our practices help us work more effectively to provide you with the highest-quality final products. We’ll help you use Agile to take your team to the next level.

The six phases of the Agile software development lifecycle 

While the specific processes and practices vary for each Agile framework, they all consist of projects going through the same Agile lifecycle. 

The Agile software development lifecycle is the series of phases that a project goes through as it progresses from start to finish. It consists of six phases: concept, inception, iteration, release, maintenance, and retirement.

Let’s break down each stage.

1. Concept

The first phase of the lifecycle is concept. In this stage, the product owner will determine the scope of their request. In the event that there are multiple projects, they will prioritize the most vital or time-sensitive ones.

The product owner will then examine key prerequisites with stakeholders and prepare any necessary materials to create a project layout, with special attention to what features will need to be developed first within the platform and the desired outcome or end result.

If possible, the product owner should keep the project requirements as minimal as possible. They can always be modified in the later stages of the lifecycle.

Logistical factors, such as project cost and expected timeframe for completion, should also be estimated in this stage. If there seems to be a shortage of either time or resources, stakeholders should then discuss whether or not to proceed further with the project request.

If the project is an entirely new and innovative solution, this stage will also call for a Proof of Concept (PoC), which will help the team determine the technical feasibility of the project.

2. Inception 

After the concept has been solidified, the inception stage can begin. A key hallmark of this stage is the construction of a software development team to complete the project. 

In addition to selecting those with skill sets matching the project requirements, it’s also the product owner’s job to provide them with the resources needed to successfully complete the project.

Once a team has been chosen, the design process can begin. Designers and developers will collaborate to create a mockup of the UI and construct the framework of the project’s architecture.

This stage also includes detailed input from project stakeholders to fully determine the project requirements. Frequent check-ins, or standups, will help to keep the project on track and ensure that all requirements are met.

3. Iteration

The project will then proceed to the iteration phase, also sometimes called the construction phase. This stage is typically the longest since it involves most of the project construction and testing. 

Work is divided into several sprints, which are short timeframe iterations (typically between two to four weeks long). In addition to a larger project plan, sprint planning should occur at the beginning of each iteration to ensure the right amount of progress is being made. On each iteration, working software is delivered. 

Here, the software development team works with UX designers to combine all product requirements and feedback from customers and testers, transforming the project design into code.

The primary aim of this stage is to construct the bare functionality of the product by the end of the first iteration, or sprint. Additional features can be added in the following sprints.

This phase is vital to the Agile software development process. It enables software developers to create working software as swiftly as possible while making tweaks and improvements to match stakeholder feedback.

4. Release

Once the iteration phase is completed, the project is nearly ready for release. That’s where this next stage comes in.

Before the official product release, the quality assurance team should perform various tests on the software to ensure that it’s functioning as expected and doesn’t need further bug fixes or adjustments. If any are discovered, they should be corrected as soon as possible.

Here, a company can also consider releasing a product in general availability (GA) format instead of beta testing or limited release, where it will be available for user testing through the organization’s general sales channel. This can be a great way to get a high volume of feedback.

The release phase also consists of user training, which will require additional documentation and instructional design. As soon as all these processes are completed, the product’s final iteration is ready for release.

5. Maintenance 

Finally, it’s time to deploy the software and make it available to customers. However, a software solution is never “finished” as long as it’s active. Once your product is available to the public, you have entered the maintenance phase of the lifecycle. 

A product needs to be maintained to avoid bugs and prevent it from becoming obsolete. As your user base increases, you may need to scale your application to support higher traffic, an increase in transactions, or the increase of data managed by the application.

You also might want to consider developing new features to capture more users and unlock new business opportunities.

During this phase, the development team will provide ongoing support to keep the system running smoothly and resolve any new bugs. They should also be available to help with user training when needed.

As time passes, new iterations can take place to execute product updates and add features.

6. Retirement 

Sometimes, the right decision for an organization is to retire a product and completely remove it from the market.

There are two main reasons why a product will enter the retirement phase: 

1. It’s being replaced with newer, better software

2. It’s become obsolete within the organization’s goals or structures

When the decision is made to retire a product, the development team should notify users that it’s being retired so they have an opportunity to find another solution. If the software is being replaced, then users should be shifted to the new system with as little interference to their day-to-day operations as possible. 

The development team should also execute any remaining end-of-life activities and phase out support for the retiring product.

Pros and cons of Agile 

While Agile frameworks can be a great tool for many organizations, they aren’t always the right fit. Before choosing to implement a specific methodology at your organization, make sure that you consider some of the pros and cons of Agile.

Let’s walk through a few of them here:

Pros of Agile:

  • Improved planning and project predictability

  • Increased customer satisfaction

  • Increased team flexibility

  • Higher team morale

  • Lower risk levels

  • Increased overall product quality

  • Improved team communication

Cons of Agile: 

  • Extensive planning required may not be worth it

  • Potential for poor resource allocation/planning

  • Documentation is limited

  • An iterative approach isn’t right for every team

  • Less of a definitive end to projects

  • Harder to measure Agile software development metrics than other project management strategies

  • Required collaboration places a greater demand on developers

At the end of the day, you and your team should discuss the potential pitfalls of Agile before selecting a framework to implement. Some organizations will refer to themselves as Agile without actually following the processes outlined in the Agile Manifesto. Consequently, they have a much lower rate of success than companies that fully embrace the Agile mindset.

How Agile can work for you  

Agile methodology is a fantastic tool that can help improve your team’s flexibility and produce higher-quality products. The dozens of Agile frameworks in existence are fantastic resources that can help you customize Agile methodology to fit the needs of your organization and your teams.

Whether you choose to implement Scrum, Kanban, or another framework (or even a combination), you’ll likely find that adopting an Agile mindset has a positive impact on your team and your projects.

If your team needs some help getting started with Agile methodology or needs help with the custom software development process, NaNLABS can help! We’re Agile experts who truly embrace the principles of the Agile manifesto, and we’ve helped dozens of organizations implement and strengthen their Agile practices and improve their development processes.

Ready to build your own custom software with a team that cares about you and your processes? We’re not code monkeys, we care about you

Related Post: 8 Benefits of Agile Software Development That’ll Enhance Your Next Project

Frequently asked questions about the Agile software development lifecycle

What is the Agile software development lifecycle?

The Agile software development lifecycle is the series of phases that a project goes through as it progresses from start to finish. It consists of six phases: concept, inception, iteration, release, maintenance, and retirement.

What are the stages of the Agile lifecycle?

The stages of the Agile lifecycle are concept, inception, iteration, release, maintenance, and retirement.

Does Agile follow the software development lifecycle?

Agile is a specific approach to the traditional software development cycle that emphasizes project completion through collaborative work of cross-functional teams and the end-users. It offers more flexibility than other project management strategies, like the waterfall model.

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