What is Agile Planning? Step-by-Step Guide

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StarAgile

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Apr 25, 2024

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Many companies are using Agile Methodology including Fortune 500 companies like IBM, Apple, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble(P&G). The primary reason behind the adoption of agile is to enhance customer satisfaction, stronger employee engagement and evaluation. 

Why Agile is being adopted?

Over the years, I have seen companies transforming from the traditional project management methodology to Agile. Every time, this transformation has turned into something positive and it is also supported by the data provided by Runn.io wherein they have mentioned that 76% of organizations experienced better employee engagement whereas 93% of organizations told better client satisfaction and operational performance. 

What is A𝗴𝗶𝗹𝗲 P𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴? 

A𝗴𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 is a part of agile methodology which is a project management approach and translates to using iterative and incremental approaches. 

Instead of planning everything from the start and sticking to the plan till the end, the agile way of working gives scope for change. It allows changes when a requirement comes and doesn’t affect the final product. 

In 𝗮𝗴𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴, a project is broken down into much smaller pieces, and one piece is worked on at a time. It is a more manageable and flexible process which eventually results in achieving the final goal. Before using agile for your projects, you need to make sure you’re following the fundamentals of agile, which I am mentioning down below: 

The project is based on iterative development which means delivering products regularly for constant feedback. This allows making changes if required. 

Test-driven development: Developers write test codes before making a new software. This helps in improving the quality of code with the constant feedback. 

Self-working teams: team members of an agile team work independently. They improvise, collaborate, and learn from their former mistakes to improve. This helps in reducing dependency on other team members. 

Product backlog: this is a list of business and technical requirements that is updated and altered constantly. This backlog is checked regularly and then changes are made in the development process accordingly. 

Levels of A𝗴𝗶𝗹𝗲 P𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴

As discussed before, 𝗮𝗴𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 is a multi-level process. The 𝗮𝗴𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 process is sometimes defined as 𝗮𝗴𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 onion due to the many layers it has. The outermost layer is less frequent and the inner layers are more frequent. 

Now let us analyze different levels of planning in agile from a broader perspective: 

1. Strategy: This is a higher management process that refers to planning for a longer term and setting goals for the whole project. Moreover, resources are also identified which will be used to achieve the project goal. 

2. Portfolio: In this step, the primary focus is on managing the portfolio of the projects or products which includes assigning the resources, prioritizing the tasks, and ensuring they match with the business outcome. 

3. Product: Here the team makes the complete product plan. They define product strategy, and development approach and prioritize the features which need to be taken first. The team sets the timelines, dates, and themes as well for the same. 

4. Release: Release planning is breaking down the product roadmap into specific releases based on team capacities, and features to be prioritized. Each release is focused on delivering the prioritized feature. 

5. Sprint/Iteration Planning: Sprint planning or iteration planning is defining the work to be done in small sprints. A sprint is 1-4 weeks in duration and usually, it is a breakdown of tasks into smaller doable chunks and estimating the time for it. 

6. Daily:  There are daily standups that are held to register the progress of a project and keep them aligned and focused on the relevant task. 

A𝗴𝗶𝗹𝗲 P𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 Process

As we have talked about before the 𝗮𝗴𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 process is a multi-level process and each level brings you closer to achieving your goal. Here are the steps included in the process:

1. Define vision: The first step before even beginning is to define your project or product goals and overall targets that you want to achieve. 

2. Set clear expectations on goals: Next, you need to define your output very clearly to your internal team and also stakeholders. This is important to make sure that everyone is on the same page and does not deviate from the end goal.

3. Product agile roadmap planning: After you have set your expectations, the next thing to do is plan more strategically which can be done by defining a product roadmap. The roadmap should be broken down into releases for which features to be worked on are defined. 

Create Tasks Based on User Stories 

This step is to align the user needs and project requirements as the project moves forward. You are supposed to create actionable tasks based on the needs of the projects. 

1. Product Backlog: A product backlog is the collection of tasks that are added to the project’s lifecycle. It can include the tasks that are not in the current sprint but will be added in the next sprint. The tasks can be moved to the next sprint due to several reasons like roadblocks, impediments, or any difficulty faced in communication. The tasks in the product backlog need to be prioritized based on their business impact and usefulness. 

2. Release planning: For every release, it is important to plan a series of iterations or sprints. You need to define the goal of each iteration and estimate the time and effort that will go into planning an iteration. It is based on the current sprint’s tasks and helps in understanding the complexity of each sprint to create a suitable plan to work around it. 

3. Daily standups: Scrum standups are one of the most proficient agile ceremonies that are conducted daily. The standups are very short and talk only about short-term plans. 

4. Monitor and analyze: For any Scrum Project Management, it is essential to track down and analyze progress, iteration plan, and also product roadmap. At each sprint, you will be able to analyze and improve how the project is moving forward. 

It is really important to transfer theoretical knowledge into practical implementations when it comes to Agile Planning. In my training, I not only teach what is agile planning but also teach my students on how to implement it to get the desired results. 

A𝗴𝗶𝗹𝗲 P𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 Template

In agile itself, many planning templates can be used to enhance efficiency and collaboration. But here is the list of my favourites as they are easy to implement and versatile for different project requirements. 

1. Kanban board template: With this pre-defined framework, teams will be able to set up their work using the Kanban Framework. The approach is centred around visualizing work, limiting the work in progress, and also maximizing the flow. You can access free kanban templates here 

2. Gantt Chart Template: This is a highly used project management tool used to visually represent project schedules, tasks, and timelines. It is highly useful in breaking the tasks into smaller bits and making the planning, and tracking process simpler and more effective. You can create Gantt charts here 

3. Product Backlog Template: This is a perfect 𝗮𝗴𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 tool for task prioritization. It helps the managers and teams to prioritize tasks, make lists, and if any enhancements are required. You can get free templates here

4. Product Strategy Template: This is a perfect tool for making a product strategy. It provides a structured framework that helps in decision-making, alignment, and better communication within teams. The tool also helps in implementing an improvised product strategy which results in a better product. You can get free templates here

5. Agile Project Plan Template

  • This template emphasizes transparency, alignment, and effective communication within the agile teams. It offers a better way to plan, track, and adapt the changes. You can get the free templates here 
  • In my opinion, if you’re starting to work with an agile planning template, you better select Kanban. I always suggest this as it is extremely easy to use and adapt to the pre-defined templates. Therefore, you do not have to invest too much time into the R&D of a new resource. 

Main Characteristics of A𝗴𝗶𝗹𝗲 P𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴

Before implementing any plan for project management, you must analyze the characteristics of 𝗮𝗴𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 deeply. Here are the main characteristics of agile that you must know: 

1. The project is divided into sprints: Taking the complete project at a go again makes things complex. Therefore, in an agile project, we divide the project into sprints. Each sprint is aimed at releasing one product feature. The tasks are assigned to the team members based on the requirements of the particular sprint. 

2. Customer satisfaction: Agile projects are deeply connected with customer satisfaction. When we deliver projects in sprints, it allows the customer to give feedback. Once the feedback is received, you can rework it and make the process perfect for future sprints. 

3. Collaboration: An agile project is also driven by collaboration where all the team members come together to work on something to achieve a common goal. You can take the help of various project management tools as well to enhance collaboration and communication among team members. 

4. Real-time transparency: When you are working in sprints, it is easier to keep track of the processes and how it is affecting the project. You can easily identify which team member is responsible for which task and also it is aligning with the priority. 

5. Frequent testing: Unlike the traditional project management techniques, where the product is only sent for testing once it is completed. In agile projects, a product is sent for testing in smaller pieces. This will help in making corrections at an earlier stage to prevent any delays. 

6. Improved final product: In agile projects, every team member is aware of the project's deliverable and works towards achieving it. There are approvals too sent after every sprint, this eases shaping the product and gives better outcomes. 

Traditional Planning vs A𝗴𝗶𝗹𝗲 P𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴

Now that we have discovered what 𝗮𝗴𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 is all about, what it includes, and how we can deploy it to get excellent results. Now we should understand why we adopted Agile over the traditional project management approach. 

Over the years, I have worked with both traditional and agile planning methods and I have discovered multifacet benefits of each. However, I will always emphasise using agile planning for your projects for better and easier product delivery due to the many reasons I mentioned before like flexibility and adaptability. 

Conclusion

A𝗴𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 is embraced as a pivotal agile methodology by various companies. It has revolutionized how teams approach software development and project delivery. It helps in breaking down complex projects into smaller units that will help in making the project easier to work on. 

As agile gained widespread recognition, so as the framework to effectively implement it. Among the most popular methodologies is Scrum, widely adopted by companies seeking agility in their processes. If you’re interested in moving ahead with time and improving your skills, then a Certified Scrum certification is a must. StarAgile Scrum Master Certification will equip you with all the skills important to excel as a scrum master and implement an agile methodology in your organization. 

 

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