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Understanding Agile vs. DevOps

Dan Holloran March 15, 2019

DevOps Collaboration
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DevOps and Agile are two of the most used buzzwords currently being tossed around in software development and IT. Both practices represent a cultural shift in an organization. However, the two concepts are not identical, and many organizations fail to understand the difference between them. Agile vs. DevOps has become one of the most trending debates in the industry. Before jumping into how DevOps differs from Agile, let us first understand the two methodologies.

The Evolution of Agile and DevOps

Until a decade ago, organizations used a conventional approach, commonly known as the “waterfall method.” The software development life cycle (SDLC) was divided into six different stages – requirement, gathering, design, development, testing and maintenance. After these six phases, the software developers would release a single, finished product, as per the product owner’s initial requirements.

However, in most cases, the product team’s demands would change during the product development and software delivery life cycle, and as a result, outdated products were released – leading to dissatisfied customers. Hence, the Agile and DevOps practices came into existence.

  • Agile is a lean software development practice that follows an incremental approach to the development process. It minimizes the risk of building obsolete software by speeding up the SDLC and incorporating continuous feedback from internal teams and customers throughout every sprint.

  • DevOps, on the other hand, is a methodology used to bring development and IT operations teams closer together. It represents the improvement to cross-team collaboration and transparency – breaking down the communication and systematic barriers that existed historically between software development and operations teams.

Essentially, Agile is a replacement for the waterfall model and DevOps is an extension of Agile. Together, DevOps and Agile lead to a lean system for rapidly developing reliable applications and infrastructure. Let’s take a peek at more of the specific differences between DevOps and Agile:

Agile vs. DevOps

The Agile methodology focuses on providing an iterative model to the development process. However, it has some drawbacks such as missed deadlines and inconsistent development of software components. Talking about DevOps, it has proven to be more flexible than Agile, and has a broader scope. DevOps provides a system for communication, automation and visibility for development and operations teams – ensuring efficient product delivery.

Under the Agile model, there is always a communication gap between different teams – developers, testers, and ITOps. Hence, they end up working in silos, unaware of what the other team is up to. DevOps overcomes this gap by bringing all the teams together in a single, unified way.

Let’s look at some of the prominent differences between Agile and DevOps:

DevOps & Incident Management

1. Approach

The scope of the Agile methodology is limited to software development. It follows an incremental development approach, breaking the overall development process into smaller modules for iterative development.

DevOps, however, works beyond the development process, helping operations and development teams collaborate around accelerating the delivery process while maintaining the reliability of the underlying services. It consolidates the team’s various tools and methods to ensure seamless delivery to the end user.

2. Scheduling

Agile teams work in short, pre-set durations of time, commonly known as sprints. These sprints can last from a few weeks to months. An engineer’s main goal in Agile is to develop software as quickly as possible. DevOps teams add to Agile by balancing the continuous delivery of software with the reliability of the overall system – leading to a more rapid release schedule with less incidents in production.

3. Team Dynamics

Agile and DevOps can differ slightly in the structure and working pattern of the teams. An Agile team is usually smaller in size (approximately 10 people or less) in order to provide faster service delivery with less complexity. The team is normally comprised of everyone needed to build and serve software from end-to-end – product managers, designers, developers and QA testers. DevOps-centric teams are usually even larger and comprised of multiple disciplines from development and IT (operations, security, network, design, development, testing) – working together as a single team.

4. Automation

Agile does not favor automation and there are no specific tools required for an Agile team. It’s completely possible for Agile teams to communicate via mailers or sticky notes. On the contrary, automation is at the heart of DevOps. The team relies on automated deployment tools to ensure smooth and reliable delivery of the software. Since the overall goal of DevOps is to achieve maximum efficiency with minimum disruptions, certain communication, automation, code branching and config management tools are integral to DevOps success.

5. Communication and Documentation

There is a vast difference in the mode of team communication in both the models. While an Agile team complies with informal meetings held daily, DevOps do not follow the daily meeting rule. The Agile approach believes in a non-documented sharing of the progress, targets and updates of each team member on a regular basis. However, a DevOps meeting is full of documentation as there is a lot to communicate on software deployment in the form of specifications or designs to all the teams

Below is a summarized table of the differences between Agile and DevOps:

Agile vs DevOps process summary chart


The debate of Agile vs. DevOps can go on. Both models differ slightly in their approach, scope, and practices. However, both methodologies should be used together to deliver continuous, reliable value to customers. Agile and DevOps shouldn’t be competitors but should be thought of as complementary. The objectives of the two are the same – making the entire deployment and development process faster and more efficient.

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