Agile Modeling : Definition, Core Principles, Advantages, and Best Practices Explained

Our growing digital world has an increasing appetite for more increasingly complex and numerous applications. Unfortunately, this demand collides with high failure rates in software development. System development failure rates often reach 75 percent.

Developers turn to tools like agile modeling to combat high failure rates and release quality applications for an ever-growing audience. Today, we are exploring the world of agile modeling, including what it is, its core principles,applicable phrases, best practices, the pros and cons, and other helpful tidbits of information.

Agile has a lot to offer the development world, so let’s get acquainted with it.

What is Agile Modeling: An Introduction

When you want the ultimate definition of any concept, you can’t do better than going right to the source. AgileModeling defines Agile modeling as “…a practice-based methodology for effective modeling and documentation of software-based systems. Simply put, Agile Modeling (AM) is a collection of values, principles, and practices for modeling software that can be applied on a software development project in an effective and lightweight manner.”

The modeling adds to existing Agile methodologies such as the Rational Unified Process (RUP) or extreme programming (XP). Agile modeling helps developers create a customized software development process that fulfills their development needs yet is flexible enough to adjust to future situations.

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Agile Modeling Embraces Five Values:

  • Communication.

Agile modeling fosters communication between team members, developers, and stakeholders.

  • Simplicity.

Models help simplify both the software and the software development process. Drawing a diagram that illustrates a concept or plan and the related growth can eliminate hours of unnecessary work and manual coding.

  • Feedback.

Similar to the “communication” step, team members who use diagrams to communicate their ideas enable stakeholders to give fast feedback, which then cuts the project turnaround time.

  • Courage.

Fortune favors the bold, and you need the courage to make the difficult decisions and change course, even if your team has already spent much time and resources on the work.

  • Humility.

Although some iterations of Agile modeling values stop at four, other models include this fifth one. Humility shows that everyone on the team is essential and has equal value. Sometimes we can even be wrong! Humility, in this case, means respect for others’ ideas and suggestions and acknowledging the value of others’ contributions.

What Are Agile Modeling’s Core Principles?

The modeling embraces 11 core principles. You will notice many of the principles reference the five values we previously discussed.

1. Model With a Purpose.

Ask why you’re developing the models and who you are developing them for.

2. Adopt Simplicity.

Keep the models as straightforward and uncomplicated as possible, and believe the simplest solution is also the best solution. Remember Occam's Razor, which tells us that the solution with the fewest unknowns (e.g., the easiest answer) is usually the correct one. Only model what you need right now.

3. Embrace Change.

The more your understanding of a project grows, the more likely it will change. Instead of fighting change, accept them and have the courage to readjust and rebuild.

4. Your Secondary Goal is Enabling the Next Effort.

Your successors might have to improve or enhance your project after you depart. Leave them enough documentation and models to expedite possible changes or improvements.

5. Incremental Change.

It’s rare for a model to be complete on the first try. Models evolve as the project grows and develops. You can cushion against the shock of change by making minor changes to the models as needed.

6. Maximize Stakeholder Investment.

The team must make the best effort to develop software that meets the stakeholder’s needs. Bear in mind, the whole purpose of producing the software is to maximize the return for the client.

7. Remember the Existence of Multiple Models.

There are many modeling solutions available, so pick the ones that fit the current situation best. Additionally, there are many different methods of software delivery.

8. Produce Quality Work.

Nobody wants careless, rushed work. The developer doesn't like it because they know it's not something they can be proud of deep down. The teams that come later to check the work don't like it because sloppy work is challenging to understand and means more hours spent fixing it. And finally, the end-users won't like the sub-par work because it most likely won’t function properly or doesn't meet their expectations.

9. Provide Rapid Feedback.

Receiving timely feedback on the model closes the model’s loop of understanding. Model a small portion—show it to the appropriate parties for review—then model again.

10. Make Working Software Your Primary Goal.

Models are just a means to the end, which is building great software for your customer. Make sure that documentation and modeling directly support the goal of your software development project.

11. Travel Light.

Traveling light is another way of saying that you have sufficient documentation about the models you’re developing, but no more than that. If you have too little documentation, the developing team might lose its way—if you have too much, the development team may forget that the primary goal is not writing documentation but instead building software and the right models!

Phases of the Agile Model

The Agile breaks down tasks into smaller iterations, each of which lasts for a short time frame (one to four weeks) in the overall process model. As in the case of the core values of Agile, there are several versions of the model and its phases. Here is one Agile model illustration, as shown by Mlsdev.com.

Agile

  • Requirements Gathering:

Here is where you define the project’s requirements. This phase includes explaining business opportunities and planning the time and effort required for the project. Once you quantify this information, you can evaluate the technical and economic feasibility of your project

  • Design the Requirements:

Once you’ve identified the project parameters, work with the stakeholders to define the requirements.

  • Construction/Iteration:

After the team defines and designs the requirements, the real work begins. Product, design, and developer teams start working on related projects, ultimately deploying a product or service that is not static.

  • Testing:

The quality assurance (QA) team examines and evaluates the product's performance, looking for bugs and other flaws.

  • Deployment:

The team deploys the product in a working environment.

  • Feedback:

Once the product is released, the team receives feedback about the product and handles any issues that may have arisen.

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Agile Modeling Best Practices

Here are the ten most common best practices.

  • Active Stakeholder Participation.

Stakeholders must provide information, make timely product decisions, and be as actively involved in the development process as possible, using inclusive tools and techniques.

  • Architecture Envisioning.

The team must do some initial, high-level architectural modeling at the beginning of the project to identify a viable technical strategy for creating a solution.

  • Iteration Modeling.

At the start of each iteration, you must do some modeling as part of your planning activities.

  • Just Barely Good Enough (JBGE) Artifacts.

A model or document must be enough for the current situation and no more.

  • Look-ahead Modeling.

Sometimes you need to look ahead to reduce overall risk.

  • Model Storming.

During an iteration, you will sometimes need to model storms on a Just in Time (JIT) basis for a little while. This time investment helps the team explore the details behind a requirement or work through a design issue.

  • Multiple Models.

Each model has its strengths and weaknesses. A good developer needs a range of models in their repertoire to apply the right model in the best way for the current situation.

  • Prioritized Requirements.

Agile teams implement requirements in a priority order defined by their stakeholders. This order provides the greatest possible return on investment (ROI).

  • Requirements Envisioning.

At the start of an Agile project, you need to invest a bit of time identifying the project’s scope and creating the initial prioritized requirements stack.

  • Test-Driven Development (TDD).

Write a single test aimed at either the design or requirements or design level and just enough code to run the test. TDD is a JIT (Just in Time) approach to specifying detailed requirements and a confirmatory testing approach.

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The Pros and Cons of Agile Modeling

The modeling brings advantages and disadvantages to the table.

Advantages

  • Facilitates effective communication between teams and clients
  • Enhances project flexibility, easily handling sudden changes anytime
  • Cuts overall development time
  • Increases customer satisfaction via rapid, continuous delivery of a workable product
  • Delivers functioning software frequently, in weeks instead of months

Disadvantages

  • Confusion between teams may develop because documentation wasn’t emphasized. This uncertainty can lead to difficult transitions between phases.
  • It is sometimes difficult to gauge how much effort will be needed to start the development life cycle of larger software deliverables.
  • If stakeholders project ladder are not on the same page, the project will derail.
  • The modeling isn’t for newbies. The sort of decisions involved in Agile require people with experience and solid developer and programming skills.           
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Agile modeling is a crucial element in software development success, and the industry needs Agile leaders. If Agile intrigues you, Simplilearn can help you learn its intricacies through the Post Graduate Program in Agile. The program, provided in partnership with the University of Massachusetts Amherst, gives you a comprehensive understanding of Agile methodologies, helping you discover the rules of thumb, success metrics, and pitfalls of real-world Agile implementation.

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