In 2020, whether or not an IT organization needs agile teams is no longer the debate. The advantages of agile methods on team efficiency, project visibility, scale, and long-term software robustness are rather clear. Gartner observes that enterprise-class agile development and agile ops are sliding into the trough of the hype cycle, meaning, challenges in building and managing agile teams will make themselves more apparent in the near future.
Before we discuss these challenges, let’s understand what we define as an agile team. An agile team for us is a cross-functional group of people who use the required technology and collaborate seamlessly, to develop and deliver a working and tested increment of a product. Typically, agile teams are organized around products or features; and have a seamless intersection across the business, technical and organizational architectures. As a result, agile teams will eliminate dependencies and inefficiencies, empowering them to develop high-quality solutions, quickly and efficiently, to solve real-world problems.
But it’s not as easy as it sounds. Building agile teams — especially for full stack development — is a long-term journey, riddled with practical challenges.
Developers in the end-to-end application development process are often expected to deal with the underlying complexity of integrating, configuring, and developing various systems and frameworks. In the era of modular development and microservices, this can be very complex and time-consuming, often requiring your team members to upskill. In smaller teams, this might just be unaffordable.
Application development requires highly skilled resources across various phases of the development lifecycle such as UI design, application architecture, security, performance, etc. Firstly, hiring a specialist in each of these areas can be expensive. Even if you can afford this it can be unnecessary. Even counterproductive in some cases such as when there is not enough work to keep a specialist meaningfully engaged, it could affect their morale and that of the team.
A KPMG survey in 2019 found that 45% of their respondents mentioned siloes between business and IT as a key driver for adopting agile. Yet, ironically, when you seek to adopt, agile at scale, siloes can become inevitable. This can then disproportionately affect team collaboration, and even extend the distance from your business requirements.
When unable to overcome these practical challenges, agile teams fail to realize the potential they can achieve... They lose speed-to-market, efficiencies, and even human connections, leading them back — sometimes without their own knowledge — too old ways. This can be dangerous: As they will continue doing agile, conducting daily standup meetings, for example, without actually being agile.
But it doesn’t have to be this way!
To define low-code in simple terms, it is a visual development approach that enables developers to build web and mobile applications using a graphical interface, instead of writing code. As a result, developers and agile teams with varying levels of experience and various skill sets can come together on the common ground towards accelerated development. Here’s how.
Low-code eliminates the need to find and onboard developers with universal knowledge of the application stack by abstracting the complexity and providing accelerators across the development life cycle. Using low-code platforms, developers easily manage end-to-end application development from UI design, focused code development to deployment; as well as easily own micro-functionality (also known as microservices).
With a robust low-code platform, developers with conceptual knowledge of the application landscape will be able to handle end-to-end development more seamlessly. For instance, even without being a UI specialist, a developer would be able to build quality UI for their application. Low-code platforms can also handle integration, security, customization, standards compliance, etc.
This makes developers self-sufficient, and the development process nimble.
Visual prototyping has proven itself to be a gamechanger in translating business requirements into application features. As business users play with working screens and different tools, they are able to see how their brief translates into functionality, and therefore learn to articulate better. On the other hand, developers design the UI, process flow, business logic, etc. visually, enabling faster feedback cycles.
A low-code platform can also serve the purpose of a common integrated development environment (IDE) for your team members to work interchangeably on different aspects of the project. Without relying on myriad tools, languages, and frameworks, your developers can collaborate easily, allowing them to spend less time on cross-training, hand-offs, and documentation.
The most important promise of agile development has always been speed. IT leaders aspire to build agile teams to take their products to market faster and adapt to market demands quicker. Low-code can help you achieve both.
Eliminating bottlenecks and facilitating collaboration, low-code allows business users to engage more deeply and offering ‘visibility through visual prototypes. With a better understanding of requirements right at the beginning, teams and managers save a lot of time and energy that might otherwise be spent on rework, resulting from clarification of requirements. As a result, you can make the best possible version of your product as quickly as possible.
All of this saved time can be invested in developing new features and testing new functionalities with your customers. If that isn’t worth trying, what is!