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Agile Process,Startups

Why Startups Projects Fare Better With Agile Development

ChangSheng Sze Tho   29 Jul , 2015  

Startups survival rates are brutal, particularly in the tech sector. According to Startup Genome, a staggering 92% of startups fail within 3 years of being launched. It is important that startups do not just wait and change, but instead continuously adapt to meet ever-changing market needs.

Startups face a plethora of challenges early on, including funding, user acquisition, scaling, developing a sustainable monetisation strategy and finding the right developer and customer management.

It can be overwhelming for startups to deal with so many different challenges, but agile software development can tilt the odds of success in your favour. Although the agile process does not guarantee a higher chance of success, it might change the way you deal with other aspects of your startup.

Before you start work on developing a web product for your startup, it is important to first decide the best way to build the web application. There are two primary methodologies to choose from, namely Waterfall Methodology and Agile Development.

 

Waterfall Methodology

The waterfall methodology is a regularly used, step by step process in which the progress is seen as flowing downwards through phases of Conception, Analysis, System Design, Construction, Testing, Implementation & Maintenance.

In the requirements phase, the development team gathers all the requirements from you, documenting them in the form of a project specification. Based on these requirements, the initial wire-framing commences, following which there is a step-by-step design phase where the designer will design accordingly to the requirements.

Once you approve the design of the web application, the developers start to implement the design into an actual web application and bring the project to life. After the web application has been developed, usually a couple of months minimum depending on the complexity of the project, the developers will ask you to conduct a user acceptance test.

The user acceptance test gives you a chance to thoroughly use the application and test it for a week, finding bugs and requesting any necessary changes. Once the bugs are ironed out, your product is ready to go live.

You push the product to the market, everyone loves your product and you go on to make a gazillion dollars.

That only happens in your ideal world.

In fact, the waterfall model is built with the ideal process in mind.

In the real world, after your development team have handed over the completed product to you, you squeeze all the testing into one week and you find a ton of bugs.

You bring it back to your development team and they come back with the bugs fixed, and you have to go through another week for your user acceptance test.

This time round, you find another set of bugs and goes back to your developer for more changes.

Finally, after another couple of months of bugs fixing and debugging you are really to launch your project.

You push it out to the market and realise that the market finds your product does not really solve the problem it was designed to – or worse, it addresses a problem that doesn’t even exist.

You decide to pivot your startup and bring it back to the drawing board.

At this stage, you may realise that you have spent 3 times the cost and time to come out with a product that wasn’t suited for your target market.

Let’s take a look at how agile development can save all these troubles.

 

Agile development

Instead of a step by step process, agile methodology implements an incremental development approach.

During the inception meeting, the various stakeholders including the product owner and the development team meet to break the entire project down into small requirements known as user stories.

After generating the user stories, you can work with the development team to identify the most important features that need to be developed. Typically, aspects with the highest risk and highest business value are developed first.

Agile development works in an iterative cycle, where the development team will push out your startup product at the end of every cycle.

Under the agile methodology, the features are tested right from the very beginning of the process. As soon as the developers finish a user story or a bunch of user stories that fulfil a workflow, the deliverables will be pushed out for you to test out.

This incremental testing of the application will allow you to identify the bugs right from the start and ensure that the project is constantly aligned with you and the development team. It also enables alpha testers to test and validate the workflow, and make sure that the product is actually addressing the needs of the target market.

Agile development places emphasis on test-driven development and the heavy use of test cases and code refactoring to guard against bugs and make sure the code is light.

Instead of just allowing for changes after complete implementation of the project, agile development embraces change and allows you to make iterative amendments at every stage of the development process.

 

Advantages of Waterfall Methodology

Waterfall Methodology is a preferred option for many because it provides easy forwards//backwards planning as well as implementation. After the completion of each stage, there is a tangible output, resulting in superior visibility as compared to other development models.

This method of development can therefore facilitate a sequential funding model. Furthermore, Waterfall Methodology provides a chance for you to see and communicate an end date or target delivery date with relative ease.

 

Disadvantages of Waterfall Methodology

Yet, constantly changing the scope of the project can have a seriously adverse effect on time, cost as well as quality of the end result. Since problems are not detected at each stage of the development process, they become difficult to identify and separate from the entire project once its first draft has been completed.

Delays are very likely if the waterfall methodology is adopted and the project has external or internal dependencies such as external projects, key resources etc. If frequent changes need to be made, it will be time-consuming to account for all necessary dependencies before doing so.

 

Advantages of Agile Development

Shorter planning cycles mean that ever-evolving requirements can easily be accommodated. Agile development ensures that all project stakeholders are actively involved in the development process, which in turn leads to a higher level of accuracy. Product agreement is much easier to achieve because of frequent sessions where stakeholders can use the product in development and give specific feedback.

Since the team is continuously interacting with one another through structured communication channels, it becomes easier to realise progress as well as potential impediments to the development process at an early stage. Since this form of development is centered around continuous improvement, time is saved making discovered mistakes on subsequent iterations.

 

Disadvantages of Agile Development

Agile Development makes it difficult for product developers and owners to agree on a target delivery date. All stakeholders must dedicate significant time and efforts in order for the agile development process to be successful.

This unique approach to development can also become problematic because of on-occasion resistance, for which education and training may be required. It is also necessary under the agile development model that team members be both cross-skilled in competencies and up-skilled on the particular Agile framework they have chosen.

 

Which Development Suits You Best?

Waterfall projects are extremely common, and they do work. They are most effective in situations where the project requirements are fairly clear cut and frequent changes are unlikely. That is why projects such as simple website development tend to opt for the Waterfall methodology.

Agile development will be most effective for projects with a lot of uncertainties, that will need a lot of changes and generally new start up ideas.

Ultimately, it is imperative to figure out the nature of the project you need for your startup before you chose the appropriate development model, since no single model is ideal for all situations. If you pick the right model, the odds of your startup taking off are a lot higher.

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Digital marketing strategist and co-founder of Futureworkz. He consults client in digital marketing and business strategies. A poker expert if he can maintain his poker face.