A guide to the Agile development lifecycle

Written by 
Bryan Kitch
May 16, 2024
An image of an Agile development team conducting a daily standup meeting
A guide to the Agile development lifecycle
Written by 
Bryan Kitch
May 16, 2024

Think of Agile development like a baker preparing a cake for a client: First, you’d gather details about the event, and create some designs. Next, you’d work on flavors, and do a tasting. Once the client approves, you’re on to creating the final product. 

The beauty of Agile development it’s both structured and adaptable, and enables you to integrate feedback every step of the way so that you can deliver something that may be even better than what you had imagined at the outset.

And, just as there are consistent ceremonies in Agile, so too is there a predictable lifecycle for Agile development. 

Before we dive into the Agile development lifecycle, however, let’s quickly cover the basics of Agile project management. 

What is Agile methodology?

Agile methodology is an approach to project management that focuses on flexibility, collaboration, and continuous improvement. It first took off in software development — but has since been adopted by various industries and teams because of how adaptable and responsive it is to change and feedback. 

As the old saying goes, ‘the journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.’ The main principle of Agile project management is to break down projects into smaller, manageable tasks, prioritize them, and deliver them in short iterations. Agile practices allow for constant adaptation and response to changing requirements, ultimately leading to faster and more efficient project delivery. 

Agile methodology also emphasizes open communication, frequent feedback, and close collaboration among team members to ensure the project meets the needs of all stakeholders.

What is a lifecycle in Agile?

An illustration of a sprint, showing the Agile development lifecycle
The Agile development lifecycle

In Agile development, the concept of a lifecycle refers to the structured sequence of phases through which a project progresses, from its inception to its completion and ongoing maintenance. This lifecycle is iterative, meaning it repeats certain stages multiple times to refine and enhance the product based on continuous feedback and learning. 

Unlike traditional linear development models like Waterfall, which proceed through a fixed sequence of stages, the Agile lifecycle is flexible and adaptive, allowing teams to respond to changes and new insights as they arise during the project. 

The Agile lifecycle typically involves multiple cycles of planning, executing, and evaluating, which helps teams to incrementally build and improve the product. 

Each cycle, or sprint, results in a potentially shippable product increment, ensuring that the development process is aligned with user needs and business goals throughout. This iterative approach not only facilitates flexibility and adaptability but also promotes a high level of customer involvement and satisfaction by integrating feedback at every stage.

The six phases of Agile project management

In Agile development, specific rituals or ceremonies are integral to each phase, facilitating collaboration, continuous improvement, and ensuring alignment with project goals. Here’s a detailed breakdown of each phase, along with the associated ceremonies that characterize the Agile process.

1. Planning

Like most project management methods, Agile starts with planning. However, this phase doesn’t require an overly-detailed roadmap through the project. It only needs three things:

  • A project vision statement that outlines the scope, milestones, and deliverables.
  • A rough timeline for each deliverable.
  • A backlog of items you want to change in later iterations.

The rituals or ceremonies that are typically associated with this phase are sprint planning and backlog grooming. The team, including the product owner, Scrum master, and development team, gathers to define what can be delivered in the sprint and how you’ll accomplish your sprint goals. The product owner discusses the priority items from the product backlog to consider for the sprint, and the team collectively decides on the scope of work. This meeting sets the objectives and outlines the sprint backlog.

2. Designing

The initial design phase in software development is when developers create a user interface (UI) and build the software’s architecture. For other projects, this is the period in which project managers build their teams, let them organize, and begin delegating tasks.

Now that the sprint goals are known and the team is getting to work, Agile ceremonies like daily standups (Scrum meetings) and backlog refinement play a critical role — these help by providing ongoing feedback and transparency, and also may involve re-prioritizing items, splitting user stories, and ensuring estimates are up to date. This ritual helps in keeping the backlog manageable and ready for upcoming sprints.

3. Developing

This is the meat of Agile project management: the period of development and adaptation. During this time, managers should communicate regularly with the client and adjust priorities or change the roadmap and timelines as necessary.

4. Testing

The testing phase is when the client gets their first deliverables. This is a time to make sure that the team is on the right track and meeting the customer’s needs. If they are, they can move on to the following deliverables. If not, it’s time to adapt and redo steps three and four.

5. Deploying

Delivering (or deploying) the software to your customer is the final step. Your team should have met all their requirements and submitted their deliverables, leaving your client happy with the outcome.

6. Reviewing

As discussed in Agile principle 12, there's always room to review and improve. So, the final step for an Agile team is to debrief after completing a project and find ways to become more efficient or successful with the next job.

More specifically, there are two ceremonies that help with the review and refinement process for software development teams. The first is the sprint review.  

Conducted at the end of each sprint, the sprint review meeting is for the team to demonstrate what they have accomplished during the sprint. Stakeholders, including the product owner and (possibly even) customers, review the increment to provide feedback that could influence the next sprint. This ritual is crucial for making sure that the developed product meets the business needs and user expectations.

Following the sprint review, the sprint retrospective (or retro) ceremony allows the team to reflect on the sprint process. The team discusses what went well, what could be improved, and what'll be committed to in the next sprint in terms of process improvements. This is a key ritual for continuous improvement and team dynamics.

Related: How to run efficient Agile meetings [+ templates]

Why Mural’s visual work platform is a natural fit for Agile teams

Mural is a visual work platform that provides a digital canvas for teams to collaborate and organize their work in a visual and interactive manner. It's a natural fit for Agile teams due to its features and functionalities that align with the principles and values of Agile methodology.

Better collaboration

Firstly, Mural allows teams to work in a highly collaborative and transparent manner. In Agile, collaboration and communication are key components for the success of a project. Mural's digital canvas allows team members to work together in real-time, regardless of their location. This enables team members to have a shared understanding of the project and its progress, promoting transparency and open communication.

Visual communication

Secondly, Mural's visual nature makes it an ideal platform for Agile teams. Agile methodology emphasizes the use of visual aids such as charts, diagrams, and other visual tools to facilitate understanding and communication. Mural provides a free library of visual Agile templates and tools that can be used to create user stories, roadmaps, sprint boards, and other project artifacts. These visual aids make it easier for team members to understand and contribute to the project, leading to better collaboration and decision-making.

Related: Visual collaboration: What it is & how to get started

Ultimate flexibility

Additionally, Mural offers a flexible and customizable workspace, which is essential for Agile teams. In Agile, teams are constantly adapting and responding to changes in the project. Mural's digital canvas allows teams to easily reorganize and update their workspace according to their evolving needs. This flexibility enables teams to be more responsive and adaptable to changes, a core principle of Agile methodology.

Useful integrations

But wait, there’s more! (No, really.) Mural's integrations with other Agile tools and platforms makes it a natural fit for Agile teams. Mural can easily integrate with popular Agile tools such as Jira, Trello, and Microsoft Teams, allowing teams to seamlessly transfer their work and data between platforms. This integration streamlines the Agile workflow and reduces the need for manual updates, saving time and effort for team members.

With Mural, Agile teams can enhance their collaboration, communication, and adaptability, ultimately leading to more efficient and successful project delivery.

Get started for free today and see how visual collaboration makes your Agile ceremonies more effective — and… more fun.

About the authors

About the authors

Bryan Kitch

Bryan Kitch

Content Marketing Manager
Bryan is a Content Marketing Manager @ MURAL. When he's not writing or working on content strategy, you can usually find him outdoors.