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Agile vs DevOps: What are the main differences?

The current schools of thought surrounding software development have evolved to include far more communication between stakeholders and rapid responses to changes. Whereas the original waterfall approach was rigid and inefficient, today’s DevOps and Agile methodologies offer more flexibility and better ultimate results.

However, these two approaches each have unique use cases that help software teams work better. It’s important to understand the difference between Agile and DevOps to set your team up for success.

What is Agile?

The best way to give an overview of Agile is to describe its four core values. These core values are embodied by what is known as the Agile Manifesto

The Agile approach embraces an iterative process of development and testing that delivers small increments of a broader project. This leads to increased efficiency and allows teams to find errors in the development stage more quickly since they can adapt to changes on-the-fly. 

The Agile software development process involves dividing work up into manageable subunits and then working on them in a focused manner for a period of two weeks. During this time, development teams concentrate on testing and refining a specific feature until it meets all expectations.

The periods of time during which individual features are worked on are known as sprints. When one sprint is done, the team immediately moves on to the next one. While features are being developed, the team meets regularly to give feedback and review work. 

Read more on Developer.com: An Introduction to Agile Software Development

Core principles of Agile

The core principles of the Agile methodology prioritize individuals and interactions over processes and tools, working software over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiations, and responding to change over following a plan.

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

This core value emphasizes the importance of teammates communicating with each other. This makes for a more positive work environment where all stakeholders are engaged and feel valued. 

To increase efficiency, the Agile approach prioritizes and encourages constant communication among teammates. This ensures that everyone is able to contribute valuable feedback to projects.

Working software over comprehensive documentation

With the waterfall method, documentation was a major part of the development process. However, this can get in the way of actually making necessary changes. 

Agile software development focuses on just that—developing functional software and deploying it as quickly as possible. Documentation can come later once the product has gone through the necessary revisions.

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Negotiating a contract with a customer before beginning a project before development can create difficulties if the scope of a project changes. Instead, Agile projects assume that the needs of the project will change and therefore prioritize ongoing collaboration and flexibility.

In order to make the necessary changes for a project, keeping a line of communication with customers is necessary. This ensures that the customer is able to give detailed feedback, which in turn helps software teams avoid a long list of changes at the end of a long period of work. 

Responding to change over following a plan

Similarly, changes may be required in the middle of a project to reach the ultimate goals for the software. This requires teams to be willing to make such a change.

Rather than staying attached to a static software development plan, Agile projects involve dynamic roadmaps that are evaluated quarterly or monthly to ensure they outline the right path for the long-term product vision.

Read more on CIO Insight: 5 Agile Best Practices for Software Development

What is DevOps?

DevOps is the part of the development process that comes after the software has become operational. With DevOps, the goal is to keep the development team and operations team collaborating in unison to ensure that the software works smoothly and evolves alongside the customer’s needs.

DevOps is not a replacement for Agile development—instead, it is meant to supplement an Agile process’s productivity and efficiency in the long term. 

Core principles of DevOps

In practice, a DevOps framework prioritizes automation, collaboration, continuous deployment and improvement, and customer-centric activity.

Automation

A key priority of DevOps best practices is automating as much of the configuration, deployment, maintenance, and testing processes as possible. This allows staff to focus on bigger priorities rather than repetitive, manual tasks. In the end, this saves time, adds efficiency to the team’s operations, and improves product quality.

Collaboration

DevOps creates a collaborative environment that facilitates easy feedback sharing. When communication is open and feedback is shared frequently, DevOps teams can release updates quickly and minimize downtime. 

Continuous integration and delivery

DevOps teams roll out software updates in phases on an ongoing basis to avoid significant disruption—a process known as continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD). DevOps team members integrate their code in a shared repository several times daily. The smaller sections of code make it easier to detect software conflicts and bugs more quickly.

Customer-centric activity

Similar to the Agile methodology, DevOps emphasizes customer satisfaction above any process restrictions. The cycle of frequently deploying updates, testing new features, implementing feedback, and tracking errors minimizes the gap between the product’s capabilities and customer needs.

Learn more on TechRepublic: DevOps: A cheat sheet

Agile vs. DevOps: Similarities

Both the Agile and DevOps approaches promote greater collaboration between team members and lead to better software with fewer bugs. Other similarities include:

  • Business focus: Both methodologies are focused on increasing value for customers, which ultimately drives revenue for the business. 
  • Collaboration: Emphasis on collaboration fosters better communication and clearer expectations, which ultimately promote DevOps and Agile’s common goal of producing better software more efficiently.
  • Continuous release cycles: Both Agile and DevOps are continuously developing small portions of a software product and constantly releasing finished parts of a broader project.
  • Flexibility: Both Agile and DevOps are methodologies that can be adapted to meet a project’s specific needs rather than strict guidelines that must be followed precisely.

Agile vs. DevOps: Differences

Here are some of the differences between the two methodologies:

  • Creating vs deploying software: With Agile, the goal is software creation, whereas DevOps is more focused on software deployment.
  • Degree of specialization: With Agile, team members are more generalized and can fulfill every role that is needed. On the other hand, separate teams handle development and operations in a DevOps setting. However, both teams do communicate regularly.
  • Communication: Agile teams usually have daily meetings, but DevOps teams don’t need to meet daily. 
  • Documentation: Agile doesn’t place a heavy focus on documentation. DevOps takes documentation very seriously.
  • Automating processes: Agile doesn’t prioritize automation, but it’s a critical priority that enables more productivity in a DevOps framework.
  • Scheduling: Agile teams measure their output in short periods of time (usually two weeks) known as sprints. In contrast, DevOps focuses on longer blocks of work.
  • Team size: Agile team sizes are typically very small, whereas DevOps teams typically combine multiple larger teams.

How can Agile and DevOps work together?

While Agile and DevOps are different methodologies, they can be used together. Agile is more suitable for working on software creation, while DevOps is more suitable for ongoing software deployment and operations. 

By combining the two methodologies, companies can release software quickly and maintain a consistent, high-value product in the long term.

Learn more on TechRepublic: Collaborating across IT operations for a stronger enterprise environment

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