Agile Planning: How to Start Planning in Agile

Published: February 23, 2024
Last Updated: February 23, 2024
Project Manager in Alpha Serve
A large number of companies globally have adopted Jira agile planning, indicating a growing interest among IT teams in project management methodologies that emphasize adaptability and flexibility. Unlike conventional approaches, agile planning fosters iterative development, collaboration, and continuous feedback. In this guide, we'll navigate you through its fundamental steps.
Agile Planning: How to Start Planning in Agile

It is a table of contents. Click on the needed subheading and switch between parts of the article.

What is Agile Planning

What is Agile Planning
Let's start with the definition. So, what is agile planning? Agile planning is a project management approach emphasizing adaptability, collaboration, and iterative development. Unlike traditional project management approaches that follow a rigid, linear plan, agile methodology embraces change and focuses on delivering incremental value to stakeholders. It is based on the idea that the requirements and goals of a project are not fixed but can evolve as the project progresses and the users' needs change.

Rooted in the rapid application development (RAD) methodology pioneered by English IT engineer James Martin in the 1990s, agile planning is guided by the Agile Manifesto, set up by the Agile Alliance in 2001. It includes four core values and 12 principles and emphasizes the importance of individuals and interactions, the delivery of working software, customer collaboration, and the ability to respond effectively to change.

Agile planning involves breaking a project into smaller, more manageable cycles called iterations or sprints. During these cycles, the team focuses on delivering a functional product or feature that adds value for the user. After each iteration, the team reviews the work, gathers user feedback, and plans the next iteration based on evolving priorities and requirements. Agile planning is not limited to software development and can be applied to various project types due to its adaptability and flexibility.

Agile frameworks are essential tools in the agile planning process. Those are structured approaches to implementing Agile principles. One of the most prominent is Scrum, which is sometimes mistakenly considered the synonym of Agile. Other well-known approaches are Kanban and Extreme Programming (XP).

The agile methodology also requires cross-functional teams that include members with diverse skills and expertise to work together efficiently. Key figures include the Product Owner, Scrum Master, Development Team, Stakeholders, Agile Coach, and Release Manager. Transparency and visibility also play an essential role. Ensuring that the project's progress, challenges, and successes are visible to all stakeholders is required.

Key Agile Components

At the heart of Agile lies a set of key components that form the foundation for successful implementation. They include the following:

User Stories

A pivotal technique within Agile software development, user stories capture software features from an end-user perspective. Describing the user type, their desires, and the rationale behind those desires, user stories form the basic work units in an Agile framework and are integral to the product backlog.

Sprints and Iterations

Sprints, short and time-boxed periods, signify focused work undertaken by a scrum team. On the other hand, iterations represent development cycles wherein specific features or functions are completed. Though often used interchangeably, these terms may carry nuanced meanings within distinct Agile frameworks such as Scrum.

Daily Stand-Up Meetings

Also recognized as the daily Scrum, these brief 15-minute meetings occur daily, bringing the development team together to synchronize activities and formulate a plan for the next 24 hours. By inspecting recent work and forecasting tasks until the next meeting, this practice promotes communication and proactive planning.

Agile Board

An invaluable visual management tool aiding teams in tracking and visualizing their work. Whether it's a whiteboard with sticky notes, a Kanban board, or a feature within project management software, Agile boards, such as Kanban, streamline work progress by presenting different stages (e.g., "To Do," "In Progress," "Done") and optimizing task efficiency.

Product Backlog

A prioritized repository housing features, technical work, and essential activities needed for project completion. Serving as the singular source for product changes, the product backlog is a comprehensive guide for project requirements.

All these key Agile components play a crucial role in the iterative and incremental approach to software development and project management.

Phases of Agile Project Plan

Phases of Agile Project Plan
Navigating an Agile project plan feels a lot like embarking on a journey filled with moments of envisioning possibilities, speculating on what could be, exploring new territories, adapting to the twists and turns, and ultimately finding closure before setting out on the next adventure. Agile project planning doesn't strictly adhere to some traditional phases, but let's explore these main phases in more detail.
Integrating Confluence with Microsoft 365 products simplifies the process of sending and managing files between both platforms. Teams already use Microsoft tools to manage their files while they use Atlassian Confluence to collaborate and get things done. However, to edit Microsoft Word documents or Excel files, they’ll have to revert to the primary platform which is the source of the file.

An Office 365 Confluence integration creates a unified platform with all the file storage and editing tools they need in the same place. This helps to keep everything in sync while ensuring frictionless collaboration between various teams in the organization. Here are some of the reasons why this integration is necessary:

Envision

Picture a room full of passionate individuals coming together to dream up the project's future. Envisioning the agile project management step is not just about tasks; it's about collectively crafting a vision that aligns with everyone's aspirations and the bigger picture. The project team collaborates in this phase to envision the overall goals and objectives. Stakeholders define the project vision, allowing the executors to align their efforts with the broader organizational mission.

Speculate

This place reminds me of brainstorming with a sense of curiosity. The team engages in lively discussions, imagining various features, stories, and tasks that may be included in the project, keeping a dynamic and flexible mindset. Speculation in Agile long-term project planning involves creating and continuously refining the product backlog.

Explore

Agile is all about the journey, not just the destination. This phase pictures this expression to the fullest. It is when the team is diving into the work, uncovering new insights, and continuously tweaking and refining as they go. Regular reviews and feedback sessions contribute to ongoing exploration and refinement.

Adapt

Agility is the team's superpower. At this phase, they gracefully adapt to changes, swerve around obstacles, and embrace new perspectives. It's like a dance where everyone adjusts their steps to stay in harmony based on feedback, changing requirements, and evolving priorities. This phase is an integral part of each iteration, sprint, and the project as a whole.

Close

Closing isn't a final chapter but a pause before the next chapter begins. After each cycle, the team takes a moment to reflect, gather feedback, and close the loop, ready to open it again for the next round of improvements. While traditional project management often reserves closing activities for the end, Agile projects have a continuous closing cycle within each sprint or iteration. What is important here is to ensure continuous analyses. This step can even be automated. For instance, if you use Jira for agile project management, you can create Jira sprint reports in Power BI.

It's important to note that Agile planning is not strictly linear, and these phases often overlap or repeat as needed. This iterative nature allows teams to continuously adapt, explore, and refine their approach throughout the project.

Agile Project Planning Steps

Agile Project Planning Steps
An agile project schedule involves steps designed to facilitate flexibility, collaboration, and iterative development. They encapsulate the whole project journey, from envisioning the big picture to meticulously planning each iteration.

Project Vision

Begin your agile development plan with a visionary approach. Establish a robust strategy that aligns with your organizational goals. Capture the project vision through a user story, specifying the user, the project's essence, and its benefits. Consider who your users are, what they need, and why the product, feature, or piece of code will help them. With this user story as a foundation, define objectives, set KPIs for success, and outline critical solutions.

Identify and engage stakeholders who have an interest or influence on the project. Gather their input to ensure the project meets their expectations and needs. This phase yields a well-defined user story, strategic objectives, and a prioritized portfolio or product.

Roadmap

Establish overarching project goals that align with organizational objectives. A roadmap for your Agile project needs to be created, which gives you a sense of where you are heading. To have some key milestones, it is necessary to divide the project into specific deliverables or features. Lastly, divide up deliverables into their respective subcategories for an iterative approach.

Release Planning

The next step is moving from a concept view and delving into the details of release planning. An agile software development plan is good at breaking a project into manageable increments and considering having a minimum viable product (MVP) available by a specific date. Note all the requirements as well as create strict deadlines. Then, prioritize features, set goals, and create a plan showing what each release aims to achieve so that all objectives above align.

Iteration Planning

That is the time to zoom into the short-term cycles that fuel Agile's iterative engine. The plan elements usually take the form of sprints, typically lasting 2-4 weeks. In this phase, the team selects specific items from the product backlog, defines tasks, estimates efforts, and commits to delivering a shippable product increment by the end of the iteration.

Daily Planning

Don't forget to include in your agile scheduling the heartbeat of Agile — daily planning, also known as the Daily Stand-Up or Daily Scrum. This short and focused meeting, lasting around 15 minutes, ensures the team synchronizes activities, discusses progress, and aligns efforts for the upcoming 24 hours. It's a crucial practice to define the scope, format, dates, and time for these stand-ups.

Adaptation and Continuous Improvement

The unspoken seventh phase is the constant adaptation and continuous improvement. Reflect on what worked and didn't, and apply those insights to refine your approach in an ongoing growth cycle. Many teams prefer to incorporate an interim step — agile quarterly planning, which gives a chance to divide considerable annual planning into four manageable sessions every three months.

Agile Sprint Planning

Agile Sprint Planning
​​Scrum methodology recognizes the significance of agile sprint planning as an essential ceremony in its framework. This process entails comprehensive discussions and decision-making to set the direction for the forthcoming sprint. A well-established sprint planning process enables teams to have clear objectives, make realistic commitments, and encourage collaboration, creating a base for a successful and focused sprint. Here are some key steps that should be followed:

Backlog Refinement

Before the meeting for sprint planning is held, backlog refinement must be carried out by the product owner and team so that items on the product backlog are well-defined and prioritized. It helps to choose what should be included in upcoming sprints.

Sprint Planning Meeting Setup

Scheduling a sprint planning meeting is typically held at the beginning of each sprint. The meeting's duration is determined by the length of the sprint (e.g., a four-hour meeting for a four-week sprint).

Attendees

Ensure that all essential participants, such as the Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Development Team members, attend this meeting so that no unnecessary changes will be necessary in the future.

Review of Previous Sprint

The opening remarks will include a brief review of previous sprints. What was achieved, as well as the challenges or issues encountered, can also be discussed here. It helps the team learn from experiences and continuously improve.

Review of Product Backlog

The product owner presents the prioritized product backlog items. The team reviews and discusses the items, seeking clarification on requirements and acceptance criteria.

Selection of Sprint Goal

Based on the discussions, the team collaboratively defines the sprint goal. The sprint goal is a concise statement that describes what the team aims to achieve by the end of the sprint.

Task Estimation

The development team estimates the effort required for each selected product backlog item. Standard estimation techniques include story points, ideal days, or t-shirt sizing.

Commitment to Sprint Backlog

The team commits to delivering a set of product backlog items during the sprint. This commitment is crucial for creating a predictable and sustainable pace of work.

Task Breakdown

Once the commitment is made, the team breaks down the selected product backlog items into specific tasks. These tasks should be small, manageable units of work that can be completed within the sprint.

Definition of Done (DoD)

Review and confirm the Definition of Done, which outlines the criteria that must be met for a product backlog item to be considered complete. It ensures a shared understanding of quality standards.

Create Sprint Backlog

Compile the selected product backlog items, associated tasks, and their estimates into the sprint backlog. The sprint backlog becomes the team's plan for the upcoming sprint.

The sprint planning meeting should be concluded with a shared understanding of the sprint goal, commitment, and plan outlined in the sprint backlog. Ensure that everyone is aligned and ready to start the sprint.

What is essential is to select the appropriate solutions for your agile planning. For example, here are the top 7 tools for Scrum projects.

Conclusion

According to the studies, companies experience an average of 60% growth in revenue and profit after adopting agile. However, starting Agile planning begins with changing how people think and dedicating themselves to working together, being adaptable, and making progress regularly. By embracing the Agile principles and following the steps outlined in this article, teams can efficiently plan, deliver high-quality products, and manage changes within the customer requirements.

Subscribe to the Alpha Serve blog

Stay up to date with different topics related to project management, agile methodology, and more.
By clicking the button you agree to our Privacy Policy