The Best Software Development Methodologies for Small Team
Creating a software product inevitably requires a huge feat of endeavor by a diversely skilled team. However, no matter how excellent the development team is, the implementation of the project without a coherent strategic and working management process will very easily lead to chaos, worse, complete failure! Hence, many different software development methodology have been proposed over the decades, and choosing the fit one is always an indispensable step when starting a project, which will allow smooth execution of project requirements.
And of course there will be no one-size-fits-all methodology for every development team, but there are many common methodologies in software development and each has its pros and cons. This article will give you several options that you can refer to find the best software development method that works best for your team, thereby generating successful outcomes. Keep reading and find out!
What is software development methodology?
Software development methodology refers to a structured process or series of processes applied in a disciplined manner in software development, intended to help developers access, control, and communicate information under a specialized information system throughout the life of the product. In other words, these methodologies will be designed primarily based on defined phases, consistent with the life cycle of a software product.
For different software development projects that may use different methodologies, several factors such as team structure, requirements, and goals should be evaluated in order to make a decision on the most appropriate approach selection.
Software development methodologies are not overly concerned with any technical aspects but instead are extraordinarily vital to successful project management and workflow, thereby supporting the software development team to quickly achieve the set goals.
At the same time, it should be noted that the methodologies, once selected to be applied to the project, must be strictly followed, or else the development team may go astray under the influence of the ever-changing requirements from customers or spontaneous incorrect information, leading to frequent adjustments whilst growing software, affecting the efficiency of the project as a whole.
Lean software development methodology
The lean approach is inspired by Toyota’s lean manufacturing principles, which emphasize waste reduction in all stages of the software development and continuous improvement process, and the goal is to create an improved process that works flawlessly.
Although lean principles began to appear in the manufacturing sector, as a way to optimize production lines to minimize waste and maximize value for customers, in reality, this methodology is still applied to software development. The book “Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit” by Mary and Tom Poppendieck also outlines how these lean principles can be applied to software development, and shows how to eliminate waste throughout the software development lifecycle. Lean’s common principles are: optimize the whole, eliminate waste, build quality in, create knowledge, defer commitment, deliver fast, and respect people.
With this software development methodology, it helps to optimize resources by cutting down on redundancies in the implementation such as unnecessary features, unnecessary duplication in the process, cumbersome code, ambiguous requirements or too many unfocused meetings, etc. Thereby, Lean allows to focus and develop software with tight budgets and flexible change.
For example, the principle ‘optimize the whole’ encourages software development companies to eliminate and improve vicious circles by operating with a better understanding of developers’ capabilities and the underlying implications of the work. Why so? Because in the process of software development, developers may encounter many errors that continuously push the working circle with lots of pressure. For example, releasing sloppy code in a rush meets the set timeline, which increases the complexity of the codebase, results in more bugs, and more work to do.
At the same time, this software development methodology also emphasizes respect for communication and developer autonomy, whereby developers are also tasked with identifying bottlenecks that impede the process and are allowed to create solutions of their own.
Usually, Lean development methodology will be appropriate for small and medium sized projects with constrained development budgets, IT startups can make the best use of this. Using this approach will help companies manage processes well by eliminating waste that may place pressure on budgets and optimizing team members’ performance. On the contrary, for large and highly complex projects, this method will not be very suitable, businesses will need a larger development team to handle.
Downside and Upside
- Reduce resource drain by eliminating waste, thereby saving resources in the product development process such as money, time and effort.
- The development team is empowered to decide and solve problems, contributing to improving the creativity and agility of the team, improving interaction.
- Continuously improved workflow helps improve work efficiency and on-time product launch
- Lean methodology focuses on market validation and product optimization, creating successful products
- To successfully apply this method requires the development team to be composed of excellent and experienced members. However, in reality, assembling a group of talented developers is not easy.
- Detailed documentation is a must to ensure smooth operation
- Every decision made must be precise and final to avoid the risks that cause a lot of duplication in the product development stages.
Agile software development methodology
Agile is arguably one of the most popular software development methods in recent days. In fact, many other methodologies are developed and inspired by the Agile philosophy.
Agile processes emphasize reacting to change instead of following a predetermined plan, communication between team members, etc. In other words, teams use Agile development methodology to reduce risks such as errors, cost overruns, and changing requirements.
In this model, Agile divides work into separate phases known as sprints. When any changes or issues arise, the software development team will quickly work together, sprint for a short time to prioritize problem tackling and then move on to the next challenge, with a period of 1-4 weeks to complete.
Therefore, in the Agile method, it is very important to communicate and interact continuously between members, heavily collaborative, focus on the strength and effectiveness of the team, along with customer and different user’s feedback. Plus, it is an iterative pattern that includes lots of testing as the development progresses, it also focuses on presenting the working software rather than the documentation.
With projects that always have rapidly changing requirements, Agile is perfectly suited to apply, thereby helping the team to react quickly and immediately, accelerating the speed and efficiency of the process. At the same time, Agile is also applied to the development process of software products in the niche, helping the development team to implement many additional ideas and quickly when thoroughly researching and understanding the market.
Pros and Cons
- As the name suggests, this approach helps the development team to react quickly and respond to change to promptly make customizations suitable for the project.
- Creating multiple sprints helps to prioritize work items and set short-term goals, thereby accelerating work speed and productivity.
- Create a continuous interaction between developers, customers and users, thereby helping to continuously improve the product, meet changing requirements and match the needs of the market.
- With many changes and constant requirements can cause distraction of the development team.
- Because there are many changes along the way, it requires developers to be sensitive and have access to the right information, and to be aware of what stage the process is in.
- Agile is an unstructured approach that requires experienced developers who can work independently.
Scrum software development methodology
Strictly speaking, Scrum is a framework for working, inheriting and specifically applying Agile methodology. This can be understood as a general framework for organizing work towards the development of complex products, a software development process that follows a flexible model (agile) and is also commonly used in many projects.
In Scrum, the team involved in software development is divided into three main roles with clear responsibilities to ensure optimization of specific tasks: Product Owner, Scrum Master and Development Team.
The principle of Scrum is to break down the work into independent sprints, and sprints are usually 2-4 weeks long. Where the Product Owner will be responsible for the overall project, taking in customer requirements, and ensuring that the developers will implement and proceed to transform the requirements organized in the Product Backlog into system capabilities. Meanwhile, the Scrum Master is the person with the deepest understanding of Scrum, supporting and ensuring that the team members can work effectively with the Scrum process.
In Scrum, regular meetings, daily planning plays an extremely important role making it easy to track progress, gather feedback and identify problems throughout the development process, increasing communication and interaction among members.
Scrum will be successfully applied with a team of experienced and committed professionals that can easily respond and be suitable for highly complex projects, more specifically smaller teams might find the most success with this approach.
Downside and Upside
- Bringing the benefit of time when applying the Scrum model will speed up product development, saving time.
- Bugs or issues in the Scrum model are discovered much earlier than in traditional methods thanks to Scrum meetings.
- The ability to exchange between customers and developers, between team members is set to a high level. Thereby, ensuring good product quality and reducing production risks and low costs
- Every member of the Scrum team can make decisions since Scrum model applies self-managing and self-organizing
- Scrum is usually only suitable for small teams and small project sizes, not suitable for large projects.
- Continuous daily meetings can create a feeling of suffocation for members.
- It can lead to inaccurate estimates of the cost and duration of the project. As a result, the development model is affected.
Kanban software development methodology
Similar to Scrum, Kanban is another agile framework that focuses on the continuous improvement of the product throughout the development process. However, while the Scrum method emphasizes the importance of scheduling and prioritizing tasks that need to be completed, Kanban has no time box or repetitive process, it is flexible when it comes to implementing tasks and rely on continuous delivery during the sprint.
Unlike other development methods, Kanban does not prescribe specific team members or project management methods. Instead, with this approach, the Kanban board is the most important element, used to list the tasks that need to be done in the product development process, also roughly understood as a to-do- list categorizes group work that needs to be done or is in progress.
The columns in the Kanban board can be flexibly designed to suit the group’s goals, the three typical columns commonly seen in this table are To do, In Progress, and Done respectively. As a result, all members will always know the common tasks and goals that need to be completed, thereby keeping the work flow steady and efficient and removing wastes from the process.
This approach is suitable for small groups and projects that require constant change; a group of experts or a single individual can work on different aspects of the Kanban project.
Downside and Upside
- Emphasize transparency in the working process when all information is centralized in one place, making it easy for administrators to track work progress and team members to define tasks that need to be completed.
- Enhancing team members’ collaboration helps to get the job done better, encouraging everyone to give their opinions and suggest improvements to the processes.
- Kanban boards will help developers quickly spot bottlenecks in the process to promptly tackle them.
- The Kanban model requires the development team to focus on current tasks until completed, the WIP limit motivates teams to collaborate to complete work items faster
- Congestion at one task will cause the system to stall and slow down
- Requires a high sense of responsibility of all members, if one person is undisciplined, it can affect the productivity and quality of work of the whole team.
- High security of plans is required
- There should always be close and thorough monitoring of the status of tasks to avoid creating bottlenecks in the process.
Waterfall software development methodology
This waterfall model has been one of the most prominent methodologies for decades, first introduced in 1970 by Dr. Winston W.Royce in a paper. It is a simple and rigorous method by which the phases of project development are arranged in a sequential and layered process.
The Waterfall method will require a lot of structure and documentation throughout the life of the project. With this software development methodology, every phase or task of the project flows down like a waterfall, the output of the previous phase will be the input of the next phase, without overlap. Therefore, once applying this method, it is necessary to ensure that the group of developers work together and complete the task within a certain period of time, and must complete a phase before starting the next phase.
Although also widely used in software development processes, with today’s change, this model also appears to have many shortcomings and is gradually replaced with flexible software development methods.
Waterfall will merge with small and simple projects, but there should be a clear division of each phase. Team members have a broad and specific vision of the entire process and scope of the project. Also this method is ideal for projects where the results are predictable and there is not much variation in requirements throughout the process.
Downside and Upside
- The linear and fixed-step approach makes it easy for administrators to manage the development process.
- Each stage of product development has its own evaluation process and is defined with a specific completion time, thereby helping the entire project to be completed on time.
- If your team is running multiple projects concurrently, this model allows different team members to focus on separate projects at different stages.
- Due to its tight structure, this model will not be flexible to changing requirements during the product development life cycle, not suitable for complex projects.
- The scope of adjustment is limited because each stage has been determined from the beginning.
Extreme programming (XP)
Extreme Programming is another Agile framework. Reflecting as the name suggests, XP emphasizes programming activities to the highest possible level or “extreme” level. For instance, in XP code review will be ongoing by encouraging pair programming, so that errors can be easily detected as they arise. In addition, testing in each stage of product development is also conducted regularly and at all levels, thus limiting the impact of defects.
For XP, seamless communication between the customer and development team members is also culminated, thereby establishing highly functional feedback loops and a series of actions based on feedback. This is in place to promptly implement changes as needed.
Outstanding characteristics when applying XP to the product development process include: Pair programming; Regular releases; Reviewing the source code; Unit testing; Continuous communication with customers; Act as needed in the face of ongoing changes, etc.
XP has always been thought to be suitable for small teams with frequent customer participation. However, in practice, when the development team buys into its rule, XP is still applied effectively to any group of any size, but it is better that the group is not too large to ensure efficiency and performance.
Downside and Upside
- One of the key principles of XP is continuous code updates, whereby improvements and modifications are always implemented to overcome the effects of defects.
- Product development with XP is typically fast-paced and time-saving, with continuous integration and deployment.
- XP creates highly collaborative teams, with clear guidelines for members to continuously collaborate and respond to each other, thus boosting high productivity.
- There is also equal commitment and participation by both the client and the development team throughout the life of the project.
- XP projects are most effective when there is interaction and face-to-face meetings, and are difficult to do without the customer’s presence on the development team.
- The development team usually solves problems through group discussions and does not use too much documentation, which can make ongoing changes impossible to accurately document and difficult to track.
- Many experts believe that XP is more focused on code development than design, so it is necessary to carefully consider XP’s suitability with project goals.
Rapid Application Development (RAD)
Rapid Application Development (RAD) is a software development methodology that prioritizes rapid prototyping in a short timeframe and continuous feedback across development cycles. In the RAD model, less attention is given to planning, but more priority is given to development tasks and maximizing user feedback at the prototype stage.
This method consists of four basic phases:
- Requirement-planning: At this stage, the development team, designer, and customer agree on common project constraints, scale, and system to figure out the overall requirements of the project.
- User Design: Prototypes will be created as quickly as possible with different features and functionality, then these prototypes are continuously tested and shown to the customer to ensure that every development meets their needs.
- Construction: The coding and testing steps will all be performed continuously in the previous stage. So in the building phase, developers will focus on developing the prototype into a working product and constant feedback from the customer is also very important at this phase.
- Cutover: This is the stage of performing comprehensive product tests or user training.
Rapid Application Development is suitable for small teams but must be experienced and skilled, this model will be especially useful for projects with large budgets and time requirements for complete product development is limited.
Downside and Upside
- Improve collaboration between developers, customers, and users at all stages of the development process, enhance communication, and get the most out of customer engagement.
- Prototypes are created and displayed to the user on the fly.
- By continuously improving prototypes, developers effectively control risk
- Prototypes are individually tested continuously, thereby saving overall testing time later. Significantly reduced development time
- Requires the development team to be a collection of highly skilled professionals while ensuring a commitment to user involvement throughout the product development process.
- High cost of code generation and testing, not suitable for projects with limited budget.
- It is difficult to track progress because of the lack of documentation to demonstrate what has been done.
Feature Driven Development (FDD)
FDD is also a development methodology based on an Agile approach, emphasizing iterative and incremental towards the goal of delivering software that works. With FDD, several short phases are divided to develop system functions, in other words, the goal of FDD is to focus on developing feature-specific systems.
This methodology is divided into five basic phases:
- Develop an overall model: With this first phase, development team members build domain-area models and then gradually merge into an overall model as a rough outline of the system.
- Build a features list: Features that are of value to the customer will be identified and it will take no more than two weeks to complete the list of features that will be built in order of priority.
- Plan by feature: Specific features will be distributed to specific members, besides factors such as risk, dependency and availability of resources, team workload, etc. will also be considered during planning.
- Design by feature: The requirements obtained from the first steps will be transformed into action, all members will start to develop the features together, and the domain experts will be in charge of analysis and Design solutions for each feature.
- Build by feature: The features developed in the previous stage will be checked and tested, and then decided to use to build a feature prototype and user interface.
FDD is suitable for large, scalable and complex projects. While feature-driven development will also work best for larger product development teams, it provides a structured and iterative approach.
Downside and Upside
- Errors in the source code of the features can be easily and quickly discovered because the system will always be updated regularly and can be displayed to the customer.
- Thanks to regular reports at every project stage, there is increased visibility into project progress and results.
- Large operations are broken down, which greatly reduces the risk associated with creating large-scale software projects and helps drive efficiency.
- Projects with small teams and individual software developers would not be suitable for this approach.
- FDD will place a high dependency on the main developer. He/she must be able to act as coordinator, lead designer, and mentor.
With any development project, defining a software development methodology is an extremely important part that cannot be overlooked. Each approach has its own advantages and unique characteristics that are suitable for different projects, so not all of them are the optimal choice. The choice of software development methodology will depend on many fundamental factors such as team size & structure, project characteristics & requirements, budget, experience, etc.
Hopefully the software development methodologies presented above will give you a better idea to build a software development process that is efficient and tailored to your project needs. And certainly what is written here is just the surface of the words, to know more and dig deeper about these approaches contact fram^, our advice and support is completely free.
In particular, you will also need talented professionals suitable for your chosen method. With more than 8 years of experience as a leading software development partner, fram^ has accompanied many partners in their journey to build successful projects, hence our developers have solid experience in working on multiple projects with different software development methodologies. If you are looking for this then you already know who will be your ideal partner!