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Implications of Microsoft's transition to agile development

For developers that create enterprise software, timing is everything - they must deliver the program quickly with limited bugs while still guaranteeing that it has the features the users require. As project deadlines become shorter, legacy development methods will no longer be able to support these needs. Especially in organizations that are constantly improving their programs, they must ensure that they have an approach that will meet their intensive distribution schedule. Nowhere is this more apparent than Microsoft's recent transition to agile development.

Agile streamlining operations
Many organizations have abandoned the legacy waterfall approach to development in favor of agile methods. Microsoft has likewise followed suit in an effort to better deliver their programs on a more consistent basis. According to The Wall Street Journal, the new mindset is meant to transform the company's productivity and help it reap the benefits it needs to further evolve. These advantages could include enabling the organization to cut redundant job positions, lower overhead costs and focus operations to current trends like cloud and mobile functionality.

As Microsoft looked to effectively reinforce these technologies, transitioning to agile development was inevitable as both mobile and cloud efforts change constantly. Because waterfall approaches don't allow developers to go back and fix things, it's significantly time consuming to include any new features that may surface. Agile, on the other hand, is flexible, letting programmers make adjustments throughout the software's lifecycle while delivering the product faster than ever.

"In agile development, programmers rapidly write and deliver functional code in two to four weeks, a departure from the 'waterfall' method of building software over several months or years," The Wall Street Journal stated.

Heading toward better deliveries
The production of a program that arrives every few years and continues to meet user expectations can be a challenging feat to pursue. However, this is the model that Microsoft and many other software developers have chosen to use, demonstrated with their improvements and releases of Office, Windows and other programs on a consistent basis. Waterfall development approaches were making this effort more difficult, as seen by the late releases of Windows 2000, Windows Vista and even Windows 95. However, according to Ars Technica, the Visual Studio team first adopted agile processes and their results have inspired Microsoft as a whole to abandon legacy methods. Through agile development, the Visual Studio Online team has been able to consistently deliver an update every three weeks containing new features and capabilities that will benefit the user.

With this type of setup, developers can easily deliver patches and other services that will actively improve the user experience, whereas waterfall development was a linear, one-shot effort. This will help bring attention back to Microsoft programs and promise that people will be able to leverage their software in ways that are advantageous to their processes.

"With the top-down demands for quality and agility, Microsoft's customers should see wider improvement," Ars Technica stated. "There have already been signs of a more frequent update policy for Windows. As the company's developers become more comfortable with the new approaches, the result should be higher quality, delivered more often. Anyone who uses the company's software should reap the reward."


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