Ultimate Guide To The Agile Software Development Life Cycle

With the increasing pace of innovation, fast is no longer fast enough. This change of pace is especially emphasized in software development. Teams which are developing software in 2018 can’t afford to spend years on research and product development before deployment.

If they do, chances are that there will be new technology rendering their product obsolete.

That’s the main reason why agile software development rose in popularity in the last decade. It entered the scene 15 years ago, and now over 16% of organizations surveyed in the Tech Beacon study actively use agile, while 51% strongly lean towards it and apply the techniques.

Agile software development has become the new norm, just like the folks the Tech Beacon say. If we want to survive on the market, we have to adapt. Agile software development is the perfect way to do in.

In this guide we’ll show you everything you need to know about the agile software development life cycle. We’ll learn from its beginnings, discuss different life cycle stages, and see how you can take after various startups’ examples and use the agile framework to test marketing and advertising methods.

Using the agile principles can give you the competitive advantage even over well-established brands. Here’s how:

What Is Agile Workflow?

In software development, we typically differentiate between two workflows: waterfall and agile.

The waterfall model is hierarchical and less flexible. Each step leads towards the next step, so the process is streamlined and there’s little room for feedback and adjustments.

Waterfall is best suited for stable projects with very little room for external (and consequently, internal) changes, which is why it’s been the main engineering model for a long time.

However, with the need for innovation that is present today, waterfall is too constrictive. There is no room for adjustments and revision. Some teams choose to adapt it to their needs, while others use agile.

Agile software development, first popularized by the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, came as a perfect response to an ever-changing technological climate. It’s based on the iterative process that learns from each stage and applies the learnings in the next.

The main characteristics of agile software development are:

• Collaboration

• Self-organization

• Cross-functionality

It’s important to note that agile is a more holistic approach to software development that requires constant feedback from the developers, customers, and consumers alike. Whereas waterfall simply progresses from stage to stage, agile is interactive. It encourages collaboration and constant questioning to redefine the project and adapt it to current needs, in order to present a satisfying product to the end user.

In the experience of companies surveyed in the Tech Beacon Study, agile software development also comes with other benefits such as:

• 54% of participants believe that agile increases the quality of collaboration within teams who haven’t previously worked together

• 52% of participants believe that increases software quality

• 43% believe that using the agile approach shortens marketing time

• 42% believe that agile reduces the development cost

These statistics aren’t quite as surprising when we take into account that the agile approach was developed by software developers who understood that an inflexible approach won’t satisfy their clients or help them improve the quality.

Among principles behind agile software development, there are well-known factors such as:

• Customer satisfaction (through the early and continuous delivery of valuable software)

• Flexibility (welcoming changing requirements even in the late stages)

• Deliverability

• Collaboration

• Working with motivated individuals, and giving them the support they need

• Face-to-face conversations

• Results-orientation

• Sustainable development

• Excellence and good design

• Every principle emphasizes the importance of quality, collaboration, and continuous self-assessment in order to increase the competitive advantage.

And in order for developers to be able to do just that, they’ve separated different processes into…

The Agile Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)

There are 6 stages to the agile software development lifecycle.

As we previously said, each stage is not only focused on the primary task of the stage, but also on reviewing both internal and external factors that can result in less than satisfactory performance of the software (both practically and on the market).

Stage 1: Concept

The concept stage is the first and the most crucial stage of the agile software development life cycle.

In this stage, different projects are identified, reviewed and prioritized. This can be done in terms of technical capabilities or financial benefits.

When a project has been selected, it’s important to determine the duration and the budget, and review whether it still fits the criteria for pursuing it further.

Stage 2: Inception (Iteration 0)

At this stage, it’s important to map out the software architecture. Depending on the stakeholders, this can be done by presenting the user experience or simply the framework of the software.

Most teams use diagrams to communicate their vision to stakeholders, clients, or other participants in the (funding) process.

This is where feedback typically starts for most teams who use the agile approach. They can communicate with stakeholders to determine requirements, and create a timeline.

At the end of stage 2 of the agile software development life-cycle, you should delegate roles and tasks, and prepare the necessary resources.

Stage 3: Construction / Iteration

For many software developers, stage 3 is where the real fun begins. After the requirements have been established, and so has the timeline, as well as team responsibilities, software development can go forward towards the construction of the software.

The objective in stage 3 is to deliver an MVP (minimum viable product). This is a very simplified, bare iteration and serves only to complete the first sprint with the goal of producing fully-functional software at the end of the process.

This is where teams also test their products, add on to them, and work together with stakeholders and audience to meet their needs.

Typically, each stage and iteration is done through sprints, which are highly-focused periods of time where team members work on one iteration (or in general, on one project).

Stage 4: Transition / Release

When the final iteration is ready for production, the software enters stage four of the SDLC.

• In stage 4, developers should:

• Test the system

• Finalize documentation

• Train end users and the production staff

• Deploy the system

Stage 5: Production

Even though the software has been developed, teams should still monitor its functioning to be able to address any problems, offer additional coaching or add new features.

At the end of the production stage, production teams, stakeholders and end users should need no additional coaching.

Stage 6: Retirement

Retirement is the final stage of the agile software development cycle, and it occurs when the system release is removed from production. This can happen due to many reasons such as changing business models or better iterations, but it marks the end of the agile software development lifecycle.

This is where the agile approach also shows its true nature, as it presumes that the system will be replaced with a better iteration.

A Note on Sprints

When software development uses the agile approach, work is usually divided into sprints. At the end of each sprint, there should be a working product.

Sprints usually last around two weeks, and they help software development teams develop and keep an intense focus on each iteration, as well as gather feedback and analyze results with the goal of implementing changes in the next sprint.

Each sprint consists of 5 stages:

• Planning

• Development

• Testing

• Delivery

• Feedback

And now that we understand how the agile software development lifecycle helps with the production of technology, it’s time for…

Agile Marketing

Since startups are the most innovative companies, it’s no surprise that they’ve found agile software development as the best method for their model.

However, the agile methodology isn’t just useful for SaaS (software as a service) startups. They all rely on it as they navigate from one funding round to another, adapting with the investors’ and the market’s needs.

The key to agile marketing is staying flexible and observing the market. When using the agile approach, teams can test and iterate different marketing opportunities without wasting time or resources.

And when applied, agile marketing results in:

Increased speed to market, according to 93% of CMOs who use agile tactics

Teams are more in sync about the department priorities, according to 26% of surveyed agile marketers

Projects are completed sooner, according to 28% of surveyed senior agile marketers

d since technology changes the way we market and advertise, it’s time to learn from (startup) companies who are already using agile, and seeing incredible results.

Agile Marketing Best Practices


Carsurfing is a ride-share app for events like concerts, and they generally make use of the agile approach.

However, their agile marketing story started with Burning Man. When they noticed a spike in rides in Nevada, they focused on connecting the people who’d be sharing a ride on Facebook.

From there, they built a landing page for Facebook users who were going to Burning Man.

Within a few weeks, they arranged over 800 rides on a newly-released alpha platform.

What was agile?

Even though they were still early in the Alpha development stage, Carsurfing tracked and applied user feedback to launch their platform and validate the need for it on the market.

Had they used the waterfall model, they wouldn’t have successfully launched when they saw the opportunity to – even though they were still in development.

In addition to that, they could also test out the landing page and market sentiments without spending a lot of money on advertising.

2. Santander

As a bank, Santander wanted to be at the top of every approach that could increase customer satisfaction.

When it came to their marketing, they could no longer tolerate the duration of cooperation with agencies. By the time they’d booked an advertising agency and the campaign was launched, their customers needed something completely different.

Instead of continuing their cooperation with agencies, they opted for agile marketing tactics. They’d launch low-risk marketing campaigns in two-week sprints. Successful campaigns were prolonged and got more funding, while the unsuccessful ones were abandoned.

This is on par with stage one of the agile software development life cycle, and it’s resulted in great benefits for Santander.

Recently, they experimented with first-party CRM data and Facebook data and applied it to their SEO and social media activity with the goal of increasing customer satisfaction.

They saw results such as:

• 12% loyalty increase

• 10% account satisfaction increase

• Positive sentiment at 90% (highest ever for Santander)

What was agile?

Santander used the SDLC to test their marketing ideas, monitored user feedback, and made multiple iterations that ultimately resulted in incredibly high positive sentiment and customer satisfaction.

3. Chemmart

Chemmart is a healthcare company with the head of marketing who used to work in the gaming industry.

When Darren Gunton, national marketing manager, started working at Chemmart, he first assessed the situation and realized that the company had a problem with silos, hierarchy, and customer focus.

He opted for the agile marketing approach.

They focused their marketing activity on themed monthly loyalty campaigns. The goal of these campaigns was to increase sales in pharmacies, which made Scrumban a perfect method for them.

Having the entire team focused on one campaign in short sprints also helped reduce the silos present at the company. They frequently A/B tested, and implemented user feedback into every campaign that followed.

Where they once had big annual campaigns, they now have monthly campaigns which are just as valuable and loved among customers as the previous ones.

The results are clear, as well. Their turnaround times reduced from 2 months to 2 hours, customer satisfaction has increased by 50%, and they’ve reduced costs by creating their own marketing agency.

What was agile?

Chemmart decided to fight data silos and ineffective marketing by increasing focus and turnaround times. To do that successfully, they frequently tested their campaigns and implemented user feedback from iteration to iteration.

Their customers love their new focus, and the Chemmart team loves seeing results.

And now that they’re using the agile marketing approach, they don’t even have to wait long to see how positively they’ve impacted their team and their customers.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.


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