DevOps vs. Agile: What To Know Before Choosing a Method

By Tonya Fister

Updated July 27, 2022 | Published July 21, 2021

Updated July 27, 2022

Published July 21, 2021

Tonya Fister has seven years of experience writing about a wide variety of subjects, including health, wellness and technology.

Related: Becoming a DevOps Engineer

Are you interested in a career as a DevOps Engineer but are not sure how to start preparing for it? We have you covered!

In software development, teams can apply different methods to complete project tasks, test products and deploy applications. Many technical teams may implement the DevOps or Agile approach depending on the complexity of a software project and the organization’s goals. While these two development frameworks share some similarities, understanding their differences can help you decide when each is best to use.

In this article, we discuss what DevOps and Agile are, explore their differences, explain why they're beneficial and review when to implement each method to ensure successful product outcomes.


What is Agile?

The Agile framework is a process for software development projects that uses continuous iteration for developing and testing products during the systems' development life cycle. This method focuses on collaborative efforts between the customer and the development team during a software development project. Additionally, Agile effectively breaks a product into smaller parts that make testing and modification easier for developers to integrate, resulting in the continuous iteration of a software application that meets customers' requirements.

Read more: What Are Agile Frameworks? (Plus How To Choose One)


What is DevOps?

DevOps is a software product development methodology that combines approaches from both development and operations teams to integrate continuous testing and delivery of an application. The concept of this method fosters a culture of collaboration between the information technology and software development teams within an organization, where these two departments often work independently of one another. DevOps maintains this level of collaboration from the planning and design phases to the completion and product release phases.

Related: 20 Tools for DevOps and How You Can Use Them


DevOps vs. Agile

Even though DevOps and Agile are common tools for software development, the two methods have several differences:


Purpose and goal

Two of the most significant differences between Agile and DevOps are the purpose and goal of each software development framework. In DevOps, the primary purpose is to manage each end of the software engineering process, such as the initial planning and product release stages. However, Agile frameworks support the entire build process and allow development teams to manage each project stage more efficiently.


The goal of Agile is to address gaps between customer needs and development teams during software builds. The goal of DevOps, conversely, is to create a collaborative environment that addresses communication gaps between development and IT operations during planning, testing and delivery.

Related: What Is a Framework? (Definition and a Guide to 6 Types)


Functions and task performance

The primary function of DevOps is to provide a framework that combines the efforts of development and IT operations to improve end-to-end business processes and develop automated solutions. Tasks within a DevOps structure center on testing and delivery alongside development processes when building and deploying information systems.


Unlike DevOps, Agile's primary function is to structure software development processes for teams to complete more efficiently. Therefore, many of the tasks that teams perform to complete software development include constant iteration, resulting in the continuous release of software products based on client specifications.

Related: Framework vs. Library: What Are the Differences?


Team structure

The team structure between DevOps and Agile differs as well. DevOps is often more suitable for large teams, where organizations combine team members from the development and information technology teams. This method also divides tasks between the team members so that each individual is responsible for a specific set of tasks during the entire process. Agile, however, is an effective method for smaller teams to use and supports equal responsibility for project tasks between team members. Because of this structure, Agile teams may often switch between different tasks when completing projects.

Related: What Is an Agile Team?


Emphasis and suitability

Agile emphasizes constant communication between clients and development teams to integrate necessary changes that increase product quality. Although DevOps integrates frequent testing and delivery to ensure quality, the method supports communication primarily between development and IT operations.


The types of projects each method is suitable for also differ. Agile is often more suitable for large or complex software projects, while DevOps is effective for developing, testing and delivering end-to-end processes, such as updates to software systems or fixes to technical issues.

Related: What Is an Agile Environment? (And How To Incorporate One at Work)


Documentation

Documentation with Agile involves recording changes and iterations during the development process, which can affect the efficiency of deployment. Agile prioritizes the functionality of a system or application over complete documentation. DevOps prioritizes documentation during development so operations teams can deploy the final product more quickly. Teams can automate processes to reduce the impact of insufficient data.

Related: What Is Agile Reporting? (Definition and How To Complete)


Automation and implementation

DevOps applies automation to maximize the efficiency of product testing and delivery, whereas Agile teams typically do not apply automation. Because DevOps emphasizes automation in many end-to-end processes, teams that implement a DevOps structure often use tools like cloud computing and automation software. However, teams following Agile employ project management tools like the scrum methodology, project management software and server software.

Related: How Much Does a DevOps Engineer Make? (Plus Duties and Skills)


Benefits of Agile vs. DevOps

Both DevOps and Agile are beneficial for application in software development projects. When integrating the Agile method, consider these advantages:

  • Structures smaller development teams to focus on each stage of the development process

  • Prioritizes customer needs when developing new technologies and uses these needs as a framework for establishing specific functions and features of software products

  • Provides a deeper understanding of how users interact with software products, giving developers insight into how they can further improve and streamline technical applications

DevOps shares similar benefits to Agile, as it provides a structure for teams to follow when developing and completing technical projects. Here are some additional advantages to DevOps:

  • Prioritizes the testing and implementation processes in addition to the initial stages of development

  • Supports collaboration within large development and operations teams, where members have specific duties that contribute to overall objectives

  • Increases responsiveness in operations when addressing issues like system outages, performance fluctuations and security compromises

Related: How To Become a DevOps Engineer in 2022

When to use Agile and DevOps

Implementing Agile and DevOps can require different tools, but they’re highly effective for application together. Here’s some additional insight into when to use Agile, DevOps or both methods together:

  • DevOps: This method can be most effective when your goal is to collaborate between larger development and IT teams to automate testing and delivery of end-to-end processes quickly.

  • Agile: Typically, development teams use the Agile framework when completing long-term and complex projects in a series of scheduled phases that outline each product iteration.

  • Agile and DevOps together: Consider using both methods together for streamlining project management and prioritizing both the technical practices and collaborative efforts of each methodology.


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