The evolution of software development has three significant milestones. First was introducing the waterfall method that focused on the time required to release a product. Then came the agile methodology which optimized the development life-cycle.

Now, DevOps seeks to unite development and operations to work together as a single team. It increases productivity, improves collaboration, and delivers superior products.

Adopting agile and DevOps practices in software development presents a challenge to many. The first step to overcoming this obstacle is understanding the difference between agile and DevOps and the role these development methodologies play.

Key Differences Between Agile and DevOps

  • Agile focuses on cross-functional team communication and deploying constant iterative releases. DevOps focuses on uniting the Development and Operations teams in a continuous development process.
  • Agile focuses on embracing mid-project changes. DevOps focuses on the end-to-end software engineering process that embraces constant development and testing.
  • Agile advocates making incremental deployments after each sprint. DevOps aims to introduce continuous delivery daily.
  • In Agile, teams have similar skill-sets. In DevOps, team members have diverse skill-sets.

What is Agile?

Agile is a methodology that focuses on continuously delivering small manageable increments of a project through iterative development and testing. It was introduced as an alternative to the traditional waterfall methodology, known for its structured, linear, sequential life-cycle.

Dynamic processes such as project management and software development require the ability to adapt to changes and new conditions. The inflexible waterfall approach couldn’t meet the expectations of the fast-paced world of continuous technological innovation. Thus, agile was born.

Agile provides effective, day-to-day management of complex projects, improving communication and collaboration among team members and customers.

Agile Values

The methodology is defined by the Agile Manifesto, 12 principles that lay the foundation and values of “working agile.”

There are four core values at the heart of agile software development:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools. The manifesto emphasizes the importance of valuing each team member and fostering a healthy and stimulating work environment. To maximize efficiency, it encourages constant communication between teammates, so everyone is involved in the development process.

Working software over comprehensive documentation. Documentation cannot stand in the way of delivering software. Previously, every project had to start with detailed documentation of the requirements and expectations of the developing software. Agile is focused on embarrassing changes and avoids spending too much time on documentation that will probably get altered later.

7 Elements of an Agile development process

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation. Continuous development involves collaborating with the customer regularly. Immediate feedback guides the project in the direction which will eventually give the best results. Negotiating a contract with the customer before development and referring back to it after production leads to potential miscommunication. It should be avoided.

Responding to change over following a plan. Changes made mid-project need to be readily accepted as they can help with the product’s overall success. Adapting to new circumstances and embracing new features is one of the prominent differences between agile and waterfall.

Agile Software Development

Agile software development involves implementing agile frameworks, such as Scrum and Kanban. Each software development life-cycle starts with breaking up the project into manageable stories and requirements. The tasks are organized into sprints. A sprint takes place over two weeks, during which the team works on getting a specific feature up and running.

During the sprint, the team focuses on building, testing, and deploying software, making adjustments along the way. Once they complete a sprint, they move on to the next, until the project is complete. Such a practice allows continuous delivery of software. At the same time, customers, stakeholders, and project managers can follow and give feedback to ensure satisfactory results.

example Scrum process in agile software development

Some development stages can also include automated processes to speed up integration (such as automation testing and code management) and ensure everything is working correctly.

During development, the team collaborates, gives each other feedback, and reviews their work after each sprint, during regular retrospective sessions.

What is DevOps?

DevOps is a software development culture in which the development team and operations team work together to improve collaboration and productivity. The practice also involves implementing DevOps principles and practices and using a set of DevOps tools for testing.

DevOps principles foster communication, end-to-end responsibility, and information sharing. They define DevOps and set their goals.

Unlike traditional software development, DevOps consists of a continuous cycle of building, testing, deploying, and monitoring software. DevOps’ main objective is to deliver quality software efficiently.

Learn more about DevOps roles and responsibilities.

DevOps Principles

More and more companies are transitioning to DevOps. Implementing DevOps has many advantages, such as fast and easily integrated software deployments.

The transition to this new culture is impossible without understanding the fundamental values that drive it. It requires a change of mindset within the development and the operations team, which inspires them to work as a united front.

The following principles are the foundation that steers the engineering process in a DevOps environment:

Version Control. Developers submit code changes to a central repository several times a day. Prior to submitting code to the master repository (master branch), all code must be verified. To facilitate collaboration, other developers can track changes.

Continuous Integration. Members of the development team integrate their code in a shared repository, several times a day. Each developer segments the work into small, manageable chunks of code and detects potential merge conflicts and bugs quicker.

Continuous Delivery. As the code is continuously integrated, it is also consistently delivered to the end-user. Smaller contributions allow faster update releases, which is a crucial factor for customer satisfaction.

Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery DevOps pipeline digram

Continuous Deployment. A big part of DevOps is automating processes to speed up production. Continuous deployment involves automating releases of minor updates that do not pose a substantial threat to the existing architecture.

Continuous Testing. Such a strategy involves testing as much as possible in every step of development. Automated tests give valuable feedback and a risk assessment of the process at hand.

Continuous Operations. The DevOps team is always working on upgrading software with small but frequent releases. That is why DevOps requires constant monitoring of performance. Its main goal is to prevent downtime and availability issues during code release.

Collaboration. One of the main goals of DevOps is to foster collaboration and feedback sharing. Development and Operations need to proactively communicate and share feedback to maintain an efficient DevOps pipeline.

For a detailed overview of DevOps principles and practices, read 9 Key DevOps Principles.

DevOps Software Development

DevOps software development focuses on an established pipeline the project has to pass through. The number of stages depends on the complexity and type of software the team is developing. The key stages include developing, building, testing, and deploying.

A planning stage often precedes all the previously mentioned, and a monitoring stage is also added after deployment.

digram of the Phases of DevOps Pipeline

For more information about DevOps software development stages and how to plan a DevOps pipeline, check out What is DevOps Pipeline & How to Build One.

Agile vs. DevOps

Agile DevOps
Basic Philosophy A culture that focuses on continuously delivering small manageable increments of a project through iterative development and testing. A practice in which the development and operations team work together is integrated to improve collaboration and productivity.
Use It can be utilized in any department to help manage a complex project. Focuses on the end-to-end engineering process.
Focus Creating an environment that welcomes mid-project changes to improve quality. Merging development and operations teams to ensure they practice continual testing and development.
Team Smaller in number, team members work closely together and have similar skill sets. A wide variety of skill sets inside a larger team which consists of multiple departments.
Delivery Incremental deployments after each sprint (usually a weekly or biweekly period). The goal is to provide continuous delivery daily (or even every few hours).
Documentation Extremely light documentation to enhance flexibility in the development process. Sufficient documentation to ensure the teams collaborate well. Emphasizing communication over official documentation.
Quality and Risk The quality of the product increases, while the risk decreases after every sprint. Production of high-quality products with low risk due to effective collaboration and automated testing.
Feedback Focuses on customer feedback and adjusts the product accordingly. Encourages internal feedback among teammates to improve and speed up delivery.
Tools Kanboard, JIRA, Active Collab, Bugzilla, Slack, Trello. TeamCity, AWS, Puppet, OpenStack, Docker, Jenkins, Kubernetes, GitLab.

Merging Agile and DevOps

There are many advantages to merging agile and DevOps. Including, speeding up delivery,  higher user satisfaction, and effective collaboration within a team.

Combining the practices of DevOps with the culture of agile requires changing existing strategies and attitudes.

Understanding. The agile methodology requires team members to understand each other’s tasks. Mutual understanding is especially important for Scrum Masters, Project Managers, and Product Owners. To successfully manage a project, they need to know every step required to deliver the product.

Collaboration. DevOps involves the development team working together with the operations team. The previously mentioned roles now need to understand all aspects of the development process and operations.

DevOps practices in sprints. Next, the team needs to adopt integrating DevOps while handling sprints. That involves including the entire DevOps team (along with QA) in planning, daily standups, and retrospections.

Automate workflows. As automation is an essential part of DevOps development, it should be included in the agile workflow and project planning. Emerging fields, such as AIOps, use artificial intelligence to automate manual workflows in the IT environment.

Measure success. Merging agile and DevOps also involves assessing and measuring key DevOps metrics and KPIs within end-to-end development.

DevOps and Agile Can Work Together

Agile and DevOps both aim towards delivering quality software in a timely manner. The difference between agile and DevOps is that agile focuses on optimizing the development life-cycle, while DevOps unites development and operations in a CI/CD environment.

DevOps and agile are not mutually exclusive. Any organization transitioning to DevOps should not abandon existing agile workflows. DevOps is an extension of agile built around the practices that are not in agile’s focus. When used together, both practices improve software development and lead to better products.