DevOps vs. Agile: Differences and Common Ground

Sean Blake

by Sean Blake, Head of Marketing

19 Nov 2021

DevOps vs agile: DevOps concept illustration

DevOps vs. agile—what’s the difference? These two methodologies have a lot in common, but there are also many key differences that we’ll discuss in this post. You might say they compliment each other. We wouldn't go so as far as to say they’re like peanut butter and jelly, but when used together, they certainly make for a nice combination.

In basic terms, it comes down to this: Agile solves the gap that can exist between end users and developers, whereas DevOps solves the gap that can exist between developers and operations.

Sound simple enough? Well, there’s a lot more to it than that. Let’s dig a little deeper into the definition of both agile and DevOps, what these methodologies have in common, what makes them different, and how they can work together.

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Defining agile

The agile methodology was first popularized in software development, but in recent years, agile practices as well as the guiding principles of agile have expanded into a range of different industries that want to prioritize continuous improvement and growth.

The agile approach to project management is much different than the traditional approach to project management. Traditional project management follows a waterfall model. Each project element must be completed before moving on to the next in a strict sequential order, and the flow of work remains the same from project to project.

Agile focuses on flexibility, adaptability, collaboration between team members, and delivering consistent value to stakeholders through continuous customer feedback and rapid releases. Each iteration offers fresh insights into what is and isn’t working and what could be improved upon. It’s a multidimensional approach that eliminates the bottlenecks so characteristic of traditional project management.

Agile teams can implement agile in a variety of different ways, including Scrum, kanban, lean, and more. A key benefit of agile software development is the ability to bridge the gap between customers or users and development teams.

Learn more about agile, dig into the Agile Manifesto, and read our article: Agile 101: A Beginner's Guide to Agile Methodology.

Defining DevOps

DevOps is a software development method that empowers teams to build, test, and release software quickly and consistently with the integration of agile practices and principles, including enhanced automation and improved communication and collaboration between development and operations teams.

DevOps focuses on aligning development and IT operations to better manage end-to-end engineering processes. In the past, development teams would write applications and then pass them along to an operations team that would then deploy and manage the software. The problem with this approach is the operations team is given no insight into how the application was developed.

DevOps practices bridge the gap between developers who develop and write the software and operations who run the software.

➡️ Learn more about other popular software development methodologies.

DevOps vs. agile: What do they have in common?

DevOps vs agile: Brooklyn Nine-Nine Halloween GIF

Both agile and DevOps aim to aid the software development process, but where did they come from, and what commonalities do they share?

In this “which came first, the chicken or egg?” scenario, we do actually know which came first. 🐓🥚 Agile, which gained popularity in the early 2000s, provided development teams with an approach to solving complex problems. While agile solved many problems, there was one disconnect that remained — the operations teams deploying the software were sidelined and remained in a silo, missing out on the benefits of agile.

Enter DevOps, which applies agile principles to improve the gap that often exists between development and operations teams. It offers operations teams visibility into the development process so that they can better understand how and why a product was made. This clarity aids the development process since both sets of teams can work alongside one another while developing and deploying.

The result is development practices that run smoothly from one team to the next, a heightened consideration of the user, and continuous delivery to both customers and stakeholders.

So, in many ways, DevOps is an extension of the original agile methodology. DevOps teams  zero in on a key aspect of the development process to bring development and operations together. Many of the same agile principles are applied, such as continuous deployment, improved collaboration, iteration, and automation, and implementing feedback at every turn.

Key differences between DevOps vs. agile

Better Than You Reaction GIF

While agile and DevOps have a lot in common, there are a few key differences to be aware of. The differences mainly stem from the different types of teams utilizing agile principles. These different teams have different needs, work at a different pace, and are guided by separate feedback systems.

AgileDevOps
Agile is a broad methodology that focuses on solving complex problems and bridging the gap between development teams and product/project management through improved communication and collaboration, continuous iterative development, stakeholder feedback, and frequent releases. DevOps takes agile one step further, focusing on bridging the gap between development and operations teams to better manage end-to-end engineering processes.
Agile can be applied to any industry that wants to emphasize continuous improvement, collaboration, and communication. DevOps is mostly used within software development.
There are many different frameworks that can be utilized to implement agile, including Scrum, kanban, lean, and XP (eXtreme Programming).DevOps is an agile framework that exists because of agile.
Agile focuses on iterative development and working in small batches.DevOps emphasizes constant testing and delivery automation.
Agile development is typically managed through sprints: 2-4 weeks time in which a set amount of work is completed and submitted to stakeholders for feedback.The goal of DevOps is to deliver code to production as frequently as possible, either every day or every few hours.
Feedback comes from stakeholders, customers, and users.Feedback comes from the internal team.
Agile uses the Shift Left testing approach (testing early and often to get the code right the first time, reducing the time it takes to get the product to market).DevOps uses both Shift Left and Shift Right testing to get the code right the first time and to understand and optimize the software’s functionality and usability in real-world situations, enabling wider test coverage.

Bridging every gap in the development process

Let’s bring it all back to the simple definition we began with. Although there are many complexities, similarities, and differences between DevOps vs. agile, in basic terms, it comes down to this:

Agile, which came before DevOps, is a broad methodology that primarily focuses on bridging the gap between the customer/user and development teams. DevOps, which came second, utilizes agile practices to fill the void that remains between development teams and operations teams.

Easy Agile is dedicated to helping all types of teams work better using various agile methodologies. We design Jira plugins with simple, collaborative, and flexible functionality. Our Easy Agile Roadmaps and Easy Agile User Story Maps align teams, provide clear workflows, and keep the customer at the front and center of the development process.

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We also have a wealth of content on our blog, including how-to articles, agile explainers, and thorough guides that dig into the agile process. You’ll find our resources especially helpful if you or your team utilizes Jira or the Scrum framework.

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