Agile vs DevOps

Project managers are often heard discussing and comparing Agile vs DevOps. Given the complexity of modern-day software project management, it is not surprising. 

That’s because business organizations constantly need to adopt methods and processes that are efficient, responsive to change, and robust. Agile methodology and DevOps each tick lots of identical boxes when it comes to performance and outcomes. And yet they aren’t the same. So it’s important to understand what is the difference between Agile and DevOps.

In this article, we’ll begin by briefly understanding what is Agile and what is DevOps. Next, we’ll explore their basic similarities and broad differences. After that, we’ll look at their differences across five principal areas in detail. Finally, we’ll assess whether DevOps can replace Agile.

What is Agile

Agile software development is an iterative methodology to efficiently manage projects and simultaneously adapt to changing requirements.

Agile evolved as an improvement over the earlier Waterfall model. Its ability to quickly incorporate changes midway earned it the name Agile. This is largely achieved by breaking a project into smaller bits or phases. As a result, it delivers more value and helps you shorten software development cycles. 

What is DevOps

DevOps is an approach that aims to rapidly deliver applications by improving communications and coordination between application development and IT operations teams. 

DevOps brings together tools and philosophies, and leverages automation and feedback to build, improve, and ship applications faster. The optimal collaboration of teams improves speed as well as the quality, which builds a competitive advantage for implementing organizations. DevOps stems from Agile and aims at areas that were not prioritized by Agile.

Agile vs DevOps: Similarities and key differences

Agile and DevOps are similar in a number of ways as both represent novel approaches adopted by the software development industry in the past few decades. 

To begin with, both represent a substantial improvement over traditional models. Both of them are lean approaches that aim to speed up production and raise the quality levels substantially. Both Agile and DevOps rely considerably on feedback to be successful.

However, the answer would be longer if you were to ask what is the difference between Agile and DevOps. But first, the most important ones.

Major differences between Agile and DevOps

Agile vs DevOps

Here are the four visible big-picture differences between Agile and DevOps

  1. End goals: Agile is concerned with improving the software development process, while DevOps targets faster solution delivery.
  2. Feedback: Agile relies more on customer feedback for speed. DevOps is more about development and operations teams coordination.
  3. Changes: With Agile, you’re focused on what are the changes that the customer is requesting for. DevOps finds what requires to be changed by way of constant testing.
  4. Testing and corrections: Agile focuses majorly on improving development efficiency (shift left). DevOps, on the other hand, invests in both development efficiency and real-world testing (shift left and shift right).

Detailed comparison: What is the difference between Agile and DevOps

Now that we have a broad idea of the larger differences between Agile and DevOps, it’s time to get into the finer aspects. This will help you further understand which is better. DevOps or Agile are approaches that can’t be evaluated lightly, so hopefully a pointwise comparison will help.

To bring specificity, we have listed the Agile DevOps differences across five broad categories.

1. Goals

  • Agile directs the resources to accepting constant changes, while DevOps is about constant testing and delivery.
  • The role of Agile ends once the software is released. DevOps goes right upto the stage of deployment and maintenance.
  • When you compare Agile vs. DevOps, it’s important to note that Agile is better suited for complex projects. DevOps is not so much about the complexity of the project as it is about the processes.
  • Agile is more customer-facing, in that it attempts to bridge the gap between what the customer needs and what the development teams are preparing to deliver. In case of DevOps, the gap addressed is between the development team and operational teams, which means DevOps is more inward-looking.
  • Agile works towards building a culture that can easily honor requests for changes even in the mid-project stage. In contrast, DevOps is geared towards coordinating development and operations teams so that testing and development is continuous. 

2. Documentation and communications

  • The most visible difference between Agile and DevOps, when it comes to communications, is the source of feedback. With Agile, the entire feedback to improve the product originates from the customer, who is an entity outside of the organization. In DevOps, feedback originates from the internal teams itself. In DevOps, feedback aims at improving delivery.
  • Daily scrum meetings are at the heart of Agile software development. For DevOps, excellence emerges from design specification as well as understanding the resources required – and their implications – for continuous delivery.
  • One of the most significant differences between Agile and DevOps is how each views and prioritizes documentation. Agile places moderate importance on documents. The documentation is relatively light and the actual working is rated as more important. For DevOps, documentation is key, because your own internal teams are coordinating.
  • Even how the documentation is prepared is different in Agile and DevOps. With Agile, the actual process of documentation is not very standardized, and is used more like an additional reference. DevOps uses documentation as the principal pivot for everything including specifications and design. Naturally, DevOps has a more refined approach to documentation.

3. Functional aspects

  • As mentioned, Agile works on shift left principles. DevOps, in contrast, uses both shift left and shift right. That’s because DevOps targets end-to-end processes and includes both testing as well as delivery.
  • Agile has a clear framework with which to implement its methods (for instance, Sprint, Scrum, and so on). DevOps doesn’t have to have a standard framework because the collaboration is entirely internal.
  • Agile has only a limited role or demand for automation. For DevOps, automation is one of the principal goals. That’s again because continuous testing is one one of the major desired outcomes.
  • Agile doesn’t have a cut-out role for team members in the light of Agile methodology. Team members may take initiative and work towards overall improvement. In the context of DevOps, because two very different teams (development and operations) are working in sync, roles and communication require a degree of sophistication.  
  • Jira, Kanboard, Bugzilli, LeanKit, Planbox are some of the most commonly used Agile tools. AWS, Confluence, Puppet, Slack are the tools DevOps uses most often. Often, the type of DevOps tools chosen depends on the phase of the DevOps lifecycle.

4. Team resources

  • Another difference between Agile and DevOps is their respective team resources and size. Agile development works with a small team size, while DevOps has a larger team. Again, that’s because the development and operations teams are fully involved in DevOps.
  • Due to the small team size, Agile will see speedier outcomes. DevOps must follow certain protocols and spend time on documentation. However, it’s not possible to have a head to head comparison of Agile and DevOps, since their project complexities and desired goals are considerably different.  
  • Because Agile works with smaller teams, it requires that each team member have more diverse skill sets. DevOps teams are larger and each member has a clearly defined (but often a narrow) role.
  • Diverse roles for each member under Agile means there could be a bigger requirement for training in some cases. Because each role is narrower and closer to their domains, DevOps doesn’t need any major training. That said, it’s important to remember that DevOps will certainly require a strong acceptance of its core philosophy.

5. Time frames

  • The entire thinking behind Agile is that of changing elements swiftly. While swiftness is certainly a key parameter for DevOps, its documentation and team coordination prevent any compromises. To an outsider, therefore, DevOps may appear less nimble.
  • The measurement of Agile development is in sprints. Sprints do not exceed a month, which means Agile has a shorter duration. DevOps stresses on delivery and hence may deliver on a daily basis. Delivering more than once on the same day is nothing unusual under DevOps.
  • Agile is meant to account for requests for changes at virtually any stage of the project. This makes Agile inherently swift. DevOps, as mentioned earlier, is built around detailed documentation. That means the focus will always be to improve the engineering processes.
  • Frequent sprints are responsible for iterative quality improvement in Agile. Against that, the quality improvement with DevOps owes more to collaboration and automated testing. Often this is considered a ground-level difference in a Agile vs DevOps comparison.

Closing words: Does DevOps replace Agile?

Is it comparing whether apples will replace oranges?

As would be obvious from the detailed Agile vs DevOps comparison above, the two serve different purposes. Many businesses have found great results by using both Agile and DevOps together. Others have chosen to work with only DevOps. And a few others are yet on Agile and are only beginning to explore DevOps. 

Agile helps you meet changing customer requirements midway, while DevOps fine-tunes the coordination of your development and operations teams. So, no, DevOps doesn’t replace Agile; it’s appropriate to say that in most cases DevOps complements Agile.

So how do you decide which is better, DevOps or Agile, for your organizational requirements? It will take a good deal of analysis and expertise. We’d be happy to help you explore further and make the right choice. Why not give us a call?

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