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How to Get Started with Agile Planning

29 Jul 2022 in

Is your business looking for a smarter way to approach software development?

More companies are embracing Agile practices to manage changing priorities, accelerate product delivery, and increase team productivity.

If you want to implement an Agile approach, you first need to understand the Agile manifesto and the role Agile planning plays in project management.

Here’s how to start the Agile planning process so you can move the needle toward Agile software development.

What Is Agile Planning?

Agile planning is a project management style that allows modifications during development cycles based on end-user experiences. It’s a component of Agile methodology and Project to Product philosophy. 

In traditional project management, developers create a plan, complete the project, and improve the product later. With an Agile approach, the product develops through ongoing iterations and continuous releases focused on customer feedback.

The Agile method differs from Waterfall, which uses a linear approach to software development. In Waterfall, each phase requires a deliverable before moving on to the next phase. Waterfall is rigid, while Agile is adaptable.

Agile Methodology

Agile methodology is a set of values and principles guiding lean software development. It’s based on the Agile Manifesto, which prioritises four core values: 

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation 
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan 

These values shape the Agile mindset of collaboration, continuous learning, and adaptability. The Agile Manifesto’s 12 principles guide the development process. Concepts include prioritising customer satisfaction, delivering working software regularly, welcoming new requirements, and maintaining a sustainable pace of work. Effective Agile coaching helps teams understand this approach and adopt these principles.

Following Agile methodology provides a framework for iterative delivery that helps teams respond quickly to changes and deliver high-quality software.

Agile Project Planning

Releases and sprints are two critical components of Agile project planning. A release is a long-term goal the team strives to accomplish with each new software version. Within each release, the team works in sprints to achieve shorter-term goals. 

The incremental goals within the sprints are user stories or customer feature descriptions. These explanations help define the functionality to be executed within each sprint. During a sprint, the team estimates the work required for each user story and decides which ones to include. This process repeats until the team completes all user stories for the release. 

With this iterative approach, the team meets user expectations and delivers the release on time.

The 5 Levels of Agile Planning

There are five levels of agile planning: vision, roadmap, release, iteration, and daily standup. 

  • Vision—sets the direction for the entire organisation
  • Roadmap—maps out the steps to take to achieve the vision
  • Release—segments the initiatives into manageable sprints within a timeframe
  • Iteration—focuses on the work to be done within each sprint
  • Daily standup—monitors progress and identifies any obstacles 

At the end of each iteration, the team reviews the completed work and adjusts the vision and roadmap as necessary. Members then cycle back through the levels until they finish the product.

Let’s look at how the five levels of Agile planning come together as a process.

Agile Vision 

The vision is the big-picture view of what your team wants to achieve. It should be clear, attainable, and aligned with your company's goals. Starting with the vision in your planning meeting ensures everyone is working towards the same outcome. After you define your intention, you can break it down into smaller goals and objectives.

Agile Roadmap

The roadmap is a high-level view of your team's required work to achieve the product vision. It helps developers understand what needs to be accomplished and when. Sprints, typically two to four weeks long, make up the roadmap of releases. Each sprint has a specific milestone to reach within that timeframe. The roadmap is a flexible document you can update as needed.

Agile Release 

The release is a plan outlining when the team will deliver each feature to improve the working software. Developers use the product backlog to prioritise the most important deliverables and meet impending deadlines. Release planning happens at the beginning of each sprint and adjusts based on changes and priorities.

Agile Iteration 

The iteration (or sprint) is a time-boxed period of product development in which a team works on a subset of deliverables from the product backlog. Developers select the deliverables, estimate the required effort, and create a step-by-step plan to optimise work completion. Iteration planning helps your team focus on delivering value in increments and reduces the risk of scope creep.

Agile Daily Standup 

The daily standup is a short meeting where each team member reports on their progress from the previous day. Each person answers three questions: 

  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What will you do today? 
  • Are there any obstacles in your way? 

The daily standup aims to keep stakeholders up to date on the product and resolve potential issues.

Agile Project Management Frameworks

To put Agile planning into action, you need a guide. An Agile project management framework helps you plan, manage, and execute the Agile software development process. Scrum and Kanban are two popular Agile project management tools emphasising collaboration, flexibility, and customer satisfaction.

Scrum

Scrum is a structured Agile framework including roles, artifacts, and ceremonies. 

Roles in Scrum involve the product owner, development team, and Scrum Master. The product owner takes care of the product backlog, and the developers implement the features. The Scrum Master facilitates the entire process. For example, they may create a Community of Practice (CoP) with other Scrum Masters to exchange ideas about increasing team productivity.

Scrum artifacts include the product backlog, sprint backlog, and increment. The product backlog lists all the features the team needs to add. Work planned for the iteration is in the sprint backlog. The increment is the deliverable meeting the Definition of Done (DoD). 

The ceremonies in Scrum are sprint planning, daily standup, and sprint review. Sprint planning covers what the team will work on in a sprint, and the daily standup is the progress report. In the sprint review, the team goes over completed work and collects feedback.

Kanban

Kanban is a more flexible Agile framework involving boards, work in progress (WIP), and continuous flow. 

Kanban boards help businesses visualise and manage their workflows. Cards represent work items on boards, and columns divide those boards into different stages of the process. For example, a board might have columns for "To Do," "In Progress," and "Done." 

Setting limits on WIP ensures the team gives each task the attention it deserves. With a reduced amount of WIP, businesses can avoid bottlenecks and become more efficient. By identifying what the team needs to do and what they’re already working on, Kanban boards help Agile teams prevent duplication and promote a continuous flow of work.

Need Help With Agile Planning?

The best part about Agile planning is adapting it to fit your business needs. 

Some people use a mix of Scrum and Kanban. Others incorporate Extreme Programming (XP), which emphasises the technical aspects of the Agile software development lifecycle.

Whatever path you choose, Catapult CX can help with Agile project management and planning for all your teams, not just IT.

Learn how we can help you with Jira Agile software, Jira portfolio management, and implementing Agile at scale.